STEPS TO ENRICH
THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
By Deborah Kotob, ABOM
Release Date: May 1, 2019
Expiration Date: June 14, 2023
Upon completion of this program, the participant should:
- Understand the new experience-driven consumer.
- Learn the need to integrate digital-tech-appeal into the optical retail experience.
- Learn about digital retail interactive technologies that elevate the optical customer's online and in-store experience.
- Understand the new path to purchase that uses tech-appeal to connect with consumers, shorten the purchase cycle, increase in-store capture rate and increase word-of-mouth marketing (WOM).
Deborah Kotob, ABOM, is currently director of education for Jobson Medical Information LLC, has more than 20 years of experience as an optician. With over 10 years in lens manufacturing as a Sales Consultant, Trainer and LMS content developer. She lectures, trains and conducts webinars on a variety of optical and practice development topics.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). General Knowledge Course SJHI056
The consumer experience (CX) has transformed. Now the convenience and interactivity of online “search and shop” shape the consumer’s shopping experience expectation. As brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s vital that we adapt and create an in-store environment that’s relevant in the age of the “Experience Economy.” Our primary shopping influencers are a click away. Just as the consumer is changing, the retail environment is being redefined. Lest we forget, when the patient crosses the threshold from exam room to the dispensary, they become a consumer and the dispensary a retail environment. Our digitally dominated world is no longer about the retail transaction; it’s now about the retail customer experience (CX). It’s about creating a meaningful, memorable Customer Journey. Companies who excel at the customer experience grow revenues 4 to 8 percent above market, and they earn stronger loyalty turning customers into promoters. Promoters have a lifetime value of 6 to 14 percent times that of detractors. (bain.com/infographics/five-disciplines)
Many of us in the brick-and-mortar retail business express concern that the digital “click” shopping experience poses a threat to brick-and-mortar stores. Good news, research shows that online browsing has a high conversion rate to in-store visits. This conversion rate is highest for businesses that have an omni-channel customer experience management strategy, ensuring that across channels, online and in-store the customer experience is integrated.
See your retail environment through the consumer’s eyes. Your customer has information and shopping experiences at their fingertips day and night with their smartphones, tablets and other devices. Using interactive technologies both online and in-store helps your customers identify with you, bond to your brand and become loyal followers and promoters. In the Experience Economy, two types of customer interactions are sought by the consumer, the first revolves around engagement/ participation, and the second revolves around connectedness. Marketers spend enormous amounts of money to understand what consumers want. It turns out we want experiences. We want a memorable interaction, dare I say we want to have fun! We want to connect, and we want to feel that we are more than a credit card-toting purchaser of stuff. As optical retailers, we must engage and connect with customers in a meaningful way that turns a tedious shopping transaction into a notable experience. When we do, we garner the loyalty of a digitally connected, mobile and social consumer who can’t wait to share their experience. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising, and for the digitally connected customer, the word spreads exponentially through social media outlets.
Let’s discuss the seamless integration of the “Clicks to Bricks” digital customer experience and how it will help you build brand loyalty with your digitally connected customer. The process has been dubbed the omni-channel experience by marketing research firms that study customer experience management strategies. The following is a quote from the lead research director for the Aberdeen Group, Omer Minkkara: “… companies with well-defined omni-channel customer experience management (CXM) programs achieve 91 percent higher year-over-year increase in customer retention rate on average.”
Retailers who recognize and practice CXM make sure that their customers engage with them online as well as in their stores. They ensure their customers encounter a consistent look, feel and message across all channels: mobile devices, social media sites, websites and in brick-and-mortar stores.
