TECHNOLOGY: CLICK: R(e)Tail Optical Retailers Realize Higher Ticket Sales with Buy Now, Pay Later Options for Patients from Sunbit By Click Staff Friday, December 18, 2020 8:30 AM Dr. Tavel Family Eye Care created its own images promoting Sunbit to patients in-store and for its social media messages. Photo courtesy Dr. Tavel. NEW YORK – This year, COVID-19 stay-at-home and work-from-home policies and the impact of the pandemic on many people’s financial health and spending habits have prompted many consumers to shop more online or at least become more familiar with many online shopping options and technologies. Similarly, independent ECPs and optical retailers have looked to escalate their adoption of digital technologies to better serve their patients and create more efficiencies. At the same time, consumers are becoming familiar with Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) solutions during the online checkout process to buy what they want and split their purchase over time. The results are higher average order values and increasing incremental revenue for online retailers. This new way to pay is becoming more widely used and brick-and-mortar retailers are starting to leverage this now. According to tracking information from such monitors as Afterpay and PYMTS, over a third of U.S. consumers have used a BNPL service. And their primary reason for doing to is to avoid paying interest on credit. Sunbit, Inc., a company which has been among those specializing in this service area, has become a solution for a growing number of optical providers who are seeing success with a new type of payment concept that has proven simple and straightforward to bring into play in-store or in-office. Sunbit can approve consumers for their service with a swift and simple check of a driver’s license or ID, consumers can choose payment options from three, six or 12-month payment plans. It’s a 30-second application process and 90 percent of people are approved. Consumers can view their plan status, pay off early and control the pace of their payments. Idan Tzror, Sunbit’s VP of retail operations, told Vision Monday’s CLICK, “Sunbit is excited about working with local service providers that fulfill the needs of their communities. Over the past four years we’ve seen success working with businesses in other sectors and we recognized a need in optical practices. The options for payment are narrow in the optical space and by bringing Buy Now Pay Later to local independent practices and major chains, enables them to increase their capture rate and helps people get the eye care they need without breaking their budgets.” By the end of this year, the BNPL service provided by Sunbit, which started working with optical businesses in August 2019, will be available in 5,700 locations, with 250 of those being in the optical space, Tzror said. Sunbit points out that Buy Now, Pay-Over-Time concept helps when a patient or consumer’s out of pocket expenses are high. Or when insurance doesn’t cover what patients may want or need. Oftentimes, people visit their doctor for their eye exam and then go elsewhere to fill their prescription. Optical practices are losing business to other outlets and, often to online competition. The company stated, “We have built a brick-and-mortar-first technology that helps optical retailers provide a buy now, pay-over-time experience both in-store and online. Offering access to payment plans in-store is not easy, which is why other BNPL providers have shied away from it. It requires approving almost everyone who applies (with fair rates), providing a lightning-fast application process with little to no data entry, and not dinging someone's credit score just for applying. Additionally, it helps to be a people business that trains store associates and provides the necessary shopper marketing and day-to-day support a retailer requires to offer a financing solution confidently.“ Further, Sunbit’s website explains, “For small retailers, getting paid right away is key, and we ensure they get paid quickly. Moreover, we extend the experience from their store into managing their customer’s payment plan by providing a service that’s friendly, flexible and accessible. If their customer needs to reschedule a payment, they simply call us and our friendly and reasonable customer service team works with them. We boast an 82 Net Promoter Score (NPS) score because of it.” In the eyecare space, the company notes, annual rebates are not leveraged as often as expected, with contact lens sales, there can be many missed opportunities for the patient and the optical practice.Similarly, second-pair sales as a discount is an industry-wide practice and while it’s commonly used, it doesn’t help increase a practice’s net revenue. Sunbit has learned that more than three-quarters of patients would purchase or spend more on eyewear if they were given access to BNPL options, which enable them to spread out their payments on purchases. Sunbit’s website explains the process and shares the testimonials from several optical retailers and ECPs who are working with the company already. Dr. Tavel Family Eye Care, with 22 locations in Indiana, is one of those who have leveraged the Sunbit technology to offer BNPL solutions. Mollie Tavel Kaback, director of growth initiatives and community engagement for the group, told CLICK,“Sunbit has been a gamechanger for our patients, and particularly so during COVID when times -and finances in particular – are uncertain. The ability to pay over time has been a welcome offer for hundreds of patients each month. We have found that offering patients the ability to finance their eyewear empowers them to invest in a better quality lens and frame that addresses their lifestyle… it’s been a win-win for us! Our average purchase price has increased for patients who take advantage of Sunbit, and our patients are getting the correction and protection they need every day." She added, "Originally, our team was hesitant to truly integrate Sunbit into the complete eyewear process… from scheduling to eyewear pick up. At Dr. Tavel, our team felt that we could anticipate to whom and when to offer Sunbit. As painful as it is to admit, we were wrong! Our greatest successes with Sunbit began when we added Sunbit to our check-in process, our appointment reminders, and any time before the patient is ready to pay. It has also been eye opening to see the Sunbit adoption rate once we started offering it to every patient, every time (vs. cherry picking patients based on this assumption, or that one). We learned that patients are more open to shopping with their Sunbit approval amounts in mind, as well as their insurance benefits, rather than simply opting for what is covered. The feedback has been really positive internally and externally. People are mentioning Sunbit in our reviews, and even some of our staff have taken advantage of Sunbit to invest in multiple pairs for themselves and family members." Kent Iglehart, general manager of Dr. Tavel added, “The feedback about Sunbit from our patients and staff was extremely positive and we loved that Sunbit enabled patients to choose premium eyewear. To gain a full understanding of the impact of Sunbit on our business, we performed an in-depth analysis. The analysis compared the spend of patients who used Sunbit to their previous purchase amounts. We also looked at a control group of patients who did not use Sunbit within the same time frame. The results were jaw-dropping—the patients using Sunbit spent 168 percent more than they spent during their previous visit and after correcting for year-over-year spending changes, patient age, gender, insurance mix, and office-specific effects —patients using Sunbit still spent 123 percent more than they spent previously.” Littleton, Colorado's Optical Matters ensures that Patients see Sunbit info at the desk and in the dispensary. Lisa Rollins, owner of Optical Matters based in Littleton, Colo., a single location practice, told CLICK, “I’m a big fan. During the shutdown in the spring, we were scheduling a bunch of webinars to find new ways of adding to our business, trying to find new things. Sunbit came along as an invite about the Buy Now Pay Later option. It was a new way to give patients the options to buy the things they actually need without having to cut back on the vision care features they’d benefit from, such as anti-glare or high index choices. Many millennials don’t like to use a credit card to pay for things, and Sunbit is a soft credit pull a read credit card. And patients in the 60s and 70s also are looking ways this year to manage and stretch their payment dollars.” Rollins added, “There are four of us here, plus the doctor and we are all up to speed on Sunbit. They make it easy to go through the training and sent us a preloaded iPad to go through it and walked us thorough a few things. We can alert our patients to the service via the app and in September we did an email blast to patients about it. After all, we are trying to differentiate ourselves from the online retailers by offering the service and expertise that you don’t get by ordering your glasses online and this has been a big win for us.” More details and commentary from other eyecare practices and retailers using the service are posted here. Financing offered is made by Transportation Alliance Bank, Inc., dba TAB Bank, which determines qualifications for and terms of credit.