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Eyeing the change

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The global eyewear market size was valued at USD 157.9 billion in 2021. It is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4 per cent from 2022 to 2030. The changing lifestyle patterns and increasing adoption of luxurious accessories among millennials strongly favour market growth. Encouraged by the burgeoning product demand, the eyewear makers focus on developing attractive and affordable eyewear. They are introducing new designs and patterns to quickly respond to the ongoing fashion trends and attract fashion enthusiasts. The continuous efforts of the leading market players to acquire new customers and retain the existing ones are positively inϐluencing the market statistics. However, India is still not there on the global map for the eyewear market, and “Sadly India is blind capital of the world – with more people in India not getting the right prescription versus any other country in the world. This has always been a problem of awareness – as many people don’t realize in their day-to-day job that they’ve developed this condition, and the lack of good diagnostic facilities make it more difϐicult. Moreover, the other factor is access to good quality products & diagnostics services across every region and affordability in getting the right pair of prescription glasses at a good price tag. Over the years what we’ve seen is that India’s moved ahead in solving this problem – as people have recognised this as opportunity. Like we now have free eye test pretty much as a standard, whereas in countries like US its charged. Similarly, prices of glasses have been driven down by competition in space. Giving more people access to diagnostics & high- quality affordable eyewear,” Ramneek Khurana, Co-Founder, Lenskart mentions.

Change is in the Vicinity

The increased screen-times for folks all across the spectrum from kids taking online classes to adults on zoom calls has led to both increase in both prescription eyewear needs as well as need for screen protection glasses – which block the harmful blue light emitted from these devices. Further, Ramneek notes that the biggest trends currently are fuelled by improvement in underlying infra connecting users to brand: 

  •  Improvement in camera hardware means we are now able to get consumers to try out glasses seamlessly using augmented reality 
  • Improvement in network speed is allowing us to give very high quality catalogue fashion imagery as well as the ability to play with glasses in 360 on app, etc.

 And all this adoption by consumers is leading to more seamless online buying experience. 

“We started online ϐirst. We started visiting customer’s houses to provide eye check-up at home. And then we opened up stores to allow trials of frames & eye checkups. So for us it’s been an omnichannel journey through & through – where we see customers transversing through channels. Customers typically discover Lenskart online, download our app, and try augmented reality to wear glasses – and then walk into a store or call us home to get eye checkups done before purchase. Post pandemic we’ve further increased our channels – where we introduced WhatsApp our newest channel – since customers were very comfortable using it. This has become the fastest-growing channel for us during the period.We tend to work backwards from customer problems and solve it via our technology teams, supply chain capabilities, merchandising arm, etc. As long as we continue to listen more & solve problems faster for customers – we’ll continue to be ahead,” Ramneek adds.

Customer expectations are ever evolving, like they should be. Only thing Covid has done is accelerated the trends we were already seeing. Their needs evolve across multiple dimension: 

//Preference of buying channel shifts basis external environments. The Lenskart team sees more uptake in online during lockdowns and then rush back to stores when things open up. They have introduced WhatsApp to address the need for a familiar, assisted online channel. 

// Requirement for products have undergone changes – the Lenskart Blue lenses were made to take care of needs due to high screen time during the period, etc. So, brands are always on the lookout for customer needs & deliver on right channel, product, pricing, etc. to customers as their expectations switches – ideally ahead of it.

Digital Transformation 

“Further, for customer loyalty, we’ve Lenskart gold program where we see huge boost in repeat. It allows our users to choose Lenskart every time they need eyewear. On CRM end whether you buy online, walk into our store or call us home – we have your consistent identity via your phone number and use it to keep you posted of recent eyewear launches, prescription updates, etc. For us what works well is introducing consumers to new collections subsequent to ϐirst purchase. Because eyewear as category is maturing – and we’ve products now which help you do more & be more across bunch of activities like: working out with our new balance collection – wearing which you can do 180 degree ϐlips without worrying about glasses falling off, or our latest crystal collection – which’s the latest trend and rage in eyewear globally, or Suit up collection as folks head back to the ofϐice. I think we are just getting started as far as bridging the eyewear gap of country is concerned. And our intent is to accelerate our progress further with use of technology across consumer value chain,” Ramneek highlights. 

Abdus Samad, Founder, Sam & Marshall Eyewear, also notes that a lot of customer expectations towards the eyewear market have changed during the pandemic, and people in the pandemic were looking for prescription glasses delivered to their homes. Which mostly no one was providing except few like them and Lenskart. This was a steppingstone for them in brand building and in increasing the sales too. 

