Optometry serves as one of the most versatile platforms of healthcare by merging clinical care, business management and sales in ophthalmic and optical merchandise. Optometrists are big proponents in selling products that benefit visual and ocular health. For visual needs, patients have an infinite amount of options in purchasing prescription glasses and sunglasses. For ocular conditions such as Dry Eye Syndrome or Meibomian gland dysfunction, patients are encouraged to regularly use eye masks and consume Omega-3 supplements. As promising as this business approach may be for optometrists, it is relatively difficult to generate revenue from patients due to competing optometry practices and optical retailers in surrounding areas. This leads our industry into negotiating prices and discussing discounts. Where do we draw the line with these exceptions? When do we offer discounts to our patients and when should we refuse? What are the best discounting strategies for optometry?
Discounting Strategies for Optometry with Optical Glasses
In the generation of avid online shoppers, we must accept that a good percentage of patients will stick to their guns about finding the most lucrative deal online. According to Dr. Courtney Dryer in Review of Optometric Business, “it is widely reported in our profession that independent eyecare professionals capture about 50 percent of eye wear sales across the industry.” It’s a frightening statistic, and even more so when we realize that “the trend toward online purchasing, and the threat of competition from large retail chains, is not going away.” For the patients who are willing to pay more for a quality pair of glasses, consider their question if they negotiate the price. If your patient asks to match the price with that of a competing retailer, it is always better to settle for a discount rather than lose the entire sale. To elaborate, honor the discount if the margin of loss is relatively low, such as $50 off a $550 pair. These situations are based on a case-by-case basis, but it is crucial to consider the opportunity cost to really utilize some of the best discounting strategies for optometry.
Optometrists constantly face the reality of patients turning over to 1-800-CONTACTS or other such websites for cheaper lenses, instead of purchasing straight from the office. It would be advised to keep a handy list of contact lens prices in your office, with a side-by-side comparison on the prices from competing retailers. Before your patients ask about getting their contact lens prescription, you should be prepared to explain that your prices either match the retailers or are very close to the price. With that, offer a free contact lens trial pair, give travel-size solution bottles and offer free shipping to their address at no charge. If a discount is requested, offer a $30-$50 discount on a one-year supply purchase. Try to assure your patients that you’re trying your best to accommodate their wishes and thank them for supporting a small business. They’ll surely recognize the appreciation and leave happy.
“At No Charge” vs. “Free”
Take a look at both of the following sentences:
“I am going to mail out your contact lenses with free shipping.”
“I am going to mail out your contact lenses with shipping at no charge.”
Which sentence sounds more beneficial for the optometrist in giving a discount? Do you notice a difference between both lines? When you offer to ship your patients’ glasses or contacts to their home instead of having them pick it up, mention that you are mailing them out at no charge. Offering it that way instead of saying “free shipping” will automatically make it seem that you’re compensating the shipping charge. When you honor a discount for your patient, be sure to offer it in a way that shows you’re happy to help. Do not allow any form of discouragement from losing some revenue become transparent from your action and words. Always remind them that they are helping a small family business and thank them for their business.
Incentives to Offer Special Discounts
The idea of offering discounts to patients could be managed if it is not overdone and the office does not lose significant revenue. Read the following discounting strategies for optometry where a discount could be honored in your practice.
Prompt pay patients: A good marketing strategy would be to offer a high fee and deduct a small amount as a favor for them for lacking an insurance plan. It is always better to offer a discounted exam fee from $150 to $120 rather than solely mentioning $120.
Discontinued frames: If you want to clear your optical inventory and move space around for new frame options, this is a good incentive to sell glasses fast with an additional discount.
Seasonal promotions: The summer time before school begins is a time when students need new glasses, and by the end of the year during the holidays is when patients are ready to use the remainder of their Health Savings Accounts. These two prime seasons are the most popular times for patients to visit the optometrist’s office. Encourage their shopping by offering a discount on the second frame, or $50 off for “Back to School,” as an example.
Student Discounts: In addition to Back-to-School promotional events, it would be a nice incentive to offer discounts for students 18 and under.