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Inside the mind of the evolving eyewear consumer


The eyewear market is changing more rapidly than ever, and it is no longer acceptable to sell the same way to each consumer. Staying up-to-date on how to leverage unique marketing to every generation is the key to success.




Gone are the days where optical professionals facilitated the eyewear industry with little say from the consumer.

These days, technology has given patients an outlet to express their thoughts and feelings, and they demand to be apart of the conversation or else they will find their needs elsewhere-and make sure to tell the world via the Internet.

Peeking into the (not so distant future) of digital lens design

“The market is changing as we speak,” said Eric White, OD, private practice, San Diego, CA. “More than ever do we need to be keeping up with the changes and learning more about our patients.”

One of the loudest expressions eye care professionals (ECPs) have heard from patients recently is they want a more personalized and tailored experience, both inside and outside the practice.

“We truly cannot sell the same because everybody is different and needs to be treated differently on selling techniques,” Dr. White said.

Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group, agreed and stressed that patients are no longer putting up with being treated like just another sale.

“Today’s consumer is often experiencing information overload and is looking for a presentation that zeros in on just their unique lifestyle and visual needs,” she said.

So how do ECPs tailor their patients’ experience to be unique to them to optimize eyewear sales? Generationally unique marketing, said Suter and Dr. White.






According to Dr. White, this is the age group where fun should be emphasized and ECPs should not worry if the patient needs correction.

“This is the age to talk to their moms about contacts for sports and computer glasses for doing homework and gaming,” he said. “Having fun frames for them but taking the time to talk to mom about the why’s and how what we do now helps shape their future.”






Millennials are trendy, ambitious, status-conscious, and value technology, according to Patience Cook, director of North American marketing, Transitions Optical.

Related: Marketing to the low vision patient

By utilizing this knowledge, Dr. White said ECPs should “give a great exam with plenty of technology and explain why each test is important and how it will help them see better and why.”

When keeping in touch with this group, Dr. White stressed staying away from handouts, and instead email or text information to get your point across.

 Millennials are also socially conscious consumers, so ECPs should maintain products that are environmentally friendly and give back or are made with recycled materials, said Karen Giberson, president of Accessories Council.

“This group is (also) highly influenced by friends and the web,” Giberson said, so being conscious of your online presence is another must.





Pre-Baby Boomers

The ‘Gen Xers’ will pay more if they perceive value, Giberson said, so ECPs should offer this group more fun, unique frames.

“As this group enters their 40s, they will expect more than the drug store designs, (as) brands are very important,” she said. “They have grown up with design, so the basics are not going to cut it.”

Pre-baby boomers are also heavily influenced by coupons, Giber said, so emailing reminders and information should be embraced.

Leading Gen Xers along the purchasing pathway is important as well, Dr. White said, because this group is busy raising families and “getting their jobs into high gear.”




Baby Boomers

“The Baby Boomer generation has redefied the word, ‘aging,’ as they postpone retirement and look to maintain a lifestyle that demands enhanced vision,” Cook said. “Age diminishes the eyes’ ability to control light, and Baby Boomers want to maintain their vision.”

Preparing for this “age wave,” Cook said, is a great opportunity for ECPs to engage and educate patients and make sure they receive proper eyewear earlier rather than later.

That education should be made via letters in the mail, not email or text, Dr. White said.

Additionally, Dr. White said this age group is the one with the most disposable income, but does not want to waste it, so they will require more physician-driven dispensing solutions.

Take time to explain to this group why they need what they need, and provide samples to demonstrate the product, he said.

Giberson also stressed that this generation tends to like having a range of product options and pricings, and prefers comfortable eyewear that is also lightweight.





This group is pretty similar to the Baby Boomer generation, Dr. White said, however, they tend to be even more money conscious and need more in-depth explanations as to what eyewear they need and why.


(Photo courtesy of Eric White, OD)


Exclusive tips

Nevertheless, not every piece of advice for ECPs looking to better engage their customers can be broken down into separate categories, as these tips can be applied to nearly every generation:

“Overall, we feel that there is an opportunity to make eyewear shopping more fun,” Giberson said. “We buy eyewear because we need it-but we can come back, order additional frames and buy sunglasses if you have an assortment that has variety, is fresh, and offers a range of brands and prices that delight, no matter the age.”

“My favorite unique tip is sending out an email to every exam I saw for the day,” Dr. White said. “This personal touch is appreciated in every generation across the board. I instantly find out if it is a bad email so we can correct that for future internal marketing endeavors.

“Then I thank them for coming and ask for referrals,” he continued. “I end up asking for a Yelp or Google rating (as well). I found this is a great way to build the office and make patients happy. Remember, treat every patient as family and everybody will be happy.”




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