Optical Retail Success 114
Tasty, weekly nuggets of random goodness; tips, stories, and science hand-picked to help you find the most success in your optical retail business/career.
Selling A Storied Future
I’m actually a little hesitant to write this (just a tiny bit). I had someone send me a note last week concerned that my writing is too often negative or apocalyptic. He said I should try to be more positive and uplifting—which I agree with—and yet what I am about to write may seem like more of the same. The truth is, on the one hand, I don’t see a bright future for many in the industry and I suppose I see it as my responsibility to tell people about it. On the other hand, I believe there is hope and even more potential for those willing to recognize that things are going to change more radically than they have already. I try to present both sides of the coin because frankly, one doesn’t exist without the other.
Being that I’m a bit of an interloper in the optical world, my intention has always been to provide you with a perspective that comes from outside the echo chamber—which is why I tend to reference very few optical sources. It’s not that I claim to have special knowledge or even that I’m right. I just want to encourage people to think differently and look beyond the dogma that surrounds us every day. With any luck, we’ll make change that will allow us adapt and build a better future. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible
You’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette.
Let’s get crackin’.
So, the most obvious challenge eyewear retailers face is online sales. That being the said, it's interesting to hear the arguments we use to convince customers to buy in-store. To us, the insiders, these arguments make sense, I suppose. But we have to keep in mind that our customers are not insiders. They don’t know what we know or believe what we believe. However, in order to serve them—and ultimately succeed in this business—we have to be able to truly understand their perspective.
If we honestly try to see things from our customers’ point of view, I think you’ll find many of our common arguments don’t hold water. So let’s see. Take off your opti-hat for a minute, set aside your ego, forget we’re talking about your livelihood, and let’s run through a few.
Keep in mind, there is no intended comedy or sarcasm here. I’m trying to be as straight up as possible.
If you knew what they knew [or didn’t know what they didn’t know] and believed what they believe, you would do the same thing they do.
Customer: Why should I spend hundreds of dollars on glasses?
Optician: Glasses are more than pieces of plastic. Each pair is custom made to your specifications. The knowledge, labor, materials, and equipment that is required to make just one pair is far greater than you can even imagine.
Customer: And yet I can buy a pair online for $39 with free shipping.
Optician: The glasses you buy in a store are better quality than the ones you find online [even though they’re often the same] and will last longer.
Customer: Yeah, but if my $39 glasses break—these haven’t yet—or if I lose them, I can always get another pair for $39 and I’m still ahead.
Optician: $400 is less than you spend in a year on lattes
Customer: Right, but I can buy multiple pairs for $39 each and still have lots of money left over for lattes.
Optician: Don’t you care about your eyes?
Customer: My eyes are fine.
Optician: You’ll see better if you buy your glasses from a [competent] optician.
Customer: Honestly, I see fine. Besides, I can adapt if the Rx a bit off as long as I know I’m saving a few hundred bucks. If not, for $39, I can try again.
Optician: How can you seriously justify spending so much money on your shoes and yet refuse to pay any more than your vision plan will cover for your glasses?
Customer: Glasses are medical devices. Medical devices are an entitlement. That’s what insurance is for. I don’t pay extra for Gucci blood pressure cuffs or Prada glucose monitors.
Optician: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to help you when you come back complaining about your online eyewear.
Customer: That’s okay. I’ll find somebody who will. Who knows, maybe they’ll do a better job of selling me glasses.
Now, obviously these discussions are generalizations and somewhat imaginary, but the perspectives are real and more importantly—whether we want to believe it or not—there is truth in them. If you take an honest look at these interactions (or real ones), it’s not hard to see how a customer might view the whole ECP world as a bit of a racket. While the optician means well, there could be an unintended appearance of dishonestly or at the very least, self-interest.
So, what’s an alternative?
Well, let’s start with, the days of selling average eyewear to average people are coming to an end—Here he goes with the apocalypse thing again.
Okay, so let’s start with this instead, I was listening to Joe Rogan chat with Elon Musk the other day—that in itself is crazy on so many levels—they were discussing high-end watches. Joe Rogan was making the point that people who buy high-end watches aren’t necessarily interested in telling time. They’re interested in the craftsmanship. He said, There’s art to [high-end watches]. There’s something amazing about it, because it represents human creativity. It’s not just electronic innovation. There’s a person’s work in that.
He’s right, but it’s not just about the person’s work or the creativity. It’s about the story. I’ve always looked at the watch industry as an example that we could learn from, especially in light of its recent resurgence. People who are willing to pay more for something, want that thing to come with a story. They want a story that either makes them happy or a story that gives them something to talk (brag) about.
One of my favorite examples of a great product story is for St-Germain liqueur. St- Germain is made from elderflowers that bloom in the Alps only a few days each year. During those few days French farmers pick the fragrant, white flowers by hand, gathering them into sacks, and gingerly carrying the fragile blossoms down the hillsides on freakin’ bicycles. What the farmers collect has to be processed within 24 hours or it is ruined. The harvest from those few days makes up the supply of St-Germain for the entire year, so supply is limited. Curiously, you can find it everywhere.
But, who wouldn’t want to drink that!?
Of course there are also people that don’t care about stories, they want ‘good enough.’ They shop online because—back to eyewear—with the exception of some difficult Rx’s (for now), ‘adequate’ quality can be obtained easily and cheaply.
So, going forward we have to start thinking about a different approach.
As I mentioned and I’m sure you’ve experienced, the average eyewear for average people market is disappearing to the world of big box and online. The punch line is that all of the optician arguments above are targeted directly (albeit ineffectively) at that very market. Not one makes the case that this eyewear is special or your experience here will be unique.
I have a theory that as our lives become more digital, we find ourselves longing for things that are ‘real’ and for human interaction, which could explain the growth of all things bespoke, handmade, and artisanal. That’s good news.
Either way, I suggest discarding all of the above “reasoned” arguments and instead going straight for the feels with your own version of this, from a British article about bespoke eyewear:
A curious oversight but… Unlike your favorite suit or [shoes], glasses bring the world into focus. They frame your face and provide an immediate framework for how you’d like the world to focus on you. They speak volumes about your personal style and sense of self—so they may as well be chic.
I’m sure you know it in your head, but think about that for a minute. Forget about the silly financial comparisons. Eyewear not only defines how you see, but more than anything you wear, eyewear defines how others see you.
Now: This piece suits you perfectly and here’s the story behind it.
Know the stories of the brands and designs you carry as well as the story of your own brand. In fact, look to carry brands that have great stories for that very reason. Practice telling them. Make the stories part of your sales process, part of your marketing, part of your decor. Look to attract the people that care about those stories and worry less about selling average eyewear for average people.
The best thing about people that care about your stories—they’re also the people that are going to tell them.
More craft, more art, more style, more fashion, more experience, more culture, more stories, more success.
Video of The Week: Flat Transposition
This week: What is flat transposition and how is it done? In four examples. we cover the steps of converting a lens order written in one cylinder form to another.
Through the OpticianWorks free video lessons, Laramy-K Optical is making every effort to provide better and more accessible education for opticians everywhere, but we’re only able to do it with your support.
You can help keep it going in two ways:
Become a paid member of OpticianWorks.com for access to the best in online optician training (The videos are only a small portion).
Or, even better, open a Laramy-K Optical lab account for the very best in independent uncut work and we'll throw in the OpticianWorks memberships for free! Your customers and your staff will thank you!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Optical Retail Success.
Here’s to your success in this year and beyond.
Thanks for reading and sharing!