“While working for around 3 years I have seen a consumer shift for brands from local shopping. Conclusion which we took out of it is that branding would really standout in upcoming 5-7 years. Through Omnichannel retail for eyewear, there has been a little difϐiculty for us and it was easy at the same time. It’s just how you see it. One thing which is really burdening is that through creativity you need to convert people without even speaking a word, which is a game of psychology. Our customers teach us a lot; they are actually our R&D department. We do regular calls to our customers for after sales, sometimes it is very good, sometimes really bad. We work on it and improvise. You can check out our Google reviews too for better understanding,” he notes

Marketing with a Difference 

Abdus continues, “We are genuinely working towards providing value content and building a community rather than building a database of customers. We usually, work on our product ϐirst, cause if the product is good rest is always taken care by the product itself. We depend strongly on organic marketing as much as possible, with advertising platforms like social media and google. We strongly believe that the future of the eyewear industry will be soon transferred into a tech business that’s for sure. We are working towards bringing in new technologies soon.” 

Jigar Gangar, Director, Gangar Eyenation however notes that the Indian eyewear industry has emerged as a big opportunity recently due to increased eyesight problems, increased awareness and easily available information than earlier. The industry has changed from need based products to fashion statement. Today customers are buying more than 1 pair of spectacles or sunglasses. So, demand has increased and hence the opportunity. Earlier people were ignorant of their eyesight; awareness wasn’t much there which is still persisting but the conditions are apprehensively improving now

Jigar notes, “As everyone is aware that during pandemic people were not going out for a very long time. Most of working professionals had work from home and extended working hours. Everyone were spending time on digital devices which has affected eye sight or vision problems. So people were waiting for market to open so that they can go for eye testing and lots of people realised when they were informed that they need eye check-up. We ran campaigns to make people aware. Buying pattern is changing. People are much more informed about the products and services now. Unlike past eyewear trend is picking up very fast. The journey from a mere product to a brand is quite apprehensive today. People are becoming brand and quality conscious in this category which is good news for the industry. We hope this will increase the market size of the organised market and players too”. 

Digital Route for Sales 

He continues, “Except for selling our products we have been using digital media for a while now to keep our customers well informed about our products, services, offers, trends, tips, and engaged through various promotional activities. Digital media has become an inevitable part of branding and marketing strategy today. Tooting challenge did come when we started shifting our bigger chunk of media budget from ofϐline to online and it will take its due course. Today informing our customers has become much easier and much faster than being present on omnichannel. We are hoping for a better result in the coming future.We are into the paramedical business. We are opticians. Our category is such that you need to be ofϐline. There is competition from online sellers but in a very small percentage as of now. Today even online players have started believing in brick &the mortar system. E-commerce is working for a few limited products but the basic business will enjoy its status quo. There are customers who come to us with problems with their online bought products. Everyone has a different face shape and size so touch and feel, ϐitting on the face of the products is essential”. 

Customers expect efϐicient service and quality products. Being well-informed customers today understand what to buy and from where to buy. “Since we keep genuine and quality products we focus on service and quick delivery and this is what makes us a trusted brand. We are serving the 3rd and 4th generations today. Additionally, we have our loyalty program also in place for customer delight. Being a trusted brand for the last 4 decades the new normal has worked well for us and it has given us an edge over the competition. Digital transformation has helped us in serving our customers more accurately and efϐiciently. We have state-of-the-art technological equipment for eye checkups that test the power digitally. A digital eye check-up gives an accurate measurement of eye power which ultimately gives more clarity to vision. Each of our customers goes through 7 steps during eye check-ups at our stores using digitally advanced equipment. Customers can book their appointment online and visit the store at their own discretion. We have a large customer base and through our loyalty program we give reward points to each customer on each purchase. We had started our ofϐline Loyalty Program back then in 2011. Converting ofϐline to online loyalty program has given us ease to benefit our customers instantly.

We have an outsourced system in place which takes care of our loyalty program and internal team to run it smoothly. We are trying to improvise the system which would beneϐit our customers more efϐiciently. It’s a continuous process. The 24×7 customer service is of utmost importance when it comes to meeting the high expectations of our customers,” he adds. 

Marketing and engagement is a 360-degree strategy offline and online medium combined in Jigar’s organization like any other retail sector and the ways to reach our customers on a daily basis in real-time. Off late they have experienced that lead generation ad, geo fencing isa few tools which are working well to get connected with their customers for their quick response. They challenge the team to serve the customers better than yesterday, keeping them well informed about the brand’s promotional activities and benefits. 

Lastly, he mentions that the future of eyewear in India is hopeful and divided into 20 per cent Organised and 80 %  unorganized markets. The domain suggests that opportunity in abundance and the scope to grow for every player within this domain is huge and exponential. We can expect more organised players coming into the category would help the industry grow. “Our brand would keep its focus on providing the latest technology and best service to keep our customers happy and satisϐied, keeping the pace parallel to the growing horizon. In this growth path, we would like to be among the top-notch brand pan India,” Jigar signs off.