PARIS—Essilor is abandoning traditional methods of developing and designing products in favor of an innovative, customer-driven approach that has already yielded a new generation of Varilux progressive lenses to be released this year. Speaking with financial analysts yesterday to discuss Essilor’s 2016 financial results, Essilor executives announced the sweeping changes in the company’s approach to R&D and marketing.

“Essilor has transformed its way of innovating with one idea in mind—to focus all our work on the consumers’ needs,” said Alain Riveline, corporate senior vice president, global marketing. Riveline said that Essilor’s traditional approach to product innovation has been organized by “technique and know how, physical and chemical properties, engineering and optical design. We decided to completely change this approach by focusing on consumer segments,” he said.

According to Riveline, Essilor will now target its products to five discrete consumer segments: “Kids and teens” between ages 0 and 18; “young adults” aged 19 to 44 year-old; “midlife” people ages 44 to 64, “seniors” who are 65 years old and older, and “NextGen” consumers who lack easy access to eyewear and eyecare and who live in both developing nations and developed ones.

Riveline said Essilor has also developed a new way of understanding consumers that involves studying social networks, online communities, selfie videos and a “house lab” that Essilor has designed to test products in “real life situations, not just clinical situations.”

“We’ve spent a full year listening to social networks,” Riveline said. “We have also created our own online communities in China and in the U.S. that put us in touch with thousands of wearers. We know what prescription they wear. We submit questions to them and have an ongoing dialogue.”

Riveline said the first product to be developed using these new methods is Varilux X, a series of progressive lenses featuring optical designs geared primarily for the visual needs of Gen X wearers, who number 1.5 billion people worldwide, with 100 million new wearers added every year. Baby Boomers, who number 1.2 billion people worldwide, represent a secondary market for Varilux X. Together, the two groups significantly enlarge the pool of progressive lens wearers, Essilor said.

The most notable change from the prior generation of Varilux lenses, Varilux S, involves improvements in near distance vision, a feature Essilor said is especially important to Gen X-ers. Riveline said the launch of Varilux X would be accompanied by “a new experience of personalization in stores.”

Essilor plans an international rollout of Varilux X beginning with Europe in April, followed by Canada in June, the U.S. and Latin America in September, Asia and Oceania, the Middle East and Africa in October.

Over the next month, Essilor will introduce other products including Eyezen Lite and new Crizal and Transitions lenses, Riveline said.