The Future of Corporate Optometry

The Future of Corporate Optometry

Corporate Optometry had a massive transformation in 2017 and the landscape will continue to change. The future of Corporate Optometry will change due to economic challenges, online retailers and disruptive technology. Corporate Optometry will grow as opticals continue to expand and younger ODs choose corporate optometry as their career path.  Corporate Opticals will need to continue to evolve to stay competitive in the future. Not all corporate practices are created equal. Some will thrive, some will be stagnant, keeping an  “eye” on the future  will  separate many companies as vision care will be redefined in the future. Evaluating the possible directions in which corporate optometry might be headed , will help activate some planning and action plans for future success.   Here are some possible changes that will or can occur in the future of corporate optometry.

Corporate OD. As corporate opticals seek ways to increase revenue, some sublease locations could be converted to employment. Some opticals may be forced to evaluate their business plans to accommodate the younger female ODs. Many millennials would like to have a subtle income and not worry about the business aspects of optometry. Could the future of corporate optometry be an employed model? Being an independent OD in  corporate optometry will evolve over time. The locations that are less favorable for employment will be transitioned to sublease with incentives to grow the business clinically and promote the optical. Sublease ODs would have a small business inside a corporate optical but would have more administrative tasks than before with substantial overhead and more emphasis on business hours.

Telemedicine. There will be a rise in telemedicine to compete with online apps and to target customer that wants convenience. We’ve already seen many attempts to make telemedicine work within optometry, and that will only continue. With the data illustrating more emphasis in the population using smartphones and smart devices, companies will permeate the online and app scene in order to compete. Telemedicine will be used more in corporate optometry settings with minimal doctor coverage.

Store Closings. The Retail Apocalypse has impacted Corporate Optometry. The topic has been broached before, but we have certainly been seeing a rise in the amount of store closings that have affected the optical industry. When supply outweighs demand there will under performing locations. There is a delicate balance between the ratio of businesses in an area and the population. Slow growth over the years and locations that have been difficult to staff will contribute to more store closings.

Brick and Mortar Locations.  There will be more free-standing locations and carefully placed locations between competitors as mall locations start to lose their luster. Location also plays a role, as more millennials move into urban markets, we will see many corporate opticals opening in these areas. Free-standing locations will be smaller than before, maximizing the retail space for profitability. The smaller retail locations might have in house labs while others will reevaluate  that business model. In house labs will need to be justified via patient volume, rent and pricing of materials. Price points being a little higher than online competitors can be attractive and a way to differentiate from other competitors with faster service.  The potential patient will be drawn to the location through unique online marketing strategies.

Shopping Experience. The shopping experience will inevitably change. It is essential to understand the customer buying habits and the general patterns that make a potential customer choose to purchase from that location. Optimize customer experience with a strategic layout and visual merchandising can influence the capture rate and sales of multiple pairs of eyeglasses , as well as create an experience that can challenge online competitors.  The smaller retail layout must have a design that is easy to have customers navigate the office and be able to efficiently accommodate larger volumes of people during peak shopping periods.

Consolidation. Online retailers have  change the playing field and have narrowed the bottom line.  Business mergers, acquisitions and vertical integration will help increase revenue, reduce costs, increase market share and scale the business. Vertical integration strategy will relay more on managed care plans and private label products as drivers to enhance that business model.

Partnerships. Adding healthcare partners could be a way to increase revenue. Medical model focus such as a minute clinic or additional services could attract a different patient. Audiology could be a way to off set decreased revenue and would require minimal retail space.

Franchising options/Private Equity. With optometry being a regulatory profession that many opticals need to adhere to, we may see a rise on franchising options to be able to expand more locations quickly and have a solid owner commitment to incentivize growth. This option will also be less of a risk to the corporate optical as the OD/optician will have to provide capital to open and maintain the location. Franchising can be a great career move for some ODs with the benefits of being independent but also having the name recognition of a larger company, product discounts and resources to create the optimal retail experience. As older ODs look for an exit strategy many may sell to a private equity or corporate optical as a more lucrative transition.