“I would not want to go back to the old way”
Product owner for virtual technology at Specsavers, James Whitford, and retail director at Specsavers Bodmin, Joanna McLean, discuss how the multiple’s virtual styling app, Frame Styler, has changed the patient journey
07 January 2019
What was the idea behind the Frame Styler?
James Whitford (JW): We were inspired by the possibility of reducing customer pain around frame selection and how we could lift the experience using a mixture of our people and our technology. We also knew that changes are afoot in how people shop, with an even stronger appetite for convenience. If you just look at the way you’ve done things in the past and make it incrementally better, that’s not going to cut the mustard if you want to leap forward and do something new. This project was particularly about frame choices. I can’t think of any other retail experience where there are a thousand choices.
How does it serve practice staff in enhancing the patient journey?
JW: Frame Styler starts by capturing a scan of the customer’s face on an iPad as part of pre-test diagnostics. We pause the journey there. Later, in the dispense, our dispensing opticians can use the iPad alongside the customer to look at the resulting face shape analysis, browse some recommended glasses and see a virtual try on showing the customer wearing them.
For all the clever technology, I’d say the biggest way it serves dispensing opticians and customers is that it promotes a conversation. We can see what a few options look like very quickly and explore what they mean to the customer. Customers try on many more glasses with Frame Styler than they physically try on, yet it doesn’t add to the time. For short-sighted customers, the beauty is that they can wear their glasses while they browse and that's a lot more convenient than trying on plano glasses from the displays, especially if there's a sticker on the lens.
I can’t think of any other retail experience where there are a thousand choices
What feedback did you receive during development?
JW: We do a lot of trials in stores and buddied up with four stores during the development of Frame Styler where we observed and chatted to staff. The feedback that we had from the outset was that we needed to leverage the expertise of staff and have it working as a partnership with our people. The technology serves the dispensing optician so that they are free to have a conversation and explore options with patients.
We initially produced this product as a single all-in-one journey and we had a real problem with engagement. When we analysed why the uptake was not strong in our proof-of-concept stores, we found that some were using it before a sight test and some were using it after, and both approaches were quite flawed. We were leapfrogging to talks of glasses before having a sight test. When used at the dispense stage, we had people in the middle of our shop floor feeling self-conscious and that’s what we wanted to avoid. We decided to introduce the scan during diagnostics and then retrieve the scan separately to start looking at glasses. It was a good, natural fit for what the flow is during the process and we saw an uptake.
Customer feedback has been really good. We find they’re enquiring about the service and are able to go away with real confidence about their choices. The confidence comes from that collaboration between the tech and our people.
What’s next for the Frame Styler?
JW: We want to share this in all of our markets, globally. The reason we haven’t rolled it out everywhere just yet is a reminder that change isn’t about technologies. It’s also about training, people and the will to change, which we take very seriously.
We’re just starting to use it in Australia and there’s a lot of interest in it for sunglasses. There are different decision-making processes with sunglasses because the lens is dark. We worked with our product teams over there to think about the ways customers think about sunglasses. Even in the low-season there’s a market for sunglasses in Australia.
Another area that we’re looking at is if Frame Styler is just an in-store experience. Can we make bits of it available to people via other media? for example. Perhaps customers would like to do this on their mobile phones in advance of the store visit or while they are in-store. There are trends about making all retail experiences more convenient for customers and that includes being able to prepare for a physical visit.
How do you use the Frame Styler in practice?
Joanna McLean (JM): We use Frame Styler with all of our patients. We take a diagnostic scan on the iPad during our registration process and then we style the patient following a sight test. We find that the Frame Styler enhances our recommendations by giving the patient a tailored selection of frames. The selection is based on their frame shape and also allows virtual try on of different styles.
How has it changed your approach in practice?
JM: Frame Styler makes tailored recommendations for each patient so the optical assistant and the patient can reach a decision more easily. Patients are able to visually see the frames on their faces without having to remove their existing glasses. It really improves their ability to choose a frame that suits them. The optical assistant can make bespoke recommendations and discuss the features and benefits of each frame.
It has also sped up the process of choosing frames. Our team have said that they would never want to be without it. For first-time wearers, it can be a daunting process and Frame Styler has taken the ‘I don’t know what suits me’ element away. You can see the amazement on patients’ faces when they see what a particular frame looks like on them, whereas before we did not have that ability. It allows us to offer a much more individual service to every patient.
Frame Styler has taken the ‘I don’t know what suits me’ element away
What have you learned from patient feedback?
JM: Patients feel that they can now explore styles that they would never have thought about trying on before. They don’t get lost trying to find a frame that suits them. They’ve said that it helps them narrow down their choice while still getting a wide variety to choose from. It has taken a level of concern away and saved them a lot of time in their busy lives as well.
We’ve learned that patients expect a level of technology and Frame Styler is one of those tools that Specsavers has to enhance the patient journey. Patients have said that it has brought frame selection into the modern era. As director of my business, I see the addition of Frame Styler as necessary to keep up with consumer demand. It’s an amazing piece of technology that we’ve all embraced. Patients, and not just the younger generation, want this technology. Personally, I would not want to go back to the old way.