How the eyewear industry is changing to serve new consumers

Today’s millennial consumer is more likely to influence older generations on what’s “fashion forward.” For time-pressed new parents in the millennial generation, useful and simple technology is valued more than ever. These characteristics are crucial for optical retailers who aim to combine fashion and convenience to market to millennials.

About 16 percent of millennials shop from their optometrist for eyewear and 13 percent shop at Walmart Vision Centers, whereas only 9 percent of the entire adult population said they shop at Walmart Vision Centers. Wal-Mart and Target have strong corporate brands that confer certain evoked brand benefits in the optical market.

Let’s explore some considerations that optical retailers should keep in mind when marketing to the millennial consumer.

1. Fashion trumps comfort

Millennials are more focused on keeping up with the latest fashions and developing their own style than the overall adult population. In a recent survey, 31 percent of millennials responded that they like to keep up with the latest fashion trends, versus the 22 percent within the overall adult population. Millennials are also more image-conscious in relation to designer brands than the overall adult population. Millennial consumers said they are less conservative and care less about comfort than the overall adult optical consumer.

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Millennials like to make a unique, personal statement. Optical brands should consider allowing Generation Y to customize lenses in brand, color, fit and more. Retailers should have the latest designer brands on hand to appeal to the millennial consumer.

According to a Barkley’s survey, if you are selling in the fashion retail space, then your store associates should be able to reflect fashion in what they say, wear and do in store. Nothing will create a #fashionfail faster than store associates who are unable to deliver the brand image.

2. Create high participation

Millennials are significantly more likely to purchase their eyewear online than all prescription eyeglass or contact lens wearers, according to the 200 index.

Warby Parker is one brand that comes to mind when looking at the online optical retail space. The brand was not the first to adopt the sale of eyewear online, but they were the first to do so with a highly differentiated consumer journey. Warby Parker has a medium to high share-worthy outcome that is designed into its business model for maximum impact.

The one-for-one model, which allows customers to try before they buy, and low-cost eyewear are just a few of the reasons Warby Parker has set itself apart as a disruptor brand within the category. It also doesn’t hurt that 45 percent of millennials said they were more likely to buy a brand they know supports a charity.

Forty percent of online eyeglass purchasers are millennials. The online channel is small compared to traditional optical centers, but the level of confidence that millennials have in their ability to customize a personal product without an actual live-fit is something to be noted.

3. Use “blue ocean” thinking: Who will be the next disruptor?

Warby Parker may have been the most recent category disruptor but it is often very difficult to repeat. Consider creating new business models that are more consumer-centric. Millennials have little equity in old schemas.

A few questions to get you started:

  1. Are there significant unmet consumer needs?
  2. What is the most tech-friendly solution to allow for customization and personalization?
  3. Did you design brand experiences that are worth sharing?
  4. How can you move your consumer’s journey away from a transactional experience to a sharable experience long after the transaction has occurred?

Julie Ray contributed to this post.

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