The digital shopping experience permeates every age, culture and income bracket. There are now more smartphones on the planet than people, making it essential for retailers to create a relationship between the brand and the digitally connected shopping experience, both on and offline. This new retail world is more than digital; our tech-driven world has become mobile digital. It’s an online, 24/7, global, self-help, real-time immersive omni-channel experience. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but it all happens with a click. This need not strike fear into the hearts of brick-and-mortar retailers. With an omni-channel marketing CX management strategy, retailers can use digital connectedness as yet another means of driving consumers to visit their brick-and-mortar stores. But it doesn’t stop there, once the consumer walks through your door, you have the opportunity to tap into their love of the clicks experience in-store. In this course, we will introduce the optical retailer to the ways that tablet-based augmented tools, virtual reality tools and simulation tools can help you seamlessly integrate the digital “clicks” experience into your customer’s optical shopping in-store experience.
How do we engage the digitally connected Experience Consumer? The challenge for optical retailers is how to wrap their products in an experience. One way to wrap a product in an experience is to describe how the product will enhance an experience when used, e.g., “You will love these polarized lenses when you’re sailing in the Keys this year—they are the most comfortable lenses outdoors and because they block the high glare coming off of the water, you’ll be able to see what’s in the water all around you.”
Another way to wrap a product in an experience is to change the retail shopping journey from transactional to experiential. Imagine being able to show them how they will see better with polarized lenses! Tablet-based tools and augmented reality simulation tools allow the patient to see and experience the difference between tinted and polarized sun lenses and other lens enhancement technologies. Use digital tech-appeal to enhance the optical retail experience. Digital-Tech-Appeal helps optical retailers stay relevant to customers in our tech-driven world.
A tablet as a teaching tool, a demonstration tool and a virtual assistant tool adds to your expertise and professional identity as well as that of the office. It’s information and engagement at your fingertips with just a click or a swipe. It’s a digital experience that promotes the hi-tech features of the products and at the same time elevates the consumer experience.
THE OPTICAL CUSTOMER JOURNEY STARTS ONLINE
Online retail represents a new way of reaching more customers. Many “Bricks” retailers are missing out on this opportunity. The availability of augmented reality and simulation technology has digitalized the online shopping experience for shoppers, allowing them to try on frames, share photos and get feedback from friends and family. And they have their frame fit measurements taken digitally and even have simulated visual experiences. Platforms such as Frames Data allow you to easily populate and manage your catalog of offerings online with beautiful images and now with virtual try-on through FittingBox.
CLICKS TO BRICKS: The clicks digital experience can be used to deliver information, to advertise, to drive consumers to your e-commerce, your Web page and social media sites. It can be used to build social media influence and generate social media consumer reviews and “likes.” Use your customer’s digital connectedness to drive them to your store and use digital in-store experiences to keep them coming back and to generate referrals.
The interplay between clicks and bricks is a complementary one. In Deloitte’s study of the relationship between clicks and bricks retail, they found that online activity influences 38 percent of retail sales in brick-and-mortar stores, and they found that consumers who use a device during their shopping search activity are 40 percent more likely to convert to a sale. Brick-and-mortar stores have a distinct advantage over online stores because they address two main concerns for many shoppers—the need to see and feel the merchandise. Apparel and eyewear consumers want to examine the merchandise physically. The Clicks to Bricks, omni-channel experience drives the digitally-connected customer to the store. Once in the store, they experience the seamless integration of the same digitally interactive and convenient shopping experience as encountered online. Brick-and-mortar retailers must compete in a new transformed retail landscape. This transformation parallels the ever-increasing dominance of our digitally connected lifestyle and online shopping experience. We look at our smartphones hundreds of times per day. In an Experience Economy, products are now symbols of lifestyle, and they have to fulfill a need that enhances a consumer’s life experience. Said more simply, your customer wants products that make their life better! Experience consumers are digital natives, and the challenge for the bricks retailer is to adopt a clicks mentality, which means staying connected to your customers in the digital space they inhabit to create brand loyalty in this new retail environment. Clicks can be used for online retail or to drive consumers to your bricks location. FittingBox states that 90 percent of consumers search online before going in-store.
