Optical retail is a large and growing global market, and there is clearly a demand for omnichannel retail for optical stores. Around 75% of the world’s population use some form of vision correction – prescription glasses or lenses. Add to that the ever-growing demand for non-prescription sunglasses, and it’s not surprising that optical retail has grown to be a $114.95 billion market in 2021, nor that it is forecast to continue to grow at 6% over the next seven years.

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There’s a lot to be won in the world of optical retail – but there’s also massive competition. Optical retail straddles two worlds – optical retail stores are part medical practice, with prescription lenses, and part fashion retailer, selling designer frames and sunglasses. That means that optical retail stores not only face competition from each other, but also from different retail segments, including department stores, speciality fashion, pharmacies and discount stores.

As we exit the worst of the pandemic, optical retail is presented with opportunities too: one of the effects of lockdown was that shoppers ‘rediscovered local’ with Forbes reporting ‘increasing footfall in local stores’. Shoppers are also returning in their droves to brick and mortar shopping – PWCs’ 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey found that almost half the respondents now visit physical retail stores, with 75% planning to do so.

This combination of challenge and opportunity means that never has brand been so important for optical retail stores. There’s a lot to play for, and strong branding can help ensure they come out on top.

According to the Association for Customer Loyalty, one of most effective tools for branding is omnichannel retailing. They quote research that shows that ‘businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates’. That is a massive step towards beating competition and taking a bigger share of the optical retail pie.

How does omnichannel retail for optical stores assist in the development of a strong brand?

  • More ways to engage – having a brick and mortar store and digital commerce presence gives an optical retailer more opportunities to get in front of customers. Multiple channels mean the target audience can engage more frequently, and from anywhere.

  • Product showcase – an online presence gives the opportunity to showcase products, and drive traffic to the retail store.

  • Sharing expertise – as a healthcare service, optical retail brands need to be seen as experts, and digital commerce provides the ideal platform for sharing knowledge and showcasing their expertise. Addressing customers’ issues will set an optical store head and shoulders above its competition (especially from other segments, who simply don’t have the specialist knowledge), and encourage customers into the retail store.
  • Personalisation – digital commerce gives optical retailers the opportunity to understand customer preferences, for targeted marketing.

  • Ease of use – offering online appointment bookings, or checking order status makes it easier for customers to engage, and elevates the optical retail store’s brand.

What to look for when embracing omnichannel retail for optical stores?

Given that omnichannel retailing is an essential strategic solution, what should optical retailers look for when selecting omnichannel optical retail software?

  • Optical Master Data Management System – optical retail is highly specialised, with unique data elements that are essential to running an efficient business. Prescription records, technical data about lenses, inventory and sales data for frames and sunglasses, communication with laboratories. This data is the foundation that supports every channel in the optical retail ecosystem. It’s essential therefore to select a optical retail software that is underpinned by a master data management system.

  • Seamless experience – the power of an omnichannel retailing system is that it offers customers the same experience no matter how they choose to interact. True omnichannel retailing integrates in-store POS and digital commerce, in a way that is completely transparent to the customer. They can move between channels without even thinking about it, and simply interact with the brand.
  • Manage inventory in one place – having multiple channels doesn’t mean multiple inventories. If omnichannel retailing is to offer an outstanding brand experience and operational efficiency, all channels must all have full inventory visibility and work from the same single view of stock.
  • Retail analytics – running a retail operation, especially one with multiple channels, without analytics is like driving with a blindfold on. So the optical retail software must include retail analytics that offer insights to inform sound business decisions.

  • Incorporates loyalty – a customer expects to be recognised, whichever channel they happen to be using. An effective omnichannel retailing platform must incorporate the retailer’s loyalty program and be able to track and recognise customers at every point in their journey, across every channel.

Omnichannel retail for optical stores gives optical retailers an advantage in the “battle for brand.” They can harness the power of optical retail software to engage with customers, share expertise, showcase products and drive traffic into the retail store. They can enhance the customer experience and strengthen their brand – putting them ahead of their competition.

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