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The future is bright

A panel of Essilor’s vision care experts discussed the state of the optical market and why the future is bright for the industry, in a Q&A roundtable hosted by broadcaster and presenter, Clare Balding

During the live event, which broadcast this summer, Essilor also unveiled its new customer partnership programme, Essilor Experts – which goes live today (4 October).

How has the pandemic affected the market?

When asked what gave Essilor confidence in the recovery, managing director Tim Precious (TP), outlined reasons to be hopeful.

TP: “The optical market shrank by about 10% last year and our segment, spectacles, fell by about 20%. We are expecting to get some sort of recovery of around 9% this year.

How can Essilor help maintain this trend?

TP: “With increased homeworking, people are shopping more locally, and this is bringing a new younger generation of patients into opticians, who perhaps would have gone elsewhere otherwise. ECPs have an opportunity now to give this younger patient the experience that they deserve and keep them for future generations.”

Clare Balding explained how she believes “nothing beats face-to-face contact” and “personal service.” Personally, she wants to be able to walk into an optician, get an eye test in person, and get the best advice on the lenses she should have.

TP replied: “This makes perfect sense, but the challenge today is that ECPs need to be online in some way, so people know they are there. Then when a patient visits them, they are going to love that experience and keep coming back for generations.”

How will new health-conscious consumers benefit the optical market?

Clare Balding described how there have been many stories about consumers coming out of COVID-19 restrictions more focussed on their health than ever before.

Commercial director, Alan Pitcher, (AP) said: “We have always known that nine out of 10 spectacle wearers see an eye test as absolutely vital to understanding their overall health. The recent statistics add more depth to that, with 70% of people during the pandemic deeming their health as important and being far more focussed on that aspect.

“Also, after living behind our screens for so long, 50% of people are worried about the impact this has had on their eye health.

“We believe that with so many consumers online living their lives virtually, that there is a huge opportunity in that space to offer digital services. Everything has changed and we need to adapt.”

What other technologies are set to provide opportunities to the optical market?

TP: “The results of an ECP survey we carried out earlier this year revealed that a quarter of ECPs think consumers will expect new technologies, including online services and more technology in both the consulting room and at the dispensing desk.”

Director of instruments, Paul Cumber, (PC) said: “This is where the instruments side of the business can play such an important role.”

Marketing director at UKIN, Océane Couybes, (OC) said: “Personalisation is a major area of opportunity for opticians. As a consumer you want to feel special as you look for unique products."

How is Essilor helping customers respond to these challenges and opportunities?

OC: “The current market conditions require two things: visibility and differentiation. We are working hard to support ECPs in these areas.”

TP: “We are pleased to reveal our brand-new customer partnership programme, which will form a critical part of the support we provide over the coming years.

TP: “Our most valuable asset has to be the independent ECP, who are the experts in this field and have that vital bond with the patient.

“So, with our new partnership programme, we want to make their expertise more visible during all touch points of the patient journey, recognising the need to interact long before the physical visit and to keep that impact long after.

“This is about combining our collective strengths, our Essilor assets and the premium quality of an independent optician’s expertise to create ‘Essilor Experts’.

“This will help take ECPs to the next level and build a brighter future together.”

Essilor Experts bring together digital ‘drive to store’ campaigns to attract patients in store and allows ECPs to offer a personalised optical experience via state-of-the-art optical equipment to provide the most accurate eye examination possible.

A new online platform, EssilorPRO Portal, forms the backbone and hub of the programme for ECPs to access everything all in one place to successfully drive their practice forward.

To find out more about becoming an Essilor Expert speak to your business manager or visit ecp.essilor.co.uk/