VSP Global to Test 'Online Optical Store,' Eyeconic.com

By

Dave Plevyak
RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—Following its announcement on Dec. 20 about establishing an internal task force to examine the opportunities in the online space, VSP Global said it will launch a live beta test of www.eyeconic.com, an online optical retail store, on Feb. 18. To be launched with 8,600 small California VSP Vision Care clients, the test will enable 473,000 VSP members to use eyeconic.com to purchase contact lenses, prescription eyewear and sunwear. The company said, “Eyeconic.com is designed to enable independent eyecare providers to compete with online optical retailers.”

Stated David Plevyak, vice president of business development and leader of VSP’s online initiative, "We've heard and understand the concerns doctors have regarding online sales, especially the fear of reducing patient visits. Recognizing the online optical space is growing rapidly, we’re confident that eyeconic.com is the right online partner for independent providers. We're making them an integral part of the online solution by referring patients to independent eyecare providers, generating revenue for providers and by offering a virtual extension of their dispensary."

After the beta test is complete, which a company spokesperson told VMail would be about four weeks, “Eyeconic.com will consider implementing any enhancements and launching the site nationally later this year” to all 55 million VSP Vision Care members. Both members and consumers will have the ability to order contact lenses and browse, select, virtually try-on, and purchase sunwear and prescription eyewear using the Marchon and Altair portfolio of products. Additional frame brands may be available in the future, although VSP said a timetable for these was not determined.

Plevyak added, “Eyeconic.com will be the only player in the online optical marketplace that will offer the ability to use a VSP Vision Care benefit to purchase a mix of brands and prescription lenses including proprietary coatings and options. We believe there’s a growing market for this type of offering and look forward to providing VSP Vision Care members with a world-class online browsing and buying experience that will connect them back to their local independent eyecare provider. Also, purchases made on eyeconic.com will generate revenue for independent providers.”

VSP said that eyeconic.com will refer consumers shopping online back to providers’ offices. The spokesperson told VMail, “When a patient shops online with a prescription from a VSP doctor or indicates a VSP doctor as their doctor when checking out, eyeconic.com will refer the patient to their VSP doctor on the order confirmation and invoice. Eyeconic.com fills the order and handles all the details. Eyeconic.com ships products directly to customers; on the site, customers who browse can view offices that carry frame brands.” In addition, “If a patient doesn't have a VSP doctor or has a prescription from an out-of-network doctor, eyeconic.com will refer them to a nearby VSP doctor.”

The company announcement also said eyeconic.com is designed “to give providers a new channel for second pair, sunglass and contact lens sales.” Asked to clarify, the spokesperson told VMail, “Providers can use eyeconic.com to reach patients who shop online, where they shop: online. They can include eyeconic.com in second pair/sunwear email promotions and direct patients walking away from their practice without filling their prescription to eyeconic.com, where they can browse and buy optical products and, most importantly, connect back to their prescribing VSP doctor.”

VSP Global cited several issues behind its development of the eyeconic.com test, among these: a change in consumer purchasing behaviors, a growing amount of direct revenue being lost by independent ECPs to online purchases and a growing need for doctors to generate a steady stream of non-office-based revenue.”

VSP network doctors will find additional details at VSPOnline on eyefinity.com.