E-commerce, The Race for Market Share (Part 3)
This is a very interesting industry because it is prescription-based; however, fashion and health converge. The positioning around frames is fashion focused and the lens technologies are constantly evolving. The online eyeglass market is really in its infancy. Over time, as the industry realizes how the consumer wants to shop, there will be a tipping point within the industry.
There is room for multiple players and models. Be aware of what your value proposition is and where your uniqueness is in the space. A fascinating example that may parallel a little bit is buying shoes online. Many ECPs and retailers have a fear or concern about e-commerce reducing pricing, but then you look at Zappos who discounts nothing. They free ship everything and have unlimited returns for one year. If you're not sure which shoe size you are or which color you prefer, purchase both and return the one you don't want. Superior service is Zappos' niche and they have defined that for themselves.
There are many different brand positionings, value propositions, and service models that exist. In the end, all you need to do is take what works for your business and extend those properties to the online market.—Hunter T. Puckett is Vice President and General Counsel, HPC Puckett & Company. Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of companies in the optical sector. You can send comments or questions about this article or any other Dollars & Sense articles to Hunter T. Puckett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is the third in a series on wholesale labs and E-commerce. Click to read the first article and
second article in the series.
Interstate Launches Ready-to-Ship Dispensary Displays and Furniture
Interstate Optical, based in Mansfield, Ohio, is launching Dispensary Express, a web-based, quick-ship resource for setting up a complete optical dispensary. The dispensary collection includes wall displays, mirrors, rotators, shelving units, base cabinets and fitting tables, all available in a choice of finishes and laminates. The displays feature contemporary aluminum display rods available in both locking and non-locking versions. The display rods are also available separately for direct wall mounting or for do-it-yourself display applications.
"Setting up a well-designed dispensary showroom normally takes several months for planning and display production," said John Art, president of Interstate. "Dispensary Express displays are pre-constructed, ready to ship, and easy to install."
Essilor Implements Digital Surfacing Technology at LensTech
Essilor of America has implemented its patented digital surfacing technology at LensTech Optical Lab in Greenwood, Ind. With access to Essilor's digital surfacing technology, LensTech can now fully manufacture the complete offering of Essilor Digitally Surfaced lenses at its Indianapolis-area laboratory including the entire portfolio of Varilux lenses, both VariluxDualOptix and VariluxDRx, Definity and Accolade Freedom lenses. LensTech will also now be able to manufacture Eyecode lenses for its eyecare professional customers with the Visioffice System.
LensTech's new digital surfacing facility operates Essilor's proprietary and patented Digital Surfacing Process Control (DSPC). A daily quality certification of the process has been established with Essilor to ensure quality compliance and guarantee consistency at the highest possible level.
VisionWeb Names 2011 Labs of the Year
VisionWeb has named its 2011 Lab of the Year honorees. Now in its sixth installment, VisionWeb's Lab of the Year program rewards spectacle lens laboratories that have shown exemplary results growing and maintaining customer loyalty usingVisionWeb.
This year's honorees are Optical Prescription Lab, Pelham, Ala.; Southern Optical, Goldsboro, N.C.; and Superior Optical Lab, Ocean Springs, Miss.
Winning labs were selected based on their ability to retain and grow VisionWeb usage among their customers and their ability and willingness to promote VisionWeb. In addition, votes that each lab received were also factored into the final calculations. Lab of the Year voting took place from July through September on the VisionWeb website.
Quest Optical Specialty Lab's Michael Walach
By Judith Lee
If you think your customers are picky, consider Michael Walach's situation. His customer is you, the wholesale optical lab.
"Every job Quest Optical Specialty Lab does is a job that wholesale labs would rather not do—Rx lenses which are out of range for production equipment, require specialized tooling, equipment, are labor intensive or require specialized skills and knowledge," noted Walach, president of the Largo, Fla. specialty operation.
Being "the lab's lab" places a higher standard on the technology and staff at Quest, compelling it to stay ahead of the technology curve. Having implemented free-form surfacing nearly five years ago, the staff has been continuously developing advanced free-form software.
"Our products are individually optimized—ray tracing corrected, patient adjusted power wraps in SV and bifocals, high add powers on PAL, a full scale of unique vocational lenses and high definition round segs in all lens materials and high add powers," he noted.
Implementing these new technologies requires strong academic backgrounds, technical skills, IT sense, and sound optical knowledge. More than half of Quest personnel have college degrees and average 15 years of experience in the optical lab field.
Even with a highly knowledgeable and experienced "dream team," Walach admitted there have been nightmares: "The high def equipment was barely commercially viable. Because we were one of the first customers to purchase the high def free-form line, the manufacturer techs had no experience of the lens processing. Everything was trial and error. We had to experiment and come up with process, equipment settings and procedures for every type of lens and every material."
Automation, a headache for many labs, is not an issue for Quest, as every job is a custom job. But Quest does have marketing and customer education issues just like any other lab. In 2012, expect to see trade journal ads that teach labs and ECPs about Quest's unique specialty products.
"From the large number of inquiries that typically start 'Please do not laugh, but, I have this strange request...' or 'I have this astronomical Rx request and I wonder if it is at all possible...', I know that we need to get to the labs and the ECP up to date product availability information for the benefit of the labs, Eye Care Professionals, and most important, the patients," Walach said.
He noted that social media marketing and website upgrades will be rolled out in early 2012 to improve connection with Quest customers.
"We are revamping our website into full e-commerce capability and implementing social media marketing strategy," Walach said. "Our new website will facilitate random orders from the USA and Canada that do not have an open account."
LabTalk Spotlight: Alloys and Non-Alloys in the Lab
By Christie Walker
When it comes to thermo-reactive blocking media, alloy has been the most stable and widely used for surfacing in the optical industry. There have always been advantages and disadvantages to using alloy, but up until recently, optical laboratories haven't had many viable alternatives to alloy blocks. Here's what two experts say.
"Up until now, alloy has been the most stable of the thermo-reactive blocking media available for surfacing, which is why it has endured for so long. All of the other products in the market have brought compromises to the process. In addition, alloy has been the only product able to successfully block prism, a technique that has proven to be essential for producing the newer digital designs. A final advantage is alloy's compatibility with the AR process." Ian Gregg, Satisloh.
"Of course, the positive mechanical properties of alloy come at a price—environmental concerns. While proper care and handling, labs can alleviate those concerns (use of gloves, filtration of alloy-touched fluids, filtering alloy out of waste stream, etc.). Labs are also looking to eliminate the need for the extra steps necessary to work with alloy. It seems clear that the requirements for reducing use of lead and other alloy components will only grow stricter in the future. The other negative side of using alloy is the price. Alloy is generally expensive and subject to large fluctuations in price that are not predictable for the lab long term." Kurt Atchison, Schneider Optical Machinery.
To find out what the "Better" is for non-alloy blocks, go to labtalkonline.com and go to the FEATURES section where you will find this complete article.