“We should feel confident that the contact lens category will continue to be resilient”

CooperVision’s head of professional affairs for the UK and Ireland, Christina Olner, discusses the company’s insights-based predictions for the contact lens market and what its 2022 public perceptions research revealed about wear habits

One contact lens on index finger
Getty/Guido Mieth

91% of contact lens wearers will wear their contact lenses “about the same amount or more” over the next 12 months, with only 4% considering cancelling their subscription or stopping buying contact lenses completely, research by contact lens manufacturer CooperVision has found.

The insight, shared from CooperVision’s July 2022 YouGov survey of over 3000 UK based adult contact lens wearers, aimed to help the manufacturer better understand whether consumers intend to change their contact lens wearing and buying habits amidst the cost-of-living crisis. It is the first of a series of public surveys that CooperVision will run on the topic, with a follow-up already underway.

Reflecting on the survey’s findings, CooperVision’s head of professional affairs for the UK and Ireland, Christina Olner, told OT: “We should feel confident that the contact lens category will continue to be resilient during these challenging times,” emphasising that during the last recession in 2008–2009, the contact lens category was not impacted.

However, Olner cautioned, “it’s important we do not make too many assumptions,” adding that CooperVision remains “vigilant” to contact lens wearers’ changing situations.

Balancing business

Through the pandemic, many practice owners credited subscription schemes, such as those that they have in place for contact lenses, for helping them survive as they ensured a regular income for the business.

In addition to supporting practice finances, such schemes have also been found to bolster patient loyalty.

Data reported in CooperVision’s survey suggests that practices offering services that make the lives of their contact lens patients more convenient both increases loyalty to both their practice and contact lenses.

“Direct-to-patient delivery and payment via subscription are good examples of services that will be valued by contact lens-wearing patients,” Olner said, adding: “Our most recent consumer survey suggests that contact lens wearers that purchase through a subscription scheme are more likely to feel that contact lenses are an important personal expense compared to pay as you go customers.”

The year ahead

Despite the current cost of living crisis, CooperVision research reports that 80% of contact lens wearers have not considered changing their wearing habits as a result.

“We believe that patients are habitual, and will keep wearing and replacing their contact lenses with the same frequency as they normally do and therefore won’t be tempted to change their habits such as stretching wearing times,” Olner shared.

One reason for this retention and loyalty to the contact lens category, Olner said can be found in previous research that reported eight out of 10 consumers believe they see better in their contact lenses than they do in their glasses.

However, while category retention appears strong, CooperVision research delved into the frequency of wear, finding that 11% of contact lens wearers are considering reducing the frequency they wear lenses due to the rising cost of living, and 6% of contact lens wearers are considering reducing the quantity of contact lenses they purchase.

With these findings in mind, Olner told OT: “The contact lens category has shown resilience during previous recessionary times, however, it’s important that ECPs continue to take the time to understand their patients’ needs during routine examinations and, where appropriate, support them to adapt their contact lens wearing schedule.”

So, could consumer habits extend to a change from daily disposable lenses to monthlies in order to save money? CooperVision does not believe this will be the case, with Olner pointing out that “One-day lenses still provide the best value for money for part-time wearers.”

Survey findings appeared to reinforce this, with only 20% of daily disposable lens wearers agreeing when asked if they would be likely to switch to a reusable lens to save money due to the rising cost of living.