How Do You Price Free Form Progressive Lenses?

Freeform progressives are commanding top dollar at many optometric practices, according to The Vision Council November 2012 Eye Care Professional Report. The most expensive progressive lenses being dispensed were free form progressives which sold on average for $413.14. Free form progressives were less expensive at smaller practices. Practices with only one location sold free form progressives for an average of $402.93, while practices with more than five locations sold free forms for $436.82 on average–over $30 more per pair. Free forms were also more expensive in the Midwest region of the US than other regions ($431.60 in the Midwest vs. $382.39 in the Mountain-Pacific region.


How freeform progressive lenses are doing in your practice?

If you have an average practice, you are seeing 2,200 patients for exams with refractions per year per doctor. Approximately 60 percent are getting eyeglasses–that would be 1,320 people (eg: .6 x 2,200 = 1,320). Of the 1,320 people who get glasses, approximately 50 percent are single vision and 50 percent are multifocals. That means 660 potential pairs of freeform progressive lenses per year could be sold in your practice.


Are Eyeglasses More Fashionable Now than 5 Years Ago?

Most eyeglasses wearers (66.9%) recognize that eyeglasses are more fashionable now than they were 5 years ago. Only 1/7 of those who currently wear eyeglasses believe that eyeglasses are not more fashionable now than they were 5 years ago, according to The Vision Council VisionWatch Fashion vs. Function Eyewear Report.

When compared to other eyeglasses wearers, women, younger Americans, eyeglasses wearers from higher income homes and eyeglasses wearers who also use contact lenses were all relatively more likely to believe that eyeglasses are more fashionable now than they were 5 years ago. Also, it is interesting to note that the same demographics that view eyeglasses as more fashionable now are also the same consumer demographics that did not slow their purchases of Rx eyeglasses during the recession and weak economic recovery; their sustained purchasing activity has helped minimize the overall industry losses from 2008 through 2010.

In the average practice, the optical shop represents 60%-70% of the dollars coming through the front door. We need to pay attention to this area of the practice. Generally, our first thought about the optical side of care is to promote function over fashion. Our typical focus is to make sure the patient is able to function maximally at work, home, school and play.  But, the Vision Council Vision Watch Fashion vs. Function Eyewear Report reminds us to not forget fashion.

This Vision Council Vision Watch Fashion vs. Function Eyewear Report gives us valuable information. Fashion is important to our patients. It needs to be important to us as well. Based on this we need to question how well we manage fashion marketing in our opticals.

Fashion marketing goes beyond just merchandising. Fashion marketing involves positioning, branding, marketing mix, and, yes, merchandising. From the perspective of fashion marketing, go back and look at your optical and answer these four questions:

    1. Where have you positioned your optical?
         -High dollar
         –Medium dollar
         -Low dollar

     2. Have you branded your optical?
          -Do you have recognizable brands in your optical?
          -From just visuals, can a patient successfully navigate your optical?
          -Is there a theme in your optical?

    3. Do you manage your marketing mix?
          -Do you show the same frames as other opticals in town?
          -Do you have a minimum of 25 frames in each brand on the frame board?
          -What do you do with your non-performing frame lines?

    4. How well does your optical manage frame merchandising?
          -Do you highlight brands?
          -Are your displays focused (i.e.: not too many products on one display)
          -Are your best sellers at eye level?

Don’t just think about this, instead walk into your optical and ask yourself if you’ve achieved the fashion marketing objectives described above. Do you have room for improvement? Create a fashion marketing plan today to make your optical the best it can be.

How Will the Economy Affect Your Next Eyeglasses Purchase?

The economy seems to make no difference in the eyewear buying habits of 30.8% of consumers, who say they will not change their buying behavior because of the state of the economy, according to The Vision Council‘s VisionWatch Economic Situation Study: April 2012. On the other hand, 28.8% say they will use their current eyeglasses for a longer period of time and hold off on purchasing new eyeglasses. Some 25.3% say they will search for the best value when shopping for prescription eyeglasses while 21% say they will continue to use their old frames and only purchase new lenses. Some 5.9% say they will use the internet to purchase their next pair of prescription eyeglasses while 8.8% will try and save money by purchasing multiple pairs of eyeglasses at the same time. Some 19.1% say they will spend less than they spent in the past on the eyeglasses they end up buying.

What are the strategies we want to accomplish with our patients?

1.  We want to provide our patients the best care in services and materials.

2.  We want to provide for all of our patients’ needs (e.g.: indoor, outdoor, computer, safety).

What tactics should we use to achieve our strategic objectives?

