Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Starting to think about setting yourself apart...

The article in last Friday's Optician Magazine entitled "Hope in the High Street" contained a couple of paragraphs that struck a resonant chord with me:

"That push towards differentiation has been crucial in helping traditional opticians of all types fight against competition from new areas such as the internet."


"Smaller chains have also used marketing techniques, such as £10 eye tests and two-for-one offers on frames, to divert customers away from the optical giants, but Key Note suggests the future of the independent sector lies in high service levels as the bigger boys slug it out on price.

The market continues to develop adversely for independents, particularly in terms of price competition from the multiples. But, the report concluded, 'There remains scope for the trusted - some might say old-fashioned - independent retailers that offer a higher level of service to an older, often more affluent clientele'."

In a previous blog I referred to the alignment of the larger optical organisations as they marry manufacturing with retail. The effect of this is a homogenising of the market (i.e it reduces the choice available to consumers by distributing "exclusive" branded products through large chains and, dare I say it, the internet). This leads inevitably to price competition - something extremely dangerous for the independent sector.

But where do we start if we're serious about meeting the desires of those KeyNote have found that are the future of independent practice?

KeyNote suggest we focus on the "older, often more affluent clientele' - the premium end of the market:

As professionals we should already have an idea of the tastes of this demographic and it helps to analyse or audit what you offer now and imagine yourself as the patient. Do a Mary Portas on yourself!

This should be done through the array of disciplines of modern practice:

The eyecare services you provide (and the way you provide it!)
Your patient's experience from welcome to farewell
Your practice environment
Frame collections and the way you display them - are they targeted at a particular premium customer?
The array of lifestyle accessories available (and I'm sure this will feature a blog before too long!)

Now within these very general headings are myriad of elements - the important thing is to think critically about the opportunities in each discipline to enhance the experience and offer to these target patients.

Often when you're charging a premium for a product you should not look so hard at the cost - but of the premium you can charge and the margin that you therefore create in any innovation. That may be uncomfortable - until you start to experience the bottom line.

1 comment:

Trudi - Optician said...

Many businesses rise above when faced with crisises and challenges. This is one of those times where Opticians need to find their competitive advantage and capitalize on it. Do something different to get and keep business. The old way of doing business won't work anymore.

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