'Wake Up' to New Technologies and 'Catch Up' With Omni-Channel Retailing


Panelists discussing 'Technology Reinvents the Retail Experience' at the dba LIVE event were (l to r) Tobii's Barbara Barclay, Metro Optics' John Bonizio, EyeLux Optometry's Brian Chou, OD, and LensCrafters' Joe Pflanz.

LAS VEGAS—Some optical retailers are embracing the latest in retailing technologies, while many are lagging behind. Even fewer have tapped the potential of omni-channel retailing by seamlessly integrating all forms of distribution for their customers.

Amidst presentations representing the cutting-edge of retailing technology and the increase in the trend toward omni-channel, the sentiment that "this industry needs to wake up" and "this industry has a lot of catching up to do" was repeated by the speakers at the first ever dba LIVE event presented at the beginning of Vision Expo West held here earlier this month. The afternoon seminar series on "Technology Reinvents the Retail Experience" was sponsored by Adlens, which introduced its newest technology, Focuss variable focus progressive lenses.

After an introduction by Jobson Optical's president and CEO, Marc Ferrara, "The Rise of Tech and Omni Channel" was presented by Vision Monday's senior vice president and editorial director, Marge Axelrad. She described the trend toward omni-channel in retailing these days, stating that "consumers want smooth interactions across all channels." To illustrate the technology potential of optical retailing, she showed the real world example of the new Sunglass Hut store in Manhattan's Times Square, complete with iPads and an interactive screen that enables passersby on the street to take photos of themselves and virtually try on frames.

The following four dba LIVE featured speakers then presented how a wide range of technologies are being implemented in optical retailing. Tobii Technology's Barbara Barclay presented "Eye Tracking at Retail," which illustrated how studying where consumers are looking when they walk into a store or scan an advertisement, product or package can dramatically impact sales.

Brian Chou, OD, discussed the many technologies he's implementing throughout his practice, EyeLux Optometry, in his discussion on "Using Technology to Engage and Educate Patients in the Exam Lane and Dispensary."

John Bonizio shared how Metro Optics is "Transforming the Optical Retail Experience" at his three locations in the Bronx and planned 4,000-square-foot store that he describes as an "Apple store for eyewear."

The last retailer to speak about ways his company is implementing technology was Joe Pflanz, senior director, omni-channel customer experience, LensCrafters, who presented "The Interaction of Digital and Traditional Retail." He discussed a wide range of digital tools that LensCrafters has already implemented to engage the patient and simplify the eyewear purchasing process. He also announced that LensCrafters is rolling out iPads to all of its associates at all of its stores.

But throughout these dramatic advances in retailing technology the speakers shared a recurring theme that optical has the potential for being much further ahead. Axelrad's comment that "our industry has a lot of catching up to do" was followed by Bonizio stating "this industry needs to wake up" and Pflanz concluding that "our category is behind." While technology and omni-channel already have a foothold in some cases of optical retailing, in other cases there is still further to go.

Read the rest of this special edition of the dba e-newsletter for more in-depth reviews of each speaker's presentation, links to the presentations themselves and videos shown during the event.

For a slideshow of dba LIVE, click here: VM's dba LIVE Event Explores Technological Advances in Optical Retailing.


For more from the current edition of "dba: Doing Business in Optical’s Local Markets," (as well as archived issues), click here.