Feature, Lenses, Products, Report

An evolution from function to lifestyle and fashion

Transitions Optical was one of the world’s first lens brands marketed directly to consumers. Insight details its transformation from a company with a niche product aimed at functional and clinical needs, to a lens portfolio that fulfils the protection and fashion requirements of a broader market.

One of optometry’s most distinguishing features is its blend of medical and retail practice.

As a result, most products optical businesses offer can be classified as clinical or fashion-oriented. In the lens category particularly, few can bridge the gap between these two almost opposing spheres.

But those rare products that manage to unite eye health and style provide unique opportunities to fulfil the clinical demands of patients, as well as their personal requirements.

Typically, these products can offer easy opportunities to enhance profitability for a business, while creating greater satisfaction among patients.

For nearly three decades, one such company has focussed its efforts on addressing this challenge. It has evolved a functional and convenient lens positioned towards the medical aspect of optometry, into a lens whose fashion appeal and protection properties now attract a much larger market.

Niche beginnings

When Transitions Optical introduced its lenses to the market in 1991, it was the first time wearers could purchase a lightweight photochromic lens rather than its heavy glass predecessors.

While the company heralded this as a breakthrough, first incantations of Transitions lenses were a far cry from today’s designs.

The lens tended to have a ‘pleasing blush tint’ indoors, and was not overly dark outdoors, with slower reaction times compared with the company’s current offerings.

As such, the traditional market for Transitions lenses was niche and appealed to wearers who were predominantly older, seeking convenience and who may have had a clinical need to reduce light sensitivity.

With innovation at the core of Transitions Optical from its inception, the company’s second generation of lenses was quickly launched with improvements to the technology.

That innovation soon extended into its marketing campaigns, leading to the first inklings of a consumer lens brand. In fact, Transitions says it was the first lens – and remains to this day only one of a few – to market directly to consumers.

According to the company, as new generations of technology were introduced and consumer awareness increased with large investments in marketing, so did the appeal of Transitions lenses. Although it was no longer considered a niche brand, at this point it was still mostly worn by presbyopic patients not overly concerned with style.

Healthy sight

In the early 2000s, Transitions Optical identified a demand for providing long-term healthy sight to glasses wearers. Technological innovation was fuelled by the need to provide maximum protection for wearers, while marketing efforts and budgets included extensive public health campaigns.

Ranging from young children to the elderly, the focus was on the long-term effects of UV to eye health, and how people can protect their eyes.

Melbourne businessman Beni Doolan wearing Transitions lenses.

As a result, ‘Healthy Sight in Every Light’ was the mantra for Transitions Optical and became synonymous with its lenses. However, during the 2000s health concerns remained a concern for predominantly older people – particularly long-term health.

Fast forward to today, however, and it’s clear patients live drastically different lives with different concerns.

Now, the company views health – once a concern among older people – as a key focus for all ages. The change has been particularly evident in younger people where wellness and health are now held in the same regard as fashion.

According to Transitions Optical, the increase in screen time and digital device use has altered today’s light environment, disrupting the amount of natural and artificial light people were traditionally exposed to.

Additionally, artificial light exposure has changed with a rapid conversion to LED lights with increased blue light and brightness – all of which can negatively affect health.

Countless studies show people now spend more time than ever before in front of screens and devices. With this significant change in the way people live their lives comes the potential health impacts of blue light – both in the short and long term.

Importantly, the company says the blue light risk is not limited to digital devices. In addition to damaging UV rays, the sun emits large amounts of blue light; at a rate at least 100 times more than digital devices.

Acknowledging these risks, Transitions Optical geared its R&D efforts towards evolving its lenses to incorporate filtering to protect not only from UV but also blue light from artificial sources.

Then, with the knowledge the sun is the highest emitter of blue light, its R&D team increased the blue light filtering outdoors to provide more protection where needed. With the increased time spent on devices and indoors, Transitions also points out that the natural circadian cycle can be disrupted, while the eyes face more demands from artificial and constantly changing light sources. Along with less exposure to natural day light of high spectral quality, this results in light sensitivity.

