The optical retail industry is facing strong headwinds these days. Not only is there increased competition, especially from innovative disruptors such as Warby Parker, but the gap between wholesale and retail is shrinking as well. Like merchants in every vertical, optical retail businesses also are dealing with rising customer expectations. Shoppers want high-touch, personalized service and conveniences such as buy online, pickup in store that cater to their busy lives.

Given these challenges, many optical retail businesses are seeking practical solutions to differentiate their brands, increase profitability and return to healthier margins. It’s become crucial to be smarter about operating businesses in the optical retail industry.

Define Your Business’ Value

While eyeglass startups may be all the rage — with a broad selection of trendy frames and hassle-free try-at-home experience — even industry darling Warby Parker quickly discovered the value of brick-and-mortar after operating exclusively online. There has been a lot of hand-wringing in retail about eCommerce encroaching on traditional retail but one truth remains: people really still like to touch, feel and try-on products before committing to a purchase.

What’s more, the optical retail business is by definition a high-touch experience. Clearly communicate that your business offers tremendous value by employing highly trained staff who can help customers find the perfect product with the perfect fit, taking into account factors such as face shape and size.

Despite the trend of glasses merely as fashion, for many customers vision correction is still the primary goal, and having a knowledgeable expert to help navigate the glasses-buying process is indispensable.

Establish customer service as your key differentiator to attract consumers who appreciate great service and are happy to pay for it. Perhaps in-store perks such as free water, coffee and tea, or a VIP package for top loyal customers can drum up additional business or cement customer relationships.

Find Answers in Data

One way that optical retail businesses can offer an engaging, personalized experience is by tapping into the power of data. There are optical retail software solutions available that can tackle the challenge of managing the complex data around both vision prescriptions as well as contact lens, prescription lenses, eyeglass frames and sunglasses. With quick access to this wealth of stored data, optical retailers can review a customer history profile to recommend products that might be best suited for that individual.

Smart software solutions for optical retail businesses offer analytics reports — which are essential to keeping tabs on style trends so that inventories always have the right mix of colors, sizes and styles in stock. Data reveals which items are popular with customers and uncovers “duds” that are a drag on profits (and retail space).

Even better, data points to trends in price points and aids optical retail businesses in buying more intelligently in the products that are more likely to resonate with customers.

With the right tools in place, businesses in the optical retail industry can set their sights on greater profits, tighter inventory turns, winning personalized service and increased competitiveness against established peers and newcomers alike.

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