How Technology Is Reinventing Optical Retailing at VM’s dba LIVE Event

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LAS VEGAS—Optical retailing is in the midst of dramatic change, and technology is among the driving forces. To explore new retailing techniques and the technological advances influencing them, Vision Monday held “dba LIVE: Technology Reinvents the Retail Experience” Wednesday afternoon to a standing room only crowd.

After an introduction by Jobson’s Marc Ferrara, “The Rise of Tech and Omni Channel” was presented by Vision Monday’s Marge Axelrad. She described the trend toward omni-channel in retailing these days, stating that “consumers want smooth interactions across all channels” and observing that “our industry has a lot of catching up to do.” 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.

“Eye Tracking at Retail” was presented by Tobii Technology’s Barbara Barclay. She illustrated how studying where consumers are looking when they walk into a store can dramatically impact sales. Using the experiences of major brands such as Tropicana, The Gap, Amazon, JCPenney and Procter & Gamble, she showed how eye tracking technology can be used to either make or break a product launch or redesign.

At the retail level, eye tracking “adds an objective viewpoint into what someone’s looking at,” she said. It can help optical retailers answer questions such as: When someone looks at a pair of glasses, what do they look at first? What’s the best way to set up a display?

The next three speakers represented different types of optical retailers. Brian Chou, OD, of EyeLux Optometry, discussed “Using Technology to Engage and Educate Patients in the Exam Lane and Dispensary.” Automated equipment in the exam lane “allows docs to spend more quality time with the patient.” A visual paging system not only “directs staff and doctors where they go next without yelling down the hallway,” but it also assists with the pass off of the patient from the optometrist to the optician. Practice management software, patient communication systems, social media and web analytics all contribute to streamlining the patient experience and improving the EyeLux bottom line.

John Bonizio’s presentation on “Transforming the Optical Retail Experience” discussed how his three Metro Optics locations in the Bronx and planned 4,000-square-foot store that he describes as an “Apple store for eyewear” continue introducing the latest in technology. After warning, “While we’re all concentrating on insurance companies and the latest trends, outside forces are looking to take over our industry,” he shared examples of how his company is taking steps to remain competitive. This included using social media, search engine optimization, and QR codes as technological word-of-mouth and digital measuring equipment and videos throughout the store to wow the patient.”

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.

Sponsored by Adlens, dba LIVE included a presentation by the variable focus eyewear company’s Dr. Graeme Mackenzie and Dr. Rob Stevens, introducing its newest technology, Focuss variable focus progressive lenses.