Post-purchase reinforcement connects you with your customer on social media sites where you can ask them to visit and like your website. Use this connectedness to send email thank you messages, recall notification, sale notifications, new product arrival announcements, invitations to visit the website and social media site or to announce special in-store events. The clicks digital experience can be used to deliver information, to advertise, to drive consumers to your e-commerce, your Web page and social media sites. It can be used to build social media influence and generate social media consumer reviews and likes. Use your customer’s digital connectedness to drive them to your store and use digital in-store experiences to keep them coming back and to generate referrals.
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES FOR RETAIL AND DISPENSING
Use digital technologies to engage the customer. Visually demonstrate lens and lens enhancement benefits, use frame selection tools to inform their eyewear frame purchase decision. Exceed their expectations. Use digital-tech-appeal to help them learn about eyewear needs for which you have solutions. For example, ask them if they ever experience blinding glare when driving. Then use the tablet-based lens simulation tool to show them how polarized lenses provide eye comfort in hi-glare conditions and provide crisp, sharp detail while in contrast tinted lenses that just make things darker. Digital tools can help you demonstrate the benefits and the WOW factor to your customer. We all drive and therefore can benefit from polarized sun lenses. Research shows that our reaction time increases by 40 percent when wearing polarized sun lenses for driving versus tinted lenses. There are many examples of better, more comfortable vision that can be demonstrated with these tools. Most of us spend 4 to 13 hours a day in front of computers. Even young eyes that only require single vision correction can benefit from reducing accommodative stress from hyper-convergence when viewing screens for extended periods. Presbyopes benefit from office or computer lenses that provide a large intermediate zone in the lens, which is conveniently placed higher in the lens for comfortable posture and computer vision. A note on multiple pairs: With digitally interactive demonstration tools, today’s opportunities for multiple pair sales is greater than ever before. Multiple-pair vision solutions are requisite for excellence in patient/consumer care. And the bonus for the practice is higher revenue. Gain consumer confidence by using digital technologies to demonstrate what they can look forward to in their new glasses. This helps you circumvent “buyer’s remorse.” Impress them by taking the frame fit measurements with a digital tool while explaining the increased precision the tools provide so that the benefits of new digital lens designs can be fully realized.
INTERACTIVE DIGITAL TOOL FEATURES
Frame Selection Use frame selection features such as those used in FittingBox (online), OptikamPad or ABS Smart Mirror (tablet-based) to capture a photo of your patient wearing various styles and colors. Not only will they see themselves in the frames but can share with family and friends for feedback. The customer sees in real time what to expect in their eyewear, leaving no room for disappointment after the job is finished.
Precision Measurements The measurements feature of tablet-based tools like OptikamPad and ABS Smart Mirror allow the optician to obtain precise measurements, even the difficult ones that are needed for digitally compensated lens designs.
Better metrics equals better vision for the customer. The customer’s confidence in the store and the optician soars. OptikamPad does not require the optician to be at eye level to obtain accurate metrics, and all measurements can be obtained from a single snapshot, even the wrap angle. These tools increase the precision of standard measurements like pupillary distance and fitting heights but excel as a tool for the advanced position of wear (POW) measurements required for personalized and compensated digital design lenses. ABS Smart Mirror can even determine the best placement for near zones and corridor length in PAL lenses based on the patient’s convergence pattern.
We are selling digital lens technology, so when guiding the consumer’s path to purchase of hi-tech lenses, the use of a hi-tech demonstration of the lens benefits delivers the WOW factor.
We need a hi-tech solution to obtain precise frame-fit metrics. We all recognize how uncomfortable it is for the patient to have that magic Sharpie tip aimed at their eye while you encroach on their personal space. As experienced opticians, we tend to believe that we can take very accurate measurements, which is a fact that won’t be contested but what we must consider is the customer experience, especially when selling high-end, hi-tech lenses. Our magic Sharpie does not communicate hi-tech, nor is it a comfortable experience for the customer; no one enjoys the experience of feeling like they’re about to be poked in the eye.
