As committed eyecare professionals, optical brick-and-mortar businesses have been focused on vision as our primary mission, delivering ever better lenses, coatings, treatments and frames to our patients. But ECPs have also continued to ratchet up the prices for a single pair of high-end glasses to maximize profits, while the outside world—aka the online world—has been moving away from single purchase transactions and toward a more enticing subscription model.

Spotify, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and even Starbucks are paving the way here for the average Joe to become comfortable spending more when payment is smaller but more frequent—just the opposite of the retailing and dispensing situation found in eyewear. So could optical purchases transition to a subscription model? If so, what would it look like? Would more money be made? And would complaints multiply across more transactions?

Disruptive? Yes. But the next question you should be asking is, “How can I get started?” Well, it won’t happen if we ECPs stay stuck in the same old way of doing business—by asking your client to come to you. Just look at our current vendor partners who are beginning to dip their toes into the waters of a direct-to-consumer model. And by doing so, they’re sending a clear message: The days of needing a traditional optical midwife to shepherd an eyewear transaction are numbered.

With school about to start, this could be an opportune time to recognize that kids both need and want eyewear—lots of it. Between breakage, Rx changes, loss and a hunger for more personalized experiences, kids are the perfect market to try on a subscription model. And no company with more market clout than Nike thinks so too, so let’s take a look at their new “Adventure Club” sneaker subscription offer. Featuring monthly subscription levels ranging from $10 to $50, kids get to choose from four to 12 pairs of Nike sneakers a year. The $50 plan even includes discounts for most styles. With no try-on, returns are averaging 15 percent—which matches my store’s satisfaction rate now.

So… are you ready to begin a totally new eyewear adventure?

Barry Santini, O.O., ABOM
NYS Licensed Optician and Contact Lens Fitter
[email protected]