Recently the Locate a Locum team attended 100% Optical in ExCel London. The 3-day event brought together industry experts to discuss clinical knowledge, industry innovation, and commercial modernisation. We attended a keynote discussion that focused on what the speaker predicted the future holds for opticians on the UK’s high street post-pandemic.
The importance of the high street for opticians
The high street can be seen as the lifeblood of connecting you, the optician, with your patients. It often has been claimed that the high street is declining for various reasons including greedy landlords, high business rates, or increasing parking fines. Most recently it is the impact the pandemic has had and the rise of online shopping. But as Peter Cross Retail Consultant describes the high street is resilient and new opportunities are always available for merchants if they manage the adoption of digital technologies into their business.
Predicted trends for the optical sector by Peter Cross, Retail Consultant
Cross stated the two trends he predicted to be necessary to succeed in a post-pandemic high street as firstly, people and secondly, embracing the concept of “peak stuff”.
What do people have to do with it?
Over the course of the pandemic our social interactions were prohibited forcing us to migrate online to complete purchases, seek advice, and to be entertained. Whilst this advanced our digital skills, the need for interpersonal communication and guidance increased when restrictions began loosening. However, due to brands being forced to transform digitally it seems the customer has been forgetten as consumer complaints are at an all time high due to the rise of automated chat bots not solving our issues. To suceed on the high street, opticians need to focus on their customers and ensure their needs are met with engaging communication, patient care, and expert customer service.
Tell me more about "peak stuff"
The term “peak stuff” refers to many individuals now having enough “stuff” in terms of technological devices and other material items. The pandemic has increased the demand for more experiential events including wellbeing and clinical appointments due to these being prohibited during the lockdowns. For your brand, it’s essential to create value for your customer. This can be achieved through the product and service experience they receive at every touch point in their customer journey.
Post-pandemic consumer behaviour
In a post-pandemic world, consumers have become highly self-aware and well-informed from their access to the internet and advanced digital skills. As an optician, you have to be prepared to deal with customers who have price-matched products you offer and have also referred to the internet to research their optical health issues. It is here that you are required to differentiate your brand and value offering. This can be referred to as a two-door policy i.e. retail and clinical advice. You can adopt different strategies to dealing with both with the main goal being value creation for the customer and profit for your business.
What can the optical sector learn from other industries?
1.Embrace Google Reviews
Google Reviews provide a human element to an online purchase or interaction from your business. It’s essential to have a presence online and this can easily be achieved by creating a free Google My Business account. Trust is vital for consumers so populating your profile with as much information allows you to be transparent. Don't miss an opportunity to use Google Reviews as testimonials for your brand, share the positive feedback on other social platforms and make sure to thank customers for their reviews.
When customers purchase from your physical or online store it’s important to follow up with post-purchase contact. You could create email messaging campaigns to find out how satisfied your customers are with the product and service provided. This also provides an opportunity to upsell recommended products and services.
Building a community has become a vital component of customer relations and establishing your brand. The term shouldn’t be an elusive concept, you can build community in many ways. For example, a weekly newsletter where you share advice on contact lenses or a new product launch. It could also take the form of a Facebook closed group, referral programmes or introduce membership perks and loyalty progammes.
Embracing digital technology may seem overwhelming but the implementation doesn't have to be instant depanding on your experience. To cater to changing consumer needs and to stay connected to both your online and offline customers it's important to know what your audience wants in terms of content, advice and guidance. Identify your strengths to influence the experience you can offer your customers whether this be retail or clinical. Doing so will allow you to differentiate your business amongst your competitors.
Get in contact
Are you looking to begin your career in locum optometry or find a permanent role? If you're unsure how to begin this journey we've a useful article here. Or you can get in touch with Locate a Locum today to find the best shifts at the best rates in your local area here.