Sadly, Toys R’ Us recently ceased operations. Sears’ post-bankruptcy strategy is to have smaller stores which concentrate on appliances. Sounds like traditional brick and mortar retail is in trouble, doesn’t it?
First of all, not every brick and mortar retailer is in trouble. WalMart and Target are doing very well. Still, the trend is that more and more purchases are taking place online. No longer can optometrists coast along and assume that refraction is immune. Companies such as Blink and Opternative offer refraction online or via a smart phone app. Therefore, what do you have that sets you apart from online retailers?
The most obvious distinction is that you have a medical degree and you provide hands on care. Mere numbers on a screen are just numbers to the average person. When it comes to health, an app can’t diagnose conditions like glaucoma or cataracts and prescribe treatment. There needs to be a human examining another human in real life and in real time. That’s something an app can’t recreate yet. The knowledge and know-how that you have gained from examining patient after patient is very valuable. An app will go by the algorithm while an experienced optometrist or ophthalmologist will take all information about the patient into account when making a diagnosis.
Of course, you are just one out of a number of optometrists or ophthalmologists in your community. How can you make your practice the one people pick over another? You should avoid giving out discounts. While an occasional discount is good, too many discounts only leads to training patients to have their prescription filled only when you offer a discount. Stores like GAP and Old Navy found out the hard way that too many discounts don’t lead to increased profits. It helps to educate patients about the importance of eye health and what you do. You know what you do and your staff knows what you do, but the knowledge won’t make it to your patients unless you tell them.
Also, if you aren’t on social media, get on it today. Being on social media allows you to personalize your practice and highlight the people who work with you, the technology that you use, and the products and services you offer. It is also a great way to educate patients. Universities, the National Eye Institute (NEI), and professional organizations produce patient friendly content that you can post on social media. You can also put up your own content, of course. While many still consider social media to be that “thing” that teenagers use, businesses like yours can benefit from social media. If you don’t have time to be on social media, this is something to farm out to a staff member who shows interest.
Speaking of staff members, are you investing in your staff? Are you open to their ideas? Your staff members are in the trenches day and day out. They have ideas worth listening to and trying out. Will every idea work? No, but the experience of trying solutions can yield information that you wouldn’t normally get.
There was once a time when an optometrist or ophthalmologist could hang out a shingle and business would be brisk. These days a shingle won’t cut it—especially since online retailers are giving brick and mortar shops a run for their money.