E-tailing Shares Stage (And Screen?) With Online Refraction

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Go to VisionMondaySummit.com for Summit highlights, including VM’s overview story summarizing the presentations of the day, a slide show, PDFs and videos of speaker presentations.

What does the blurring of “brick” and “click” mean for eyecare? In the process of answering that question, the “Omnichannel” session introduced a technology so disruptive that, in contrast, it demonstrated how firmly established online optical retailing has become. This was followed by speakers representing the world’s largest frame and lens companies, both of which have invested heavily in online retailing by acquiring some of the largest e-tailers around.

“Today’s customers expect retailers to keep up with them. They want to interact with their retailers and their brands regardless of the channel,” said Marge Axelrad, VM’s senior VP/editorial director, defining omnichannel and introducing the session.

Aaron Dallek, CEO/co-founder, Opternative, then presented the first technology that can offer online refractions. “At Opternative, we’ve created the first online refractive eye exam technology to deliver a valid prescription. I know you’re thinking this is disruptive. That’s because it is, but we all can benefit if we keep an open mind and work together.”

To view the Omnichannel video from the VM Summit, click here.

His company’s proprietary online refractive technology “that anyone anywhere can do themselves” determines sphere, cylinder, axes, Rx, and PD, according to Dallek. Stressing “we’re not here to take everyone’s business away; we’re here to work together,” he said he hopes the technology will make it easy for the 50 million people in the U.S. and 2.5 billion people in the world who have never had an eye exam to start focusing on eye health. To that end, he’s “putting together a think tank of some of the brightest minds in the industry,” and he invited those in the audience to email him to participate.

To ensure that performing online refractions works within the laws of each state, Opternative plans to use its web-based technology along with a licensed ophthalmologist to provide a prescription within 24 hours to those who have their refractions taken online.

 
  The panel discussed the implications of online refraction and the rise of online optical retailing. (L to R) Opternative’s Aaron Dallek, Luxottica’s Carlo Privitera and Essilor’s Roy Hessel.
This bleeding-edge, online refractive technology, was followed by two presenters who discussed online optical retailing, a technology that itself was once disruptive but has quickly become firmly established and appears as if it is here to stay. The fact that the next two speakers were Carlo Privitera, Luxottica digital and e-commerce innovation lab president, Glasses.com, and Roy Hessel, president, online initiatives, Essilor, representing the world’s largest frame and lens companies, respectively, shows just how entrenched e-tailing has become in the optical sphere.

Hessel cited the benefits that come from optical e-tailing, “We can take advantage of all these wonderful tools to expand, to increase the average order value, to increase the frequency of purchase, and to really do the service we should toward vision consumers.” He showed how the independent ECP remains central to the optical retail ecosystem, flanked by chains and e-commerce and surrounded by optical technology innovations, Big Data/cloud computing, value apps and disruptive technologies.

Discussing the session’s topic, Privitera said, “I always have a lot of fun when someone tells me we are going to define the customer experience. We do not define the customer experience anymore. In an omnichannel world, the customer today decides how to move between all the different channels.”

 
Aaron Dallek, CEO/co-founder, Opternative.
Carlo Privitera, Luxottica Digital and E-commerce Innovation Lab president, Glasses.com.
Roy Hessel, president, online initiatives, Essilor.
 
       
While the event’s “Future/Now” subject pervaded all the presentations, another theme emerged during the omnichannel session when Carlo Privitera, Luxottica’s digital and e-commerce innovation lab president, observed that many of the presenters throughout all of the sessions were also discussing another trend—“people who want to decide how to live their life.” The opportunity to interact with their retailers and their brands in an omnichannel environment is one means to that end.

jsailer@jobson.com