Eyewear is big business. The global market is tipped to surpass $170 billion (USD) by 2025 according to Global Market Insights, with a large proportion of that coming from optical retail stores. It’s a growing market, fuelled by an increased awareness of eye health and the importance of regular examinations, combined with consumers’ continuing love affair with eyeglasses as a fashion statement.

Optical retailers straddle the clinical and the retail worlds, offering a medical examination service along with a retail sales dispensary. Unlike other forms of retail, they combine a prescription product with sales of specialty, often luxury, items. In the average practice, the dispensary generates around 60% of total revenue at a healthy profit margin.

The need for optical retail software

This presents a challenge for managing an optical retail store. The clinical practice may be what initially draws customers in, but the retail operation is what drives the profit and growth.  The retail side must be seen as a sales business, and run efficiently to minimise cost, enhance customer experience and generate profit. If it is not, optical retailers face the risk that customers come to them for an eye exam, but go elsewhere to get their glasses or lenses, such as one of the growing number of online providers.

Optical stores therefore have to see themselves as retailers, including using appropriate management systems and optical retail software.

Optical retail software offers the same core functions required by all retailers – retail POS system, inventory visibility, loyalty program, promotions, cross sell up sell functionality, mobile point of sale and retail sales reports. But importantly, it combines these with the specialist functions of operating a retail optical store.

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Specialist optical retail software functions

The right optical retail software will help store management to separate out the sale of prescription products from non-clinical sales. It will help them manage the specific data they about prescription product sales – such as lens category, type, material, lens colour and treatment. It can even map the treatments to the different lens characteristics. A customer’s prescription details can be kept on file and retrieved for easy re-ordering when they need their next pair of glasses.

To be most effective and easy to use, retail optical software will work in a way that staff are used to – processing orders as ‘trays’, which include a frame, right and left eye lenses, lens treatments and any clips/clip-ons.

An effective optical retail store system will integrate with the patient appointment booking system, to help the retailer offer a smooth and seamless customer experience, from eye exam to finished glasses. This helps to convert clinical patients to retail customers, so the optical exam doesn’t simply become a feeder for online eyeglass sales. It will also help sales staff to cross sell up sell, to maximise revenue and profit – particularly if the optical retail software has a mobile point of sale (mPOS) option, so sales staff never have to leave the customer’s side.

Stores need retail sales reports that give them insights into how the business is performing – in optical retail, these must be specialist reports, such as lab order report, stock by optical item type, customer prescription, appointment schedule and appointment conversion rate.

What every retailer needs

Optical retailers need to stay on top of fashion trends and be aware of what is selling, so they can invest in the inventory that matches their customer demographic, just like any other ‘fashion’ store. A retail optical software solution will give them the sales data and inventory visibility to do just that. If the retailer has more than one store, a good optical retail software platform will help them to flawlessly manage stock across multiple locations, increasing stock turn and reducing risk.

Like any other retailer, optical stores need to offer loyalty programs and offers to enhance customer experience, increase foot traffic, keep customers coming back and encourage positive review and advocacy. A good optical retail platform will enable them to send offers and promotions to customers, via email or SMS.

Retailers the world over want to focus their time on the customer and the business, not on managing IT systems. It’s no different for optical retailers. So a good optical retail software platform for today’s environment will be available as a service, via the cloud, for reliable and hassle free operation.

The bottom line

Optical retail is unique – combining clinical and retail under one roof. It’s imperative that optical stores think of themselves as retailers, and implement the optical retail software tools that will help them drive customer satisfaction, efficiency, revenue and profit.

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