Dispensing In The 21st Century: Is It Really “The Big Bad Internet”?
So when did “Internet” become a bad word? I’ve noticed that over the past few years this word has evoked negative comments and talk of doom and gloom amongst some opticians. It’s high time that we stop using this catch all word as the evil machine that will put independents out of business and opticians out of work. We are seeing the Internet becoming part of our daily routine as opticians more and more every day. Is this use all negative? Of course not. Whether you’re using the credit card machine, sending an order to the lab, or communicating with your patients using email – you are using the “Internet”.
The times they are a-changin. Fast!
When we look at the pace that the Internet is becoming a bigger part of our practice it’s mind-boggling, deciding when to jump in when it comes to the new tools and opportunities. As an independent, independent chain, or large chain, we all need to decide what to implement into our business models in order to compete, while providing positive patient outcomes. There are many online “tools” that are becoming available to the dispenser/seller of eyewear. Virtual try-on and the ability to take PDs and Seg. Heights have been around for a while now. Virtual try-on has evolved to 3D try-on available on Luxottica’s online web store Glasses.com. Technology for trying on frames and taking measurements is advancing in leaps and bounds, and even the ability to perform a refraction on yourself is out there. ‘EyePhone’ Measures Refractive Error Easily . More and more apps are appearing which can provide not only refractions but also fundus images.
But I digress as usual…
Just as refraction and diagnosing apps are becoming more mainstream, the same holds true for tools and business models being offered to opticians that utilize the Internet. It’s very apparent that a portion of the eye care buying public want to use the Internet to different extents when shopping for and purchasing eyewear. So the question we have to ask ourselves is- Do we try to dissuade these patients from going online and hide our heads in the sand while we wait and hope that the regulatory system finds a way to go back to the good old days? The days when everyone wanting to purchase eyewear must visit their licensed eye care professional to shop, order, and pick up their glasses and contacts? Obviously this is not going to happen. The public has spoken. The genie is out of the lamp.
Just in the last few months we have seen new business models and tools for utilizing the Internet. Essilor is offering the myOnline Optical to their accounts which gives the optician a turnkey solution to an online presence with their own online web store utilizing Essilor’s platform and supply chain to show frames, provide online ordering, and delivery to the optician’s store for dispensing.
Verif Eyewear is a model being offered to opticians by Plastic Plus which incorporates Plastic Plus selling online with an optician on staff confirming the order’s integrity. The finished glasses are sent to the patient’s local optician, who participates in this network, for dispensing. In this model the optician is paid a percentage of the sale. The OAC is working with VerifEyewear on a pilot project of an endorsement program for online sellers in which they confirm they are compliant with provincial Standards of Practice and also the additional criteria set by the OAC.
A few weeks ago we saw Loblaw Optical go live with their online optical model, Freshspex. This model has the patient choose their frame using a virtual try-on, manually enter their prescription, choose their lenses, and then choose a Loblaw Optical store for pick-up. An interesting component of this model has the uncut lenses and frames sent to the Loblaw store where the optician takes the PD and Seg Height. The lenses are then edged while the patient shops. The glasses are then dispensed by the Licensed Optician.
The above models all offer online purchasing. They all appear to satisfy the current and proposed Standards Of Practice of both optician and optometric regulatory colleges in Ontario. There are other tools available for opticians to employ the Internet into their practices that include online ordering, and others that don’t. The website showmyGLASSES.com offers opticians and optometrists the ability to showcase the frames they carry with the use of online catalogues. The optician or optometrist have his or her own personalized page that offers the patient access to peruse frame styles that the store carries. Patients are sent to the site by their optician or optometrist to view the chosen frame catalogues or new patients find the optician or optometrist through a locator provided on the site. Online sales are not a feature of this site.The site owners plan to promote the site heavily through social media and SEO.
As you see there are many ways to use the “Internet” in our selling and dispensing of eyewear. The above is just the tip of the iceberg as to what is now available and what is coming. As opticians we can hide our heads in the sand or embrace technology and view it as opportunities for us to grow our profession and businesses.
The “Internet” is not our enemy. It’s just another way for us to engage our patients. In the end it’s up to us to show the value of Licensed Opticians.
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
– Bob Dylan
Lorne Kashin, RO