Kara Colecchia, a board certified LDO with The Optical Factory in Largo, Florida, and an HEA National Advisory Board member, says that independent eye care professionals (IECPs) can plant seeds during every patient encounter that can produce continued engagement. “My opticians and I realize that maybe not every person is going to purchase extra pairs this day, but by listening to their interests and visual demands, we can plant the seeds of suggestion. We might say, ‘You can think about budgeting now for next year so that you can get these eyeglasses for golf,’ or ‘If you find you have flexible savings account money at the end of the year, you could use that toward these sunglasses, which will make driving so much more comfortable for you.’”

She and the staff also make creative suggestions about how a patient can get the eyewear they really desire. “A mom might see a pair of premium brand sunglasses and really want them, but the cost is $600. She might not normally spend that money on herself, but we can offer a tip, like, ‘Instead of having your kids get you coffee mugs or restaurant meals for your birthday next month, tell them that these sunglasses are your birthday present.’”

The point is to reinforce the idea that multiple pairs of eyewear can lead to a better visual outcome, depending on the patient’s needs. “By listening and then providing specific solutions, we help people identify — and solve — problems they didn’t know they had.”

There is a long-term benefit to recommending multiple pairs of eyewear because once patients become multiple-pair wearers, they tend to stay that way. This is another reason to make sure that the optical looks fresh and current. Here are some of Colecchia’s tips to keep people coming back in between eye exams:

Change, change, change. “I am always changing some design element of our showroom. I might change the color of one wall, rearrange the seating or add a chair rail. It looks fresh, and it’s what boutiques do—keep up with seasonal looks,” she says. She also emphasizes the need to keep it clean and not chaotic. “We have pretty traditional men’s and women’s frame display areas, but within those areas, we reposition plants, displays and even brands from one area to another.”

Even small changes can have a big impact. “We had a brand that was hardly getting noticed in its original location, so we moved it and mixed in some other products. Suddenly, it had a bigger visual impact, and sales took off,” she says.

Snap photos. The staff at The Optical Factory encourages customers who are not ready to buy to take photos of themselves in the eyewear they like best. “People will come in periodically to see what’s new, and we encourage them to try on frames and take photos. If there’s a frame they particularly like, we’ll write down the frame number and put it in their file so they can come back later and find it again,” she says.

Encourage visits. Colecchia and the staff tell patients to come back any time—and they mean it. “Even if people stop in to say hello, we’ll offer to check their eyeglasses and make adjustments. By making sure that their frames feel good and fit well, we demonstrate that we’re serious about making sure that their great experience lasts beyond the day of purchase,” she says.

Use social media. Photos of new frames are a great way to attract new patients and engage current ones in between visits. Use social media to promote fashion events, new offerings, reminders of health-related issues and pop-up offers.

“Optical isn’t a business where people come by every month to pick up a new item, so we need to provide a reason to stop in. Keeping patients and customers engaged with social media and email is a great way to connect with them.”

Smile. A smile may be the single best way to engage repeat customers. “I don’t like going into a place where no one offers to help me and staff members don’t even look up from their work. When we stop to greet people, offer assistance or give them time to look around, that helps reinforce that this is the place they want to come to when they’re looking for eyewear.”

To read other articles in the ‘Engage, Re-engage, Repeat’ series, click here.