The internet is integrated into every part of our lives, and eyecare is no exception. Online shopping skyrocketed over the last several years, and the pandemic only increased its popularity. Lockdowns created new challenges for shoppers, causing them to turn to virtual solutions. In addition to changes in the retail landscape, telemedicine solutions sprung up in response to a changing medical environment, and optometry is adopting its own methods. Out of necessity, consumers learned and adapted to new ways of buying. Successful eyewear retailers are realizing that the future of business includes an omnichannel approach to meeting their customers' needs.
So how are eyewear retailers embracing the future of online shopping? Here are some tips and tricks for your business to keep up with the trends:
1. Consider the omnichannel approach.
The omnichannel approach is all about offering choices and a seamless experience to the consumer. It's not enough to offer in-store and online options. Even if you don't plan on selling online, having a strong online presence is incredibly important. Even for consumers who buy in-store, more than 60% of shoppers begin product research online, according to a study by General Electric. Eyecare businesses that are competitive in the digital landscape will also:
• Map out the buyer’s journey. Think about where your customer will first hear about you, and the process they will go through to research and eventually make a purchase. Then, go through every channel and make sure each step is seamless.
• Invest in their mobile site. These days, the majority of online shopping takes place on personal cell phones. Make sure your website is looking polished on desktop and mobile.
• Maintain a consistent brand voice across every channel. Give your visitors the smooth experience you would want to have.
• Offer the channels that make sense for your business. If selling online, in-store pickup is popular with many consumers, but delivery might make more sense for you. Test it out, and see what leaves the biggest positive impression on your customers.
Considering the omnichannel approach can seem like an overwhelming task. However, taking the time to think and plan can help your business in several aspects. First, adopting omnichannel will allow your customers to shop how and when they want. Second, shifting to online channels will increase the opportunity to capture data on what is driving sales for your business. By capturing this data, you will be able to optimize conversions and examine your entire sales process with a more methodical approach. Third, adopting omnichannel is more of a mindset than a technological feat. The mindset is about putting the customer and their journey first to ensure they have a positive experience with your products and brand, and that you are meeting them where they want, keeping them from looking elsewhere for solutions. There are a lot of facets of adopting an omnichannel approach that your business may want to consider, including:
Your digital presence should reflect your physical presence
Think about your brand, not just in terms of colors and fonts, but mood and target market. Incorporate the look and feel of your brand into everything you create and offer tools or resources that speak directly to your target audience.
Give your visitors what they're looking for
The beauty of the internet is that it provides a level playing field for businesses of all sizes. If executed well, having a strong online presence can help expand your market and can help you address the needs of your existing customers without them turning to your competitors for solutions. Be sure to think through the areas of importance for your business. What tools, resources, and information would your target audience want access to? How can you guide visitors along the path that you wish (i.e., make a purchase online or schedule an appointment to come in-store)?
Use quality visuals
As mentioned before, most consumers begin product research online. Strong images and photos can be a key differentiator for your business. As mentioned earlier, many consumers do some level of online research before visiting a store - so make sure your visuals look good! Leaders in the eyewear industry have also adopted technologies that allow consumers to "virtually try on" different frames, providing visitors a better online experience or allowing them to "pre-shop" before visiting your store. To stay competitive in the digital landscape - these technologies are something your business should also consider implementing.
Place value in the convenience of your customers
Convenience is consistently one of the most important factors in consumer purchase decisions. This is why your business must make the shopping experience seamless and easy to take part in. Whether your visitor makes a purchase online on your website or simply wants to research your store before stopping in, your website and social channels are the places to guide and set expectations. Many consumers nowadays are accustomed to "self-service" options, so providing the tools and knowledge they may be interested in on your website can help establish your business as a valuable resource.
Utilize the data you gain
One of the most beneficial aspects of adopting the omnichannel approach is the ability to track the buyer's journey. Measuring digital data such as click-through rates and conversions will lend itself to optimizing your sales funnel. What visuals or "services" are your website visitors interacting or asking about most? What are you visitors searching for? Are there general frequently asked questions that could be answered online?
By considering these aspects of the omnichannel approach, your business will be able to compete with other online retailers and maximize your conversions. Placing the consumer first and getting familiar with their journey will help your business grow.
2. Establish trust with your visitors
Hundreds of patients turned to virtual solutions for eyecare during lockdowns. Some saw how easy it can be to order eyeglasses from the comfort of their home, but others, unfortunately, dealt with a mishandling of care. Some patients received lower-quality prescriptions or experienced long wait times for their eyeglasses to be delivered. Establish your business as trustworthy by:
• Offering high-quality products crafted out of materials that are made to last, like the ones we look for in our lines.
• Partnering with suppliers who are committed to delivering quality, on-time service.
• Creating a first-class customer experience. This is possibly the biggest opportunity for your business to differentiate itself from the competition.
• Opt to create a place on your online store for reviews. Positive reviews are a great way to establish trust with your consumers.
• Prioritizing health and safety is another keyway to establish trust with consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the consumer's mindset, and for that reason, it is smart for your business to consider ways to deliver products and services to consumers in low-contact ways. You may offer buy-online-and-pickup-in-store options (BOPIS) and create a designated space near your physical store where consumers can safely pick up their products.
• Educating your customers will show them that you value their ability to make informed decisions. In the eyecare industry, it is key to educate your customers on the materials used in their frames and lenses. More and more consumers are also considering the ethics that go into the creation of frames and providing easily traceable products is a great way to display trustworthiness.
3. Differentiate yourself from the competition
Consumers are flocking to online shopping methods, and its key for your business to find ways to differentiate itself. One way you can do this is by offering products that are not as easily shoppable online. Choosing to carry independent brands will lower the competition and help you keep more happy customers to yourself.
• Product options are a major factor in why consumers conduct online research before buying. The ability to browse hundreds or even thousands of products at once is a huge benefit to online shoppers. For this reason, you should consider carrying a diverse product mix, including independent brands, and listing them on your website. This will lead consumers to your business and maximize your sales.
• Search capabilities are another appealing feature of online product research. Consumers can open their phone, search for what they are looking for, and find it within minutes. This insight can help you prioritize making the search functions of your online store easy to use, filter, and find products quickly.
The shift to a digital marketplace is taking every industry by storm, and the eyecare industry is no exception. It will be key for your business to keep an eye on these changes to stay competitive. By considering an omnichannel approach, establishing trust with the consumer, and differentiating from the competition - your business will more likely be able to compete with online competitors. Sourcing from independent brands can be a major asset for your business when competing in the digital landscape. When choosing a frame collection for your office, consider Villa Eyewear to add to your product mix and help you differentiate your offering.
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