The desire for clear sight is universal, and three-quarters of the global adult population uses vision correction products, with 64%* wearing glasses. That makes for a substantial global optical retail market, which currently sits at US$ 279.24 billion, with forecast growth of 7.5%** between 2022 and 2030.

Whilst that market did drop off during the pandemic, it is growing strongly again now, fuelled by a combination of an aging population, and time spent on screen increasing the incidence of short and near-sightedness.

The optical retail market encompasses optical retail stores, optometry practices, retail sunglass stores and ophthalmology clinics.  Optical retailers provide products in three key categories: spectacles (70%), sunglasses (14%), and contact lenses and solutions (16%)+.

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Because it combines medical practice and prescriptions with fashion frames and plano sunglasses, optical retail stores have different requirements from their more ‘mainstream retail’ cousins. Optical retailers have to manage detailed technical data and processes as well as the demands of staying on trend in the fashion world. They have to provide after sales service and be able to recall customers for regular checks, possibly over a lifetime.

Optical retail stores face tough and growing competition, in the shape of the online only eyewear retailers. Online stores provide a convenience that customers love, but cannot replicate the level of expertise and service that brick and mortar stores provide. Even so, they are gaining ground, and only 40%++ of shoppers surveyed said they will prefer shopping in person for their eyewear fashion and accessories.

So what does the future look like for optical retailers, and what’s going to be the secret to survival in times ahead?

Beating the online competition comes down to personalised service and efficient operation. Personalised service is the single biggest differentiator that optical retailers have against online only stores. But they still have to be operationally efficient, so that they can deliver an effective, streamlined service at manageable prices. They still need to stay ahead of trends like any other fashion retailer, and provide the stock that their customers are excited about wearing.

How does optical retail store software drive personalisation and efficiency?

POS software for retail stores is the foundation for personalisation and operational efficiency. Optical is a specialised form of retail, and requires retail technology to match. Optical retail software helps to make for a smooth, efficient and personalised shopping experience, through:

  • Optical Master Data Management System – unlike other retailers, optical retail stores have to capture, communicate and report on highly technical, unique data elements, including:

    • prescription records
    • technical data about lenses (sph, cyl, axis, add, pupillary distance)
    • technical specifications for laboratory orders

    This data is the foundation that supports every part of the optical management system. The optical master data management system is at the heart of optical retail store software.

  • Optical inventory management – optical retailers must be able to identify purchasing trends, ensure they have the stock that customers want to buy, have a re-ordering schedule and be able to view inventory across a number of store and warehouse locations.

  • Personalised marketing – relationships in optical retail stores are often long-standing and trusted. Customers expect their optical retailer to be able to make suggestions and offer tailored promotions, for example, on a second pair of prescription glasses.

  • Prescription and non-prescription transactions – optical POS software must be able to process two different types of sale – those with a prescription element, and plano sunglasses, which are a pure fashion item.

  • Appointment scheduling – unlike other retailers, optical stores must be able to schedule customer appointments, and send reminders and follow ups, by email or SMS. For maximum efficiency, this can be managed by the optical POS software.

  • Specialised reporting – optical retailers need a view of their business like any other retailer, with real-time views of sales and stock. But they also need, in the same optical management system, specialist reports such as lab orders, customer prescriptions, and customer appointment scheduling.

Optical retail is challenging – it combines fashion with medical, is highly competitive and must offer personalised service. With the right retail technology, all these strands can be brought together to ensure efficiency, drive sales and keep optical retailers ahead of their competition.

Why is it important for optical retailers to use a specialist optical POS system?

Optical retail has some key characteristics that set it apart from other forms of retail stores. An optical retailer sells fashion items alongside highly technical medical items. Customers have to have a diagnosis, a prescription and regular check-ups. Lenses are made to order in laboratories. This means that optical retail has requirements that simply cannot be met by using ‘regular’ POS software like you’d find in a supermarket or fashion retailer. Specialist requirements need specialist technology.

What is the most important thing to look for in an optical retail POS system?

The core of a great optical retail POS is the optical master data management system. This captures and stores all the detailed, specialist data needed by an optical store, and ensures it can be shared between all elements of the ecosystem – sales, patient management, prescription management, inventory and communication with the laboratory.

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