Are You Helping On-line Retailers Grow Market Share?

Are You Helping On-line Retailers Grow Market Share?


Eye Care Professionals have the option to either redesign traditional business methods, or continue helping online retailers gain market share

By: Judy Canty ABO/NCLE
with Renee Jacobs, OD., M.A
EyeCare Professional Magazine


It is easy to give away your competitive advantage. Simply continue two traditions: 



    1. Bundle Fees for Services with Fees for Frames and Lenses

      Make certain your fees for products always appear higher than the online retailer’s fees for similar products.  Achieve this by bundling fees for professional services, such as fitting and dispensing, into invoiced fees for frames and lenses.  Do not break out or itemize the professional work that differentiates your business from your online competition.  Allow every patient to believe that your prices for products are expensive compared to similar frames and lenses available online.
    2. Provide Free Optical Service

When a patient chooses to buy their eyeglasses from an online retailer, adjust and align the new eyewear for free.  If for any reason, the new purchase does not meet expectations, help the patient troubleshoot problems and enforce warranty agreements with their provider of choice. Supply unlimited expert advice and assistance as a courtesy.   

After all, paying your opticians to give away professional services will persuade every patient to buy your obviously overpriced frames and lenses next time out of sheer gratitde.  Right?



Traditional business practices are giving the competitive advantage to online retailers on a silver platter.


STOP Helping Your Competition!

As online optical retail gains market share and with it, consumer acceptance, it’s time for Eye Care Professionals to redesign traditional business tactics:


  • Recognize what services differentiate your practice.
  • Unbundle service fees from product fees. 
  • Educate your patients about the monetary value of professional optical services. 

Stay competitive in a changing marketplace.  Redesign your business model to help patients make smarter comparisons.  Finally, persuade consumers to purchase services that differentiate your business from your competition.


  1. Recognize what services differentiate your practice

    Think of the lens and frame order.  During this process, Brick and Mortar locations provide services online retailers cannot offer.  An automated website cannot judge frame suitability for a unique prescription.  It is not possible to pre-adjust the frame to assure comfort and proper fit prior to taking measures for the most accurate lens order.  An online optical retailer cannot take the measurements necessary to tailor a custom free form lens.  They cannot determine monocular PDs, vertex distance, pantoscopic tilt, and wrap.  Patients need the services that Brick and Mortar stores provide.

    Think about lens and frame delivery.  After the new eye wear is fabricated and delivered by mail, the online retailer cannot confirm accurate lens alignment to assure best vision.  They cannot adjust the frame to improve comfort.  An online optical simply cannot provide the hands on services that patients need and deserve.
    It is interesting that online retailers have turned their weaknesses into a competitive advantage.  They can’t provide services, so their product fees do not include bundled fees for services.  For this reason, online retailers can legitimately advertise lower prices than most Brick and Mortar stores. Patients, who do not understand the monetary value of services, perceive a tremendous opportunity for savings.  Do not allow online retailers to win this competitive battle!

    Recognize that your services are your strength. In fact, you can capitalize on your ability to provide hands on services patients need when they buy from you or when they choose to buy online.  You can unbundle services from products:  itemize the frame, the lens, lens options, plus services.  And, you can offer a la carte services. These services differentiate your practice from your competition, online or around the corner.  Make the fees obvious.

    Good news.  It is OK to charge appropriate fees for services rendered!



  2. Unbundle service fees from product fees

    Redesign your business model to maintain profitability.  Do this by unbundling professional service fees from frame and lens product fees.  There are two immediate benefits:

    First, your frame and lens product fees will become competitive against both Brick and Mortar competition and your online competition.

    Second, you can offer a la cart services patients need when they choose to buy prescription eye wear online. 

    Provide patients the opportunity to purchase frame advice, lens material advice, and the measurements necessary for an accurate order.  Help patients make decisions that will assure the best possible vision.  Later, when the eyewear arrives in the mail, offer proper lens alignment, frame adjustment for comfort, and verification that the prescription meets industry standards. Measure corrected visual acuity. Standardize appropriate care and charge appropriate fees for services rendered.

    Not Sure What to Charge?

    If you don’t know what to charge, begin by calculating the profit your business already generates from optical services. ECP Magazine has a free (downloadable) Spreadsheet Calculator provided by Renee Jacobs, O.D., M.A., and Director of Practice Management Depot. You can use the spreadsheet to unbundle service fees from product fees.  In addition, you can calculate your “Limited Dispensing Fee”, the fee for lens alignment and frame adjustment at the time of dispense. The Spreadsheet Calculator is accompanied by a video explanation narrated by Dr. Jacobs.

    Click Here To: View Video and Access Free Download

    Evolve business tactics to maintain profitability. Calculate the typical profit you generate from providing a specific service. Then, with revenue numbers in mind, set an appropriate fee. 


  3. Educate your patients about the monetary value of professional optical services.

    When you unbundle professional fees, it is important to communicate the monetary value of services.   Many opticians are not adequately prepared to explain what they do, and defend itemized fees for their work. Many are uncomfortable explaining why their services have value.  Address this challenge. Transform weakness into strength. 
    Help your patients understand that optical services have monetary value.  This knowledge is good for patients, certainly good for business, and arguably good for the profession of opticianry.  Communicating the importance of best practices elevates every ophthalmic profession.

    Consciously standardize procedures and patient education strategies.  Deliver each service with ultimate attention to detail. Explain every procedure plus the visual benefit. 

    For example, if a patient purchases eye wear from your office, then during dispense you might say:

    “Before we called to schedule your dispensing appointment, we verified that your new lenses meet industry standards for prescription accuracy, including power and axis alignment.  You might think accurate prescription fabrication is regulated, but it isn’t.  In the US, compliance to standards is voluntary.  We take pride knowing you will see your best when your lenses match doctor’s prescription.”

    Teach your patients that services differentiate your business from the competition.  Modify patient education strategies until your patients believe itemized services are worth every penny invoiced.  Knowledgeable patients will recruit their friends to experience your top notch service.

Make it happen!

The optical marketplace is expanding to include a new kind of competition, the Online Optical Retailer.  In the new environment, traditional business practices give away competitive advantage.  It is time to come clean with the consumer.  Unbundle optical service fees and deliver those services with pride.  Differentiate your business.

Don’t wait until the day no one comes through the door, except the patients who need those “free” services.

Don’t lose profitability or give away your competitive advantage as E-retail gains market share.  Instead, take action now.


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