1.  Use a lifestyle history questionnaire to identify all of our patient’s needs.

2.  Prescribe an optical solution for each patient need where appropriate focusing on premium products.

3.  Work with patients to prioritize the solutions.

4.  Offer a multi-pair discount to increase the value of multiple pair sales (experience shows that significant movement does not occur until you offer between a 35% to 50% discount).

5.  Have clear visuals in your optical shop that you offer solutions for all price points.

6.   Explain to patients what they lose in benefits to their health, safety and function when they choose lower price points (focus on benefits, not features).

7.  Make sure at least 20% of your frame board is dedicated to sunwear.

8.   Review your frame board mix. Compare the number of frames you have on your board in each price point to the number of frames you actually sold last year in each price point. Remix your frame board to better reflect your strategic objectives and the reality of your practice.

9.  Make sure your office offers payment solutions such as CareCredit and PayPal.

10.  Make sure your patients with frame coverage on their vision insurance use it–it should be the rare exception that these people order lenses only.
Sit down with your staff today and implement a plan of action to help your patients get the best care for all of their needs.

Why Do Patients Continue to Wear Progressive Lenses?

The majority of consumers-68%-who previously wore progressive lenses and continue to wear progressives say they do so because they were satisfied with the design, according to The Vision Council’s 2012 Progressive Lens White Paper. Of first-time progressive purchasers, 42% said they wanted something they could use for both distance and reading while 39% said they wanted something that did not have a line visible to others. Only 26% switched to progressives because their ECP recommended they do so. Of consumers who previously wore single-vision lenses and switched to progressives, the majority said they did so because their prescription changed.

If 68% were satisfied with the lens design and 32% were not, that’s a problem. Doctors and opticians need to better link lens design to patient lifestyle.  

So, how do you determine the patient lifestyle in your practice? As a group, eyecare providers have spent so much time trying to refine the medical history to meet reimbursement documentation requirements that we have ignored the lifestyle history questionnaire. So, let’s focus on the lifestyle history questionnaire today. Is it up to date? Does it include questions about tablet and smartphone usage? Does it question how much time the patient spends on near-work each day?  If not, today is the day you should initiate an update.   

The second issue here is lens design. We definitely need to make sure both doctors and opticians are matching patients’ lifestyles to the best lens design rather than just prescribing their favorite “safe” lens. This means taking the time to meet with lens manufacturer representatives, as well as in-depth discussions between doctors and opticians. Our goal is not to have a patient settle for an adequate lens design but rather to give our patients the best lens design for their unique lifestyle. Don’t forget to educate your patient about what you are doing and why.

Updating the patient lifestyle history questionnaire and making sure both doctors and opticians are matching the patient’s lifestyle history questionnaire with the best lens design are fundamental issues that need our immediate attention. Get this handled today and it will be a win for both your patients and your practice.

Why Do People Own Multiple Pairs of Eyewear?

There are three main reasons: To use as a back-up in case they misplace their current eyewear, for convenience purposes (to have different pairs in different locations) and for functionality (to have different pairs for different activities), according to the Vision Council VisionWatch Fashion vs. Function Eyewear Report. Approximately 39.3% of multiple pair owners keep additional pairs of eyeglasses on hand to serve as back-ups or spares just in case they lose their current newest pair of eyeglasses. There was very little demographic difference between eyeglasses wearers who owned more than one pair for back-up purposes, although it seems that women and eyeglasses wearers from the Northeast were a little more likely to keep extra pairs of eyeglasses around in case their current eyeglasses are misplaced.

The most straightforward argument for multiple pair sales is the need for an indoor pair of eyeglasses and an outdoor pair of eyeglasses. No one pair can do everything for all situations. Just as dentists, as a group, tell patients they need their teeth cleaned every six months, eyecare professionals need to be united in telling patients they need an indoor pair of eyeglasses and an outdoor pair of eyeglasses.

The best discussion to have with patients about outdoor eyeglasses is to focus on safety and function. Safety means the ability to drive a car and minimize disabling glare from the sun with polarized sunwear or the ability to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes with UV blocking lenses. Function means the ability to comfortably read while sitting by the pool or to comfortably work in the garden in the mid-day sun.

From a tactical perspective, always present the outdoor prescription to the patient before presenting the indoor pair. This approach is most effective. The bottom line here is quality patient care. Patients who have indoor eyeglasses and outdoor eyeglasses have a higher quality of visual functioning than those who do not. Our goal is to help patients achieve the highest quality of visual functioning. Addressing this issue helps patients move in that positive direction.