You will be more than aware of the peaks and troughs in trade during the optical year, but how can you maximise those times when trade may be quieter? What is the ‘right thing’ to be doing in those times? Read on for a range of ideas to ensure your business flows all year through:
Take some time off?
There will be those who decide that the best thing to do in those quieter times is to take a much needed holiday. If you’re a self-employed locum or a sole optometrist/optician practice owner, maybe this is the perfect plan. But are there other options?
Drive more profit?
Let’s take December as an example of a quieter trading period. What can you do to drive sales and profit in this ‘traditional’ downtime? Firstly let’s consider if a quiet December is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy! Do we see a poor month in the lead up to Christmas and New Year as a fait accompli? What if we treat this as we would any other time of year?
Increasingly, a patient’s experience begins online, so you need to make sure that at this and every other step of the journey, you are providing a great customer experience. In today’s ‘on-demand’ world, the online customer journey is defined and shaped by the customers themselves. Can you do more to showcase your frame ranges, talk about contact lenses, shout about your USPs, educate the customer? Using a mix of patient education topics, make sure that your offers/promotions are appealing and clear.
If business is a little slower for you, take the opportunity to get more involved with social media. Today, 66 percent of UK adults of all ages are social media users, according to the ONS*. Having a presence on social media allows opticians to help shape the narrative about health care and products and services offered.
Utilise social media sites like Instagram and Facebook which give you the opportunity to show off happy patients in their new frames. Mixing posts that highlight your extensive eyewear selection with posts that feature your practice culture and personality will make your practice feel inviting and give patients a reason to stop by for the final purchase.
Many optical practices now offer extended hours on evenings and weekends, walk-in appointments, and same day service. These are smart ways to attract today’s breed of customers, who are used to instant gratification and 24/7 access. Look at what your town/shopping centre is doing in terms of the run up to Christmas and late nights/extended trading. Can you take advantage of the extra footfall nearby?
What is your clinic availability? Increase capacity if there is an availability issue. Even if there is no theoretical capacity issue, do you need to consider the impact on clinics if you are able to drive more volume through positive activities.
Bring forward those reminders and recalls due in January, bearing in mind when those letters/emails/texts will land against when you will be open. This has a knock on effect for +1 year and + 2years, dependent upon recall periods and so is cumulative.
Remind people that you’re there:
Increase your PR activity. Get noticed! Look to see if there are any opportunities for links with local charities and groups. In slack times, hit the street – leafleting and lens shine activity (offer to clean the specs of any glasses wearer and tell them what your USPs are) are great ways of interacting with shoppers (your prospective customers) in town.
Window displays. Do you stand out from the crowd? There is always a danger at Christmas that your window looks like that of every retailer around you. Perhaps don’t have a Christmas theme, to provoke curiosity.
It’s party season! Remind existing customers and potential new ones that to go with that new outfit for the seasonal party they may want an extra pair of glasses. They may want to try contact lenses for a different look. Existing contact lens wearers may want to try coloured lenses for a change.
Promote sunglasses. Often seen as an item for the summer season, they can be a great sale for the patients off for some winter sun overseas.
Don’t forget sports eyewear for those hitting the ski slopes.
Sale/promotions. Do you want to offer a discount/offer to drive more footfall? You may be in a situation where you wish to push end of season stock to make way for new styles in the New Year. Another way to generate more business and get rid of old inventory at the same time is to try a 2 for 1 offer.
Maximise every opportunity in store:
For your practice to maintain a real advantage make sure your customers get a one-of-a-kind, memorable patient experience from the moment they walk through the door.
Maximise each patient interaction. Discuss everything from eyewear needs to eye health history to lifestyle behaviours, even down to factors like face shape and eye colour. With these considerations in mind, you can gather a curated set of options for patients to try on until they find their ideal fit. Patients can’t get that from a website—nor can they get follow-up care.
Use this patient interaction to your advantage by emphasising your eye care experience to patients and your full stock of frames, in person and in your marketing materials.
Utilise those ad-hoc opportunities. For patients coming in to have an adjustment, repair and so on, is there an additional purchase they may wish to make? Cases, accessories, cleaning products, cords and chains, whether as gifts for others or something for themselves.
Time to plan?
Plan buying for next year’s seasons. ‘Tis definitely the season to be jolly, but also to begin looking at updating your eyewear collections for the seasons ahead. The UK Optical trade shows fall in the first quarter of the year. Think about your requirements for next year’s ranges before you head off with order book in hand.
Plan and prepare for a Big Bang January – prepare now for the busy time that January will bring of regular test and dispense scenarios but also those customers who may have deferred purchases over the holiday period.
Work on your business plan/training plan. Be ready with strategies to hit the ground running at the start of the New Year and new business year. Don’t forget to include training plans that will support your business plan.
What about quiet summer months?
The longer, lazy days of summer can be the perfect time to bring in more patients and more revenue – if you’re savvy about your marketing. Here are some ideas to beat the summer slump and boost business.
Educate patients on summer safety
Irrespective of any ‘official’ start of summer, many people are thinking about whether or not they’re summer ready as early as Easter. What can you do to promote that theme?
Practices can focus on educating patients about sun safety and highlighting their sun eyewear offerings. Educational information offers a way to show patients that, just as they protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, they need to protect their eyes as well with the right lenses and frames.
Don’t forget the kids!
As part of gaining the whole family, focus on those paediatric patients too. Studies have shown that children get 80% of their lifetime exposure to UV by the time they are 18 years old. You can back up your advice for kids having sunnies too, be they Rx or not, by referring to the statement ‘Protect your child’s eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard’ (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the CE mark – check the label” found on the .
…time for a break or time to push harder?
Over to you!
Further resources and ideas can be found in the ABDO Business Support Hub.
See the Growth and Product & Marketing sections.
*Office for National Statistics – click here.