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From neighbourhood opticians to multiple touch points, eyewear retailing gets a makeover

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Similar to how other sectors are being shaken up by technology, the eyewear retail category too is witnessing a new wave of efforts to improve access and give a better experience to the customer.
Eyewear, one of the most unorgranised categories in India, has come a long way from being a necessity to an accessory. Initially used as vision corrective devices, eyewear products and perceptions about them have evolved over the years. They have now become an integral part of users’ daily lives, be through sunglasses, prescription glasses or contact lenses.
As per the analyst firm KenResearch, the eyewear industry in India is set to be worth USD14.856 million by 2018, a massive growth on its 2007 figure of just USD1.247 million, on the back of surge in demand from an ever growing base of fashion conscious customers, changing health care practices in India and entry of various online players.
While the changes in demand are visible, the market is still dominated with the presence of a large number of small neighbourhood players, usually in the second or third generation in the business . According to industry estimates, about 80 per cent of the market is still in the unorganised sector.
Perhaps, to give a branded makeover to the segment and bring in a much needed revolution in eyewear retailing, some existing players are looking to restrategise their business model by providing customers all the necessary touch points.
“Technological advancements, improvements in India’s digital infrastructure and consumer trends have made the omni-channel retailing model a market reality. These developments have affected the operational procedures of most industries and now the optical industry has also recently come in its ambit,” says Sarat Binani, Director, Himalaya Opticals.
Himalaya, which started with one store in Karachi, now has 90 outlets across India and is now increasingly looking to adopt an omnichannel route. “In a market like India, personal relationships are very important; however, certain technologies and digital services irrefutably assist in creating a frictionless customer experience, when these customers shift between channels. Thus, the challenge is to find the right mix of personal touch and technological offerings to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction attainable,” Binani notes.
“We at Himalaya are currently associated with a few online retailers based on mutual interest. However, we are looking forward to developing our own website further, not only to create a new sales channel, but to also offer our offline customers various value added services associated with the omnichannel retailing experience. Thereby, the aim is to give best of both the worlds,” he asserts.
Other major brands, including Titan Eye Plus, Vision Eye Plus and GKB opticals, among others, have also realised the potential of providing multiple touch points to consumers. For instance, market leader Titan Eyeplus, in addition to 300 plus exclusive stores in over 100 cities, provides an online platform to consumers with its own website. It has also launched a ‘Vision Check’ facility on its website, taking eye testing to people’s homes. Simillary, GKB provides a ‘try on’ tool on its website, through which customers can see how the glasses look on their faces.
Where these brick and mortar retailers are realising the potential of providing multiple channels to consumers, online eyewear retailers are also increasingly extending innovative offerings to consumers’, some even going a step ahead and opening physical stores.
For instance, online retailer Lenskart has adopted an assisted e-commerce model where some of its consumers directly purchase online, some need help while they purchase and some need post purchase assistance. All these consumers are taken care of by having services like offline stores, free home eye check-ups and 3D trial online.
Founded in November 2010, Lenskart started as a pure play online retailer and moved on to open its first franchised brick and mortar store in 2014. Currently, the company operates through 100 offline stores.
It has grown more than 200% year on year in the last two years, to be among the top three optical businesses in India today. From an initial investment of Rs 30 lakh, Lenskart has now become a Rs 360 crore company. Among the online retailers, Lenskart accounts for the majority of the market share on the basis of revenue and presence. Lenstrade, Lensdirect, Yebhi and Rediff Shopping are some other online eyewear retailers.
“Eyewear is not an impulsive purchase; most consumers do not purchase eyewear as they are not aware that they need it. By having an omni-channel presence eyewear retailers would be able to boost the touch points and be able to reach maximum number of consumers,” Peeyush Bansal, CEO and Founder, Lenskart.com, says.
In addition to robust online and offline presence, the company has introduced features like free home eye check-ups and 3D trial online to redefine the complex eyewear category
“Home eye check-up facility is one such initiative – it is a perfect solution for those who do not have time to go for regular eye check-ups or step out to buy new spectacles. We bring you the optical shop and eye check-up equipment right at your doorstep. Also, our 3D try on allows users to get a 180 degree view of their image with the eyewear on. These services will help us tap the ever growing market of fashion-conscious buyers who are evolving fast, are digitally savvy and want a plethora of options to choose from,” Bansal notes.

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