State of the Industry
The independent optometric industry is in a state of change.
Staffing and talent are being impacted. Today, 72 percent of third-year optometry students want to start their careers as an independent practice owner, but due to college related debt, only 15 percent actually become owners in their first years. Meanwhile, 500 independent practices are closing each year as mass market retailers take a larger market share fueled by large advertising and marketing budgets and strong brand identity.
Technology is driving consumer habits. Consumer trends are evolving and driving the way patients purchase, but few practices are keeping up with trends, especially as it pertains to technology. More than half of children under the age of eight have access to a mobile device, yet only 18 percent of ODs are offering e-commerce capabilities and only 24 percent are using social media – Facebook or Twitter, for example – frequently.
Many retailers like Luxottica – owner of Lens Crafters – gain a significant advantage over independent practitioners. Hip upstarts like Warby Parker are migrating the way eyeglasses are purchased with higher levels of convenience and value, which is increasingly important in an uncertain economy.
Healthcare is becoming more commercialized. Patients have become smarter and better informed consumers. Fortunately, consumers prefer independent optometrists for eye exams, but in the next 12 months chances are good that some of your business may be lost to retail competitors.
It’s imperative that ODs have a business plan in place to not only compete, but thrive, in an evolving market.
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