In fact, Transitions data shows nine out of 10 people declare they experience sensitivity to light and seven out of 10 want their eyecare professional to provide advice.

To help eyecare professionals in their diagnosis and treatment of light sensitivity, Transitions Optical applied a holistic approach by creating its Light Sensitivity Quiz – located on the Transitions website – so patients can assess their light sensitivity.

“By answering a few simple questions, the quiz determines how light sensitive a person is and how it impacts their life, this then begins the process of considering different solutions to address the issue,” Mr Stuart Cannon, Transitions Optical’s general manager of Asia Pacific, says.

“Transitions light intelligent lenses are obviously an ideal solution to conveniently address light sensitivity and safeguard eye health.”

Transitions wearers can choose the level of protection suited to their lifestyle.

Since its first product in 1991, Cannon says Transitions Optical now offers a choice of technologies to better address light sensitivity requirements.

“All of our technologies block UV and filter blue light, but wearers can choose the level of protection suited to their lifestyle,” Cannon continues.

“Transitions Signature GEN 8 is our fastest technology which indoors provides twice the blue light protection of a standard clear lens. Transitions XTRActive and Transitions Vantage both provide three times more blue light protection than a clear lens.

“Transitions XTRActive is our darkest lens outdoors which also activates behind a windscreen. Transitions Vantage features variable polarisation – as it darkens outdoors it also increasingly polarises. All of these everyday lenses increase the blue light filtering outdoors whereby the sun is the highest emitter. Finally, there is Transitions Drivewear which is a variable tint polarised sun lens; it activates to three different colours and is optimised for outdoor use.”

Evolution into fashion

From its humble beginnings, Transitions lenses have evolved to become a product that the company believes younger and more style conscious wearers desire.

This transformation, however, was by design, rather than by accident.

Once again, the company asked its R&D team to create new technology that was faster and expanded its lens colour range, which resulted in the Transitions style colours range.

By combining eye health with style, the Transitions brand is positioned to also appeal to younger markets.

This was followed by the breakthrough speed of Transitions Signature GEN 8 which is the company’s latest offering available in seven colours so wearers can create personalised frame and lens colour combinations for a personalised look.

The new technology has been coupled with new campaigns that are said to speak with relevance to younger and styledriven audiences, and features talent the company believes is identifiable, relatable and aspirational.

Campaigns have been supported by digital tools that are readily accessible to engage consumers. An example is the Virtual Try On tool on the Transitions website, which allows users to virtually try different frame styles and lens colours in any location, to create unique combinations that suit both their face and style.

According to the company, this has resulted in patients having a higher purchase intent before visiting an optical practice.

Cannon attributes Transitions’s appeal to younger and fashion-conscious wearers to faster technology, lens colour options and the hassle-free protection for eye health.

“Transitions GEN 8 testing revealed that seven out of 10 younger clear lens wearers are interested in purchasing Transitions,” Cannon says.

“The appeal of Transitions is now wide, but particularly with younger wearers. Some fantastic content has been created by younger fashion-conscious wearers which we have given Transitions lenses to; their enthusiasm and love for Transitions lenses is phenomenal, particularly considering our beginnings. There’s passion for how Transitions lens colours allow for self-expression and individuality that defines fashion today.”

The hassle-free protection and fashion appeal of Transitions lenses means the product now uniquely bridges the gap between medical and retail.

“It is a premium product, which patients desire and need. For patients it represents exceptional value for money and for practices it enhances profitability,” Cannon says.

Overall, through advances in technology, marketing and consumer demands, Transitions’s near 30-year journey has taken the company from an innovative yet niche brand, to a fashion, lifestyle and protection product that appeals to the masses.

Take the Light Sensitivity Quiz and try out the Virtual Try On tool.