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First Person: What’s Next for the OmniChannel Approach in Eyecare During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

By
Andy Chance-Hill, Ocuco’s OmniChannel director, has spent the past 20 years working in the optics industry globally. In his work over the past three months, it has become evident to him that the shift in the optical sector, in particular, toward online sales and telehealth is here to stay. Observing this strong trend, Chance-Hill believes it is important to respond to a Vision Monday feature article – “The Patient Journey: An Ongoing Evolution” – that was published in VM’s April issue.

In the following First Person response essay, Chance-Hill shares Ocuco’s research and hands-on experience of optimizing optical businesses for a new patient landscape.

By Andy Chance-Hill


The Advantages of the OmniChannel Approach in Optical


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DUBLIN—In April 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, Vision Monday senior editor Mark Tosh asked, “Will the sector see a growing shift toward online sales and telehealth?” The question was a central point in a feature story addressing the evolving Patient Journey in the midst of a coronavirus epidemic and it was published in VM’s April issue.

COVID-19, course, has reshaped 2020, the year of vision in more ways than could have been imagined. The implications of the coronavirus will continue to be felt worldwide, as societies and industries, including the optical sector, continue to adjust to the “new normal.” As business begins to resume, a new patient landscape has emerged, highlighting the adaptations required to succeed during this uncertain time. Meeting patient needs not only involves delivering a satisfactory customer journey but a safe one too.

According to a SEMrush report, health-related eCommerce brands have seen the second-highest traffic increase across all industries1, as consumers look to alternative channels to meet their healthcare needs. Patients purchasing channels have also shifted; 44 percent of consumers now use eCommerce platforms to buy items that they previously wouldn’t have bought online2.

How can optical businesses continue to meet patient needs during this time?

By adopting an OmniChannel approach.

An OmniChannel approach involves the creation of a consistent experience for the patient, along every touch point of the optical journey. Create an OmniChannel experience to capture patients online and bring them into your store, both virtually and physically.

The in-store experience, as we knew it previously, has changed significantly with patient expectations now reflective of social distancing measures. Recent data from the Vision Council cements this. 15.7 percent of patients have stated that they would prefer curbside pickup of eyewear, while a further 17.9 percent would prefer home delivery3!

Websites are becoming the new storefront. They provide a platform that offers vital information regarding the response of your business to COVID-19. A website is a central touch point of the evolving patient journey, encompassing elements such as virtual try-on (VTO), online booking and remote triaging while providing an alternative point of purchase.

Critical elements for consideration when creating a virtual and brick-and-mortar patient experience include:

1. eCommerce

Provide a seamless check-out experience for patients, both new and returning. The eCommerce element of your website should be aligned with all other touch points to ensure consistency for patients. Offer quick and secure processing of orders and reorders. Consider the addition of touch points such as telehealth consultations and virtual-try-on to increase the level of service provided online and boost conversion rates.

2. Telehealth

Over 60 percent of patients surveyed in April stated that they were going to cancel an eyecare appointment or were unsure if they would attend while the threat of the Coronavirus exists4. This represents a significant percentage of patients whose eyecare needs are not being provided for and a large stream of lost revenue. Telehealth has increased in popularity recently, enabling patients to continue to have their eye health monitored remotely. This facility can be added to your website to provide eyecare recommendations online. As in-store capacity reduces due to social distancing measures, telehealth offers the opportunity to see patients from any location at any time, increasing appointment availability and allowing your business to recapture revenue online.

3. Teleretail

Over 32 percent of patients would like to see their eye doctor offering virtual vision care during the current COVID-19 crisis5. Offer online shoppers a virtual personal shopping experience that enables a face to face selling approach. Maximize revenue through lens upselling and “second pair” sales which, previously was not achievable online. Allow staff to use their retail training and experience to provide the best options for customers online. Increase business capacity outside of the in-store restrictions and provide a safe, comfortable retail experience for your customers.

4. VTO

Virtual-Try-On tools (VTO) use augmented reality to allow patients to realistically try on frames virtually using the camera on their device. As 94 percent of consumers consider VTO as a useful tool in their buying process6, it should not be overlooked. VTO can be used by patients preparing for in-store appointments; frames can be added to their virtual wish list and can be put aside for them to try when they arrive in-store. This saves time in store. Those looking to make a purchase online can accurately view the fit of the frame before purchasing.

5. Web Diary

Research from GetApp found that 70 percent of customers would rather book an appointment online7. Adjust the diary to highlight available appointment types, including changes to opening hours and appointment capacity. Include useful information regarding new procedures for appointments throughout the booking process, e.g., updated arrival times.

6. Catalogue Websites

Online searches for “order glasses online” have seen a 5,000 percent-plus increase in recent weeks8. Display your full selection of frames online with a frame catalogue. Allow new and existing customers to view all products available for purchase online and in-store.

7. Digital Marketing

An analysis of online search terms over the last 90 days found that searches for “how long does an eye exam take” saw a 110 percent increase9. Utilize search engine optimization (SEO) to increase website traffic. Consider the addition of a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, which can save time for staff, as the information most requested by patients is available in one place, thus benefitting the customer base also. Website ranking for relevant search terms, including keywords used on the FAQ page, will improve, increasing website traffic. To provide consistency and clarity for patients, share the link to the FAQ page across social media and include it in SMS recalls to patients.

As the traditional patient landscape evolves due to the Coronavirus, we must continue to adapt our strategy, as patient needs continue to shift. By utilizing an OmniChannel approach and placing your patients at the center of all that you do, you can ensure that you continue to be best-placed to meet their needs. By providing multiple channels of interaction, patients have the freedom to choose which channels they feel most comfortable with.

An OmniChannel approach ensures that the increasing number of patients purchasing online are experiencing high levels of service while allowing your business to leverage technology to provide a safe experience for those coming through your doors. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach but a tailored experience, unique to your brand and your patients. It will ensure your business’s response to COVID-19 is one your patients will appreciate.


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Andy Chance-Hill, Ocuco’s OmniChannel director, has spent the last 20 years working in the optics industry globally. Ocuco is the leading provider of OmniChannel, Practice Management and Lab Management solutions to the eyecare retail, optometry and lab markets worldwide. Its flagship products are Acuitas and Innovations.If you would like to discuss this topic further with Chance-Hill, please feel free to email him directly at andy.chancehill@ocuco.com.


[8] Google Trends 2020 Analysis - https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US

[9] Google Trends 2020 Analysis - https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US