The New Patient Landscape

COVID-19 has reshaped 2020, the year of vision in more ways than could have been imagined.

The implications of the Coronavirus will continue to be felt worldwide, as societies and industries, including the optical industry continue to adjust to the ‘new normal’. As business begins to resume, a new patient landscape has emerged, highlighting the adaptations required in order to succeed during this uncertain time. Meeting patient needs not only involves, delivering a satisfactory customer journey, but a safe one too.

As large segments of the world continue to stay indoors, there has unsurprisingly been a major shift in consumer behaviour. According to a SEMrush report, health related eCommerce brands have seen the second highest traffic increase across all industries (1), as consumers look to alternative channels to meet their healthcare needs.

How can optical businesses continue to meet patient needs during this time? By adopting an OmniChannel communication approach.

OmniChannel involves the creation of a consistent experience for the patient, along every touchpoint of the customer journey. Patients purchasing channels have shifted due to the COVID-19 situation, 44% of consumers now use ecommerce platforms to purchase items that they previously wouldn’t have bought online (2). Create an OmniChannel experience to capture patients online and bring them into your store, both virtually and physically.

The in-store experience, as we knew it previously, has changed significantly with patient expectations now reflective of social distancing measures. 15.7% of patients have stated that they would prefer curbside pickup of eyewear, while a further 17.9% would prefer home delivery (3).

Websites are becoming the new storefront. They provide a platform that offers key information regarding the response of your business to COVID-19. A website is a fundamental touchpoint of the evolving patient journey, encompassing elements such as virtual try-on (VTO), online booking and remote triaging, while providing an alternative point of purchase.

Key elements for consideration when creating a virtual and brick-and-mortar patient experience

eCommerce

Provide a seamless check-out experience for patients, both new and returning. The ecommerce element of your website should be aligned with all other touchpoints to ensure consistency for patients throughout. Offer quick and secure processing of orders and reorders. Consider the addition of touchpoints such as telehealth consultations and virtual-try-on to increase the level of service provided online while boosting conversion rates.

Telehealth

Over 60% of patients surveyed in April stated that they were going to postpone an eyecare appointment or were unsure if they would attend while the threat of the Coronavirus exists (4). This represents a significant percentage of patients whose eyecare needs are not being provided for and a large stream of lost revenue. Telehealth has increased in popularity recently, enabling patients to continue to have their eye health monitored remotely. This facility can be added to your website, to provide eyecare recommendations online. As in-store capacity reduces due to social distancing measures, telehealth provides an opportunity to see patients from any location at any time, increasing appointment availability and allowing your business to recapture revenue online.

Over 60% of patients surveyed in April stated that they were going to postpone an eyecare appointment or were unsure if they would attend while the threat of the Coronavirus exists

Teleretail

Over 32% of patients would like to see their eye doctor offering virtual vision care during the current COVID-19 crisis (5). Offer online shoppers a virtual personal shopping experience, that enables a face to face, personal selling approach online. Maximize revenues through lens upselling and 2nd pair sales which, previously was not achievable online. Allow staff to use their retail training and experience to provide the best options for the customer online. Increase business capacity outside of the in-store restrictions and provide a safe, comfortable retail experience for your customers.

VTO

Virtual-Try-On tools (VTO) use augmented reality to allow patients to realistically try on frames virtually using the camera on their device. As 94% of consumers consider VTO as a useful tool in their buying process (6), it is not a touchpoint to be overlooked. VTO can be used by patients preparing for in-store appointments; frames can be added to their virtual wishlist and can be put aside for them to try when they arrive in-store. Those looking to make a purchase online can accurately view the fit of the frame prior to purchase.

Online searches for “order glasses online” have seen a 5000%+ increase in recent weeks.

Web Diary

Research from GetApp found that 70% of customers would rather book an appointment online (7). Adjust the diary to highlight available appointment types, including changes to opening hours and appointment capacity. Include useful information regarding new procedures for appointments throughout the booking process, e.g. updated arrival times.

Catalog

Online searches for “order glasses online” have seen a 5000%+ increase in recent weeks (8). Display your full selection of frames online with a frame catalog. Allow new and existing customers to view all products available for purchase online and in-store.

Digital Marketing

An analysis of online search terms over the last 90 days found that searches for “how long does an eye exam take” saw a 110% increase (9). Utilize search engine optimization (SEO) to increase website traffic. Consider the addition of a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section which can save time for staff, as the information most requested by patients is available in one place thus benefitting the customer base also. Website ranking for relevant search terms including keywords used on the FAQ page will improve, increasing website traffic. To provide consistency and clarity for patients, share the link to the FAQ page across social media and include it in SMS recalls to patients.

As the traditional patient landscape evolves due to the Coronavirus, it is important that we continue to adapt our strategy, as patient needs continue to shift. By utilizing an OmniChannel approach and placing your patients at the center of all that you do, you can ensure that you continue to be best-placed to meet their needs. By providing multiple channels of interaction, patients have the freedom to choose which channels they feel most comfortable with. An OmniChannel approach ensures that the increasing number of patients purchasing online are experiencing high levels of service while allowing your business to leverage technology to provide a safe experience for those coming through your doors. It is not a one-fits-all approach but a tailored experience, unique to your brand and to your patients, and one that will ensure your business’s response to COVID is one your patients will appreciate.

Andy Chance-Hill has headed up Ocuco’s OmniChannel division since 2012, which has been consistently the fastest growing area with successful deliveries of OmniChannel services across the globe. Andy has over 30 years of experience in IT, with 15 of them specifically dedicated to Optics.

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