Business, Feature, Report

Raising your profile and profits with ophthalmic lens technology

Differentiation and educating patients on varying lens qualities is one of independent optometry’s greatest challenges today. But an increasing number of practices are finding success with a high-precision eye measurement device that’s also raising sales by up to a third.

Masons Eyecare owner and optical dispenser Mr Eddie Moore is the first to admit it takes a lot to convince him that the return on investment and clinical benefits will be worthwhile before purchasing a big-ticket item.

So when an optometrist told him that Rodenstock’s latest instrument for high-precision 3D eye measurement had led to a staggering 30% jump in spectacle lens sales, he was sceptical. But after much consultation and buy- in from his staff he invested in the technology and quickly realised that was no exaggeration.

“After our DNEye Scanner installation in September 2019, our average price for a pair of lenses has risen 25% compared with the previous year, and our actual lens sales overall have risen 34%, so that’s more pairs of lenses,” he says.

“The return on investment has been beyond the pale and telling people our figures today, they still don’t believe me.”

Rodenstock’s DNEye technology has been available to Australian optometrists since 2018 when the company’s second generation DNEye Scanner 2 was introduced here.

The patented technology measures the individual anatomy of each eye with more than 7,000 measurement points that are then used in the lab to produce customised lenses according to the biometric parameters.

The company says it allows full exploitation of the patient’s visual potential, resulting in sharper vision, improved contrasts, better night vision and greater fields of vision. The technology is also the first step in dispensing of Rodenstock’s B.I.G. (Biometric Intelligent Glasses) Vision premium progressives.

Masons Eyecare is among 21 local independent practices who, according to Rodenstock Australia general manager Mr Tim McCann, have adopted DNEye to create genuine value for the patient and differentiate their practice from surrounding competition.

Eddie Moore, of Masons Eyecare, says his average lens sale price has risen 25%.

“We’ve found the practices with DNEye are looking to give a tangible reference to the quality and service they have built their business and reputation on. They are typically central to their community and investing for the long term,” he says.

Since acquiring the Kempsey-based practice in New South Wales 16 years ago, Moore and his optometrist business partners Mr Ben Bailey and Ms Naomi Keast had enjoyed 10% to 15% year-on-year growth, but that stagnated two years ago.

While they had always dispensed Rodenstock lenses, the slowdown prompted them to shift their focus to provide only the best quality lenses and coatings. They became unapologetic about what they were offering which alone led to a 15% sales increase.

This provided an ideal platform to then embed the DNEye Scanner, allowing them to offer demonstrably better lenses, while generating record profit.

“Most people say their vision is clearer, sharper and has more definition, and mostly people comment on the benefits for night driving,” Moore says. “We had one lady cry, she was a high myope and her vision had improved to such a degree. We have got teenage kids from one family who had fairly ordinary vision and they noticed a significant difference with aberrations.”

While the technology offers tangible visual benefits, Moore has found the process motivates patients to become more invested in their spectacles, increasing the likelihood of them selecting high value lenses.

While there has been a 5% increase in progressive sales volumes, the practice has noticed a marked uptick in single vision lenses. Last year single vision sales rose $50,000, despite selling a similar number of units.

“All of a sudden instead of a $160 pair of stock single vision lenses, you’re selling $350 to $400 sets of lenses. And once that person goes into progressives the jump doesn’t feel untoward when paying an extra $200, so I think that will eventually come back to us as well,” he says.

“We’re fortunate because we have been working with Rodenstock for a long time. People already had their progressive lens technology anyway, so next time they’ll go for the top end lens with DNEye because it’s only $80 more – that’s where a lot of our sales come from.”

The introduction of DNEye also prompted the practice to overhaul its work practices. It’s switched to lens-first dispensing where the patient finishes their consultation with the optometrist and goes straight to the optical dispenser on the DNEye Scanner. It was a model adopted from fellow NSW practice Zacharia Naumann Optometry, which also offers DNEye technology.

“This connects it to the health part of the consultation, so the patient doesn’t feel that you’re selling a retail product then. After that we take them to select the frames, and that has worked well for us,” he explains.

“Patients also like the idea of the German technology and the reputation that comes with that. We’re then able to step them through the process and show them their higher order aberrations, and then present the type of lenses they can get with DNEye.”

Moore believes one of the most important elements is the consulting tool which shows the patient how their vision through DNEye optimised lenses differs from other lenses.

“I can’t imagine being able to sell them without the consulting tool. Because once you have shown the benefits on both the DNEye and then on the consulting tool, the difference is quite marked.”

Consults now take longer on average, but the resultant higher lens sales make it worthwhile. Some practices charge the DNEye scan as a standalone fee, but Moore has built it into the high value lens price. It also requires buy- in from dispensing staff who need to be specially trained and convinced of its benefits.

For Masons Eyecare, possessing such technology has been a useful marketing tool to help differentiate the practice. It featured the DNEye in local TV advertising, and it’s spruiked on its website. But word-of-mouth referrals are mainly driving its remarkable sales figures.

‘I’m giving you what I’m wearing’ 

RJK Optometry in Coffs Harbour NSW was one of the first practices in Australia to jump on board with DNEye.

In particular, optometrist Dr Michael Jones says B.I.G. Vision premium progressives – which require DNEye measurements – have had a huge impact on turnover. Overall lens turnover has increased 30% since installing the device.

RJK Optometry’s Michael Jones says his practice is now differentiated from the competition in Coffs Harbour.

“Our ability to sell a premium lens is so much easier to justify and the patients get the results and see the reason why they are getting these amazing lenses. I tell them, ‘I am giving you the best, the same as what I am wearing’,” he says.

Jones gives the patient an explanation on the DNEye and its capabilities before discussing the biometrics of their eye and why the technology is so different to everything else.

“Patients really enjoy this information we give them,” he says. “As an independent optometrist differentiating ourselves from the competition is important. We are now differentiated from the competition in Coffs Harbour completely, no one else has anything like it.”

Showing patients and empirical difference 

Mr Grant Hannaford, owner of Hannaford Eyewear in Bowral, NSW, has seen several patients – with no prescription change – immediately spot the difference compared with their old spectacles, the only difference being the incorporation of DNEye.

And it’s not just partners marching their spouses in to get their new glasses, he’s seeing neighbours and friends coming in on recommendation and asking for “the new process”.

“People are viewing it as a clinical process. It is not an upsell, it is not a commodity. And when you are a clinical practice I believe it makes you immune to market forces because you are not using price as a way to drive your practice,” Hannaford, who is also the co-founder and director of the Academy of Advanced Ophthalmic Optics, says.

Grant Hannaford.

Hannaford Eyewear analysed data from each of the lens ranges and found even if the patient opted not to put the biometry process in their lens they were still engaging at a higher level.

“That says a couple of things. Having DNEye in the practice has given us a tool but also forced us to engage in a better description of what is happening in the lenses for the patient. It is also getting the patient to consider more carefully what the impact of the lenses will be in the overall experience.”

Hannaford says the DNEye and the associated technology are also helping to demonstrate the value of high-quality lenses and dispensing processes, which are often hidden from consumers.

“Even if the patients don’t take on the DNEye they are understanding there is a difference between two items that ostensibly look the same. When they are looking from their side as the wearer, they can see there is a significant change in their experience,” he says.

“Given some of the disrupters that have come into the market in the last 20 years, you look at the marketing that says you are being overcharged for your spectacles, which is patently untrue. This is something that has been investigated time and again, but they use the point that you can’t really tell the difference between the two to break the level of trust with the practitioner. Now we can show them something that is empirical.”