“The most significant variable in every sales situation is the gender of the buyer, and more importantly, how the salesperson communicates to the buyer’s gender.” – Jeffery Tobias Halter


We have been witnessing a major shift over the last several years in who is influencing the purchasing decisions in the consumer health care market.  You might be surprised to learn that there are two segments above all others that we need to pay much attention to; those over 50 and women.


There are 10,000 people every day turning 50 years old in the United States.  We are hitting the peak of the baby boomer explosion.  Soon, your optical practice will be filled more by those who carry the AARP card instead of the library card.  The second group to be mindful of is women.  Studies show that in the health care arena, women make 80% of all the buying decisions.  This is driven by the roles women continue to have in today’s society.  Not only is she handling the medical needs of her current household, but often of those of her extended family; parents, in-laws and grandparents.  Everyone is living longer and the pressure of caregivers is becoming immense. As a result, their buying power and influence has also increased. And it doesn’t stop there.


Women also account for the largest influence of purchases made in electronics, home furnishings, automobiles and financial investments.  Women, either directly or indirectly have the power of the purse strings.  This has been one of the greatest shifts in consumer behavior in the last 100 years.  So what does this mean for us in optical?


First and probably the most obvious change of us is that we need to create a retail space where women feel comfortable while shopping.  Our optical stores will need to become less medical and more retail in its feel, smell, sound, flow and fixtures. Many of us have already updated our optical space, and many more will need to make the investment in the future.  Over all, our patients are forcing our hands to not only provide the best medical experience through the exam, but a very good retail experience as well.


Specifically, evaluate if you have a “kid zone” and that it remains clean and up-to-date.  Do you provide “infotainment” for your patients with educational videos or “get-to-know- you” messages about the staff and doctors?  Are your fixtures dated and void of personality?  Is there music provided?  Think through any retail experience you have enjoyed in the past, and note if there are any elements of that in your office?


The next two points are part of the reason why so many patients want to shop on-line.


Speed things up.  When I ask the question “how long is your typical patient with you on exam day?”  I get answers that range between an hour and twenty minutes to two hours.  Imagine being in an office with a small party ranging from 6 to 66 years for two hours!  How stressful would that be?  We stand out as the longest appointment time in all of general health care, and it may be more than we can stand! Today, patients have a choice to shop with you or go home and do it when the kids are in bed, after dinner or when they have more time.  More than ever we need to give them a reason to stay and experience the level of care and expertise only you can provide.


The buying experience needs to be less medical and more retail or consultative. Don’t prescribe a solution; rather ask the question “How do you want to feel in your new glasses?”  Some may say; smart, classy, sophisticated, beautiful, sassy, unique, for example.  Perhaps instead of asking “What don’t you like about your current glasses?” instead ask, “What do you hope to have with your new pair?”  You may no longer be searching for a frame to fit a face shape and accommodate a prescription, but a frame that makes a statement custom made for them and their emotional needs.  If done correctly, emotionally they will have selected a frame & lens package that they will justify buying at nearly any price.  It is the look they are seeking, not the function of the eyewear.


Divorce yourself from the idea that eyewear is only purchased on the anniversary exam day.  Women today have a whole new and different fashion sense which now includes “face jewelry.”  In the United States, we buy new eyewear every 24 months.  In Europe, it’s every 14 months and it is trending towards every 6 months.  Why the shift?  Because fashion is replacing function as the driver in eyewear selection criteria.  Men and women always wanted to look good, and today they want the options of accessorizing their look for whatever the occasion. This may mean that we need to look at our frame selections in a whole new light.