Lens Simulation The lens augmented reality simulation feature of these tools utilizes the prescription and frame fit metrics to simulate the improvements in edge to edge clarity in the lenses and the improvements in PAL intermediate and near zone area and width. Side by side comparisons between new digital designs versus conventional design and surfacing technologies illustrate the differences for the consumer. Lens thickness comparison between various indices, aspheric designs versus standard spherical can all be seen with the lens simulation tools. I only mention a couple of the features of this tool, but the list is comprehensive. Virtually anything that can be demonstrated visually is a feature of these tools.
Virtual Reality—Immersive Experience Virtual Reality tools are available from companies like ABS to provide an immersive experience where the consumer is transported to a virtual environment where they experience the effects of wearing, i.e., a polarized lens. How cool is this? Imagine the impact on your polarized sales with such a compelling experience. Interactive digital experiences have tech-appeal for the experience customer.
THE BRICK-AND-MORTAR RETAIL CUSTOMER JOURNEY
Incorporating digital-tech-appeal in-store to enhance the customer’s in-store journey can be the tipping point that converts a shopper into a loyal customer and promoter. And it’s central to your customer experience management strategy. Using technology to interact with customers conveys the sense of an active relationship between brand and buyer, both online and instore. Pre-sale is an essential element of the retail path to purchase for the consumer. Online reviews and website experiences attract the digital customer and entices them to visit your store. When the in-store experience is digitally enhanced through engagement and participation, the customer’s loyalty is solidified.
What will you do differently to enhance your customer’s shopping experience? Research shows that the experience is the primary motivator for consumer purchases, either due to the promise of the experience to come when using the product or through the interaction and engagement during the purchasing activity. Consumers want to participate and to connect. We can provide this experience for them online with virtual try-on and in the brick-and-mortar environment by integrating the digital experience into the in-store experience. It works both ways; the eyecare professional has more fun when they engage and connect with the customer. Experiences bond us to a brand while transactions leave no lasting impression. To be relevant, a bricks experience must engage the customer with digital interactive elements that add personalization and bring product expertise to the store environment bridging the online and offline experience. Digital in-store engagement sets the stage to continue the interactivity and connection post-sale. Ask customers to follow, like and review you on your website and social media sites. Ask your digitally savvy customers to send “selfie video” testimonials and post them on social media sites. Communicate—stay in touch, invite and inform. Keep it new! Make them the hero—get their permission to post their photo in their fab new eyewear. Just as we love to post on social media, we love to be featured on sites. Communicating with your customer in their digital space via emails and social media posts during the average two years before their next eye exam could shorten the purchase cycle by shortening the time between their store visit. A perfect example is sending out reminders to use their flex spending plan.
The omni-channel CX should be seamless; the in-store experience should mirror their digital shopping experience.
With digital in-store tools, you demonstrate your relevance to the digitally connected customer, and help them see and understand the opportunities that lens materials, designs and treatments offer. After all, we are a visual species, and upwards of 80 percent of the information, our brain process results from vision. There’s the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and a digital picture has tech-appeal.
Technology is advancing rapidly in our optical world. We now have “artificial intelligence/ machine learning” built in to the algorithms for digital lens design and production. Optimization of the lens is achieved by computational analysis of the lens surface requirements based on prescription, frame fit metrics and material index, by the lens design software algorithm. Technological advancements in lens production should be mirrored in the way that we obtain the customer’s frame-fit metrics.
The omni-channel experience resonates tech-appeal and increases office revenue because patients better understand the value of their eyewear choices and the reasons that these enhancements provide more benefits and cost more. Combining this digital experience with the human touch experience solidifies the connection and sense of loyalty that your customer feels toward you and the brand. Be their trusted advisor for everything eyewear—be passionate. It communicates that you care. Loving eyewear makes it fun for you and the patient.