MyOptique’s CMO, Sven Ripper, describes five things retailers can learn when entering a market untouched by eCommerce. 

1. Disrupt a trusted industry

The prescription glasses and contact lens market is dominated by opticians – Specsavers, Vision Express and Boots being the big players. Customers trust the people who keep their eyes healthy and in turn tend to purchase the associated products after their eye appointments. 

The optician is what makes competing with this market very difficult, but the MyOptique is doing just that, by tempting customers with discounts of up to 40%. With its Glasses Direct, LensOn and Sunglasses Shop brands in the UK, Ripper says the biggest challenge for MyOptique is brand awareness. 

“Part of the hurdle is people are told only to trust their optician,” he says. “That’s not an easy thing to break. Of course we are relying on opticians to prescribe the right lenses or prescription glasses, but at the same time, our potential customers can save a lot of money online and have a more convenient buying experience.”

Ripper says MyOptique’s three million customers have saved over £150 million across its six brands (the e-tailer also sells in Europe under different names), with savings of around 20-40% on lenses, 40% on prescription glasses and 20% on sunglasses. 

Being a pureplayer with no stores, MyOptique is able to pass on savings from dealing with wholesalers directly, while also selling its own exclusive house brands. 

2. Don’t be afraid to point out competitors

Because of MyOptique’s online proposition, it cannot provide eye tests, but customers need to know their correct prescription before ordering. This means MyOptique is driving customers to competitiors in order to gain that information. 

“We strongly believe our business is to help our customers save money,” explains Ripper. “So we send emails telling customers about eye test deals at Specsavers with the full confidence they will come back and purchase from us, because we know we provide better value than the high street.”

Visiting a high-street optician is even more likely with contact lenses as an ophthalmologist needs to check the fit and recommend the correct lenses for individual patients. “Usually contact lens wearers only come to us if they’ve had a fitting and they buy exactly what they’ve already been prescribed,” he says, explaining how MyOptique also has opticians on staff which can be called if there are any customer queries.  

Ripper says most first-time customers are sceptical of the new-age way of buying prescription glasses and lenses. “But once you’ve bought from us, it’s most likely you will come back.”

3. Let customers try on products in the comfort of their home

“Customers want to try on their glasses because they are on your face every day, and you want to feel secure of the quality and, more importantly, that they look good,” explains Ripper.

He points to the fashion industry, which struggles online with high return rates, but instead of treating this as a barrier to adoption, MyOptique embraces the returns challenge by offering home trials. 

Customers can choose up to four trial frames to try on at home for free. They arrive the next day and customers have seven days to try the frames, with no obligation to buy. They can do this as many times as they like. 

Once the customer chooses a frame, they send the trial frames back free of charge, complete their order online and their glasses are sent to their home within 7-10 days, depending on the complexity of the prescription. 

“It’s better than the in-store experience, because you can try them on in the comfort of your home, with different outfits, and you are not rushed like you are in the store,” he adds.

According to Ripper, this convenience model pays off with over 50% of customers placing an order following a home trial, and those customers also tend to spend more money. 

4. Experiment with virtual reality

If customers do not want to have trial frames sent to their homes, they can instead try on glasses via the eCommerce site. MyOptique has an exclusive license for a piece of technology, called Ditto, which allows customers to virtually try on frames.

“Most of the frames we sell have been virtually tried on,” he says, noting how very short-sighted people cannot see what they look like in a mirror while wearing dummy frames. “You record a video of your face without wearing glasses, turning it left to right, then you put your regular glasses back on and virtually augment the different frames you are interested in onto your face.”

5. Keep an eye on future technologies

Ripper says there are technologies emerging in the market which could radically improve the online opportunity for MyOptique. 

One in particular is Opternative – an online eye test which has recently been approved by the FDA in the US. Users need a smartphone or computer to take the online test, which is then reviewed by an ophthalmologist within 24-hours for a $40 fee. 

The technology is aimed at customers who want to double-check their prescription and unlike in the UK where eye tests are available on the NHS or often subsidised by employers, it is a very expensive process in the US. 

“That technology will come to Europe at one point, hopefully sooner rather than later,” he says. “And when it does, that will be a watershed moment, where everything will change, it’s the single biggest hurdle for us.”