The last five years in retailing has been challenging. Optical retailing has it’s own challenges, with brand licensing changes, the gap between wholesale and retail narrowing, managed care taking a big bite out of profits, the growth of online retailers, smartphone technology, disruptors such as Warby Parker and higher consumer expectations.
Accessory Magazine via Planet Retail Report The Future of Retail: 10 Trends of Tomorrow provides valuable insight as to where the market for both retailers and eyecare professionals are going.
The 10 Future Trends:
1.) Fewer, but more impactful, stores– Many retailers are going out of business or shutting down stores.
- In the optical industry: Both wholesale and retail entities are being bought. On the wholesale to retail side groups such a Vision Source and PERC were bought by Essilor. Both Essilor and Luxottica have transitioned from an exclusive wholesaler to wholesaler and retailer as well as from Brick and Mortar to online. On the retail side the big continue to get bigger: FYI Doctors in Canada, My Eye Doctor and Doctors Vision Center, Clarkson Eyecare have continue to purchase other larger chains.
- The Blending of Wholesale and Retailer isn’t just with larger companies. Small wholesalers are opening up Flagship stores and retailers are starting to develop their own eyecare companies.
- You also see companies such as Selima (wholesale and retail) opening up separate online division such as Russell Westbrook eyewear.
2.) Working together to stand apart: Traditionally eyecare professionals have teamed up with Ophthalmologist, maybe a dentist or an audiologist. What they are saying here is look out of the proverial box and seek others that are unique and different from you.
Looking ahead, retailers must follow their own golden rule by putting the customer first. For many, this will require collaboration with some unconventional partners to improve speed and quality of service while providing additional choice for customers. The key will be to collaborate with non-competing chains that share an overlap in customer demographics, thus allowing the retailer to benefit from increased footfall and shopper satisfaction without the risk of sales cannibalization. It’s for this reason that we are expecting more retailers competing in different sectors – e.g. fashion and beauty – to join forces in the name of providing a best-in-class click & collect service.”
- We see this in eyewear collaborations.. from The Row (Olsen Twins to Oliver Peoples, Thierry Lasry to Fendi, Designer collaborations, Silhouette, Rigards, Mykita, Linda Farrow and others.
- We see other eyewear companies joining forces with artists (Portrait, Black Fly, RayBan creating ‘artistic interpretations of their brand.
- We see smaller lens companies opening online ‘Lens Only’ options to the consumer.
- We see eyecare professionals opening up online eyewear sites as a separate entity from their brick and mortar location.
- We also see the trend of adding the yogurt shop, getting involved in art shows and community events.
3.) Race for the most convenient store experience. Today the store experience involves many factors re-defining customer service. Customer Service involves everything from the website to the friendly smile.
As a result, shoppers now expect delivery to be fast, reliable and – crucially – free.
4.) Click & collect- Click and connect, has to do with the order online and go pick up your order. It first started at restaurants take outs, now that service is available at Target and Home Depot. Amazon is experimenting with it opening up Amazon stores. Google Drones are playing with Drone delivery.
Click & collect will continue to bridge the gap between online and offline retailing. Our own research shows that half of global shoppers are now influenced by a retailer’s ability to offer convenient collection points for online purchases. Click & collect is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s now a prerequisite.
- Optical has done this for years with contact lenses. Will it be possible to expand that into eyewear and accessories?
- Mobile platforms will change the way consumers shop
- Will mobile eye-exams change this? Opernative and Netra Blink change the way consumer shop?
- Will online eye-exams change the way consumers shop?
5.) In-Store technology– The tech oriented retailer is employing technology such a tracking eye-movements to understand their shoppers. Virtual reality shopping and dressing rooms. Payments being made with Apple Pay, the growth of smart phones, use of smart glasses or other wearable technology to enhance the store experience.
- In optical, the technology is here that the sale is done in the exam room. With technology, the patient has the eye exam and in that room, via tech, they review different lens options with their RX and try on eyewear. The options are presented, bought and immediately sent to the lab for production.
6.) Personalization to reach new heights: This covers several areas, one the personalization of eyewear and the personalization of targeted marketing.
‘ Planet Retail research shows that 38% of global shoppers want to opt in to receiving relevant discounts when in-store, compared to the 15% of shoppers currently doing this. This combination of shopper enthusiasm and technological capability means that bricks and mortar retailers should be looking to take personalization to new heights, driving both customer loyalty and spend,”
- Eyecare retailers are doing this via targeted Facebook and google ads.
- Data is king. The more you know about your customers the better. Collecting data about each of your patients assists in better target marketing (Personalization)
- We are seeing Personalization of Eyewear as well. Build your own eyewear online, interchangeable temples and lenses, 3D eyewear and the growth of Bespoke eyewear. We are also seeing a growth in unique rimless eyewear options as a way to customize the look.
7.) The end of points-based loyalty cards: Loyalty has changed. The consumer wants to be rewarded NOW, not waiting to horde up points to receive something. Companies such as Walgreens are allowing customers to shore up points via an App.
‘ We would also encourage retailers to look towards value-added perks – as opposed to money-off vouchers – such as providing VIP checkouts for cardholders or free hot drinks in-store.”
8.) Power of the peer- This speaks for itself. The question that eyecare professionals should ask themselves what are they doing to enhance the store experience so that their patient Tweets, Snapchats, Instagrams, Facebooks about? What happens in the store does not stay in the store.
9.) E-tail to open up brick and mortar locations: In the optical industry, online companies such as Warby Parker and Jimmy Fairly have opened up brick and mortar stores. We continue to see that with the growth of POP Up stores, Amazon opening up stores, eBay store prove that Brick and Mortar is thriving.
10.) Product: As the market become increasingly more competitive, retailers are looking for products that do not compete with online. Whether that product is luxury, personalized, exclusive all depends on your brand and demographics.
For retailers to survive, just offering eye exams may not be enough. Technology, store experiences, mobile, social media to market and product will all be crucial to grow over the next few years. The important thing now for eyecare professionals to evaluate what they currently have and look to the future trends as they continue to evolve.