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Helping opticians to think like retailers

Optical patients are fashion-conscious, savvy consumers, expecting a unique and tailored customer experience.

As the optical market continues to grow and evolve at pace within the retail space – it’s long been more than just about providing expert clinical care to patients in-store. The ability to sell products and services has become increasingly crucial for practices to guarantee profitability and continued success.

What’s more, in this highly competitive market, patients have come to expect more! After all, they’re not just patients – they’re fashion-conscious, savvy consumers that demand a unique and tailored customer experience.

Thinking like a retailer

As leading players and newcomers add to an already overcrowded market, often with highly competitive pricing strategies to battle for custom, and the developing online market for prescription glasses becomes a reality – Independent Opticians are those most at risk as they struggle to compete. Yet, it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom for independents, there’s plenty of opportunities to regain share, by differentiating themselves with their brand and ensuring a strong focus on customer experience.

Creating a unique customer experience

Independents are unique in that they have their own inherent strengths, that can’t always be matched by others, particularly the larger chains that dominate the market. However, to be competitive, it’s crucial that they position their brand and store on their strengths and core values.

Optical retailers should, therefore, be asking themselves does their space reflects their brand and core values, as well as providing a customer experience tailored to their audience.

Strategic Retail Design

To make optical environments work, there are many design fundamentals that need to be in place, whilst the customer experience covers each step through the store, every touchpoint, and interaction, and is often made up of many different elements.

Dean Waugh, Founder, and Creative Director, Retail Experience Design explains:
“I often see new optical fit-outs, that, on the surface look aesthetically pleasing. But it’s clear they’re lacking in strategic retail design. Its crucial Optical Retailers have a clear understanding of their current and future customer base – what are their customers are looking for in terms of product, service, environment, and experience? Does their brand and identity reflect the “true” business values and services provided? How does the brand and identity connect with current and future customers, is it aligned? And, is the brand and identity reflected consistently throughout the space, environment, and people?”

Dean, goes onto say… “I once had a client say that he couldn’t understand why he was unable to sell any of his premium frames, whilst pointing over to a dark corner, where glasses sat on a raw MDF shelf, with the edges peeling away from the askew surface. In today’s market, patients and customers are savvy consumers – their expectations are high! Effectively presenting the right products and services at the right time is fundamental. But it’s also about the Customer Experience too”.

Design strategy, Parker and Hammond

A prime example of strategic retail design is Parker and Hammond.

Parker and Hammond’s existing space was long and narrow, with a sea of frames displayed on rods that morphed into one. Dispensing was mixed into the retail frames resulting in a difficult and uncomfortable browse for products and dispense. In addition, the flow of space wasn’t working, with clinical areas feeling out of reach and cramped.

The design strategy was to take the space back to the external walls and remodel the entire layout. By doing this a larger space was achieved – 3m depth testing rooms with the inclusion of a pre-test suite, all with perfect synergy to allow ease of patient flow.

The team at Retail Experience Design reviewed and re-developed the entire customer journey to ensure key touchpoints along the customer route, as well as product interaction. Through a configuration, 4m of additional space was created, which allowed for an uninterrupted dispense to provide patients time and space to trial their frames.

To align the design and business strategy, a complete re-working and redesign of the retail offering to enhance and promote high-end brands also took place. The overall aesthetics further enhanced Parker and Hammonds vision to deliver a space that put the patient at the forefront of advanced optical technology, as well as ensuring a strong focus on the retail operation of the business.

“We chose to work with Retail Experience Design as we wanted a totally bespoke service and a practice that looked unique. We wanted to create a truly welcoming environment for our patients to feel relaxed, to experience outstanding eye care and choose the very best eyewear.

The RED team listened to all of our requirements and designed an amazing retail environment that our staff enjoy working in and a place where our patients love to shop. RED guided us through materials and finishes that complimented our brand identity and the practice layout to ensure everything really came together!  Our shop fit was extremely challenging as we totally redesigned our retail space. Our store premises had changing floor levels and ceiling heights that had to be contended with and both RED and our contractor worked hard to ensure the project was designed and delivered to perfection.

RED helped us through the contractor selection process and their recommended contractor was great to work with delivering a first-class end result that we were all pleased with. We could not be happier with the end result.”

Dipesh Chhatralia, BSc (Hons) MCOptom

Specialist Optometrist, Parker and Hammond

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