By: Sandy Stark
5 min read, E-Commerce, Optometry

The following is a Sightly contributed article first published in EyeDigest Magazine September 2020 for BC Doctors of Optometry.

In March 2020, when non-essential businesses closed their doors under the government appeal for social distancing, optometry offices were restricted to offering only urgent care to their patients. Although what qualified as urgent care wasn’t specifically defined, practitioners across the country were scrambling to adhere to government regulations for minimizing risk while finding alternative means of delivering recurrently needed products and services, such as dry eye solutions and contact lenses.

An oft chosen answer to this dilemma was the addition of an e-commerce store; a fix that would provide uninterrupted access to eye care products while we awaited our return to normal routines. Today, your office is likely reopened but is it business as usual? As time passes there is the perception of our settling in, not into habits of the recent past but rather a surrender to new habits, for instance, carrying our masks with us at all times, keeping a distance of 6 feet from others or conducting our meetings online. In fact, as experts consider when or if we are hit with a second wave, many are conceding this fundamental shift in our way of life may just be the new normal. With that possibility in mind, you should see your online store as so much more than a stopgap measure; you should see it as an extension of your practice and a conduit to connecting with your patients.

It is apparent now; we must have a mindset that is looking to long-term resolutions. More than ever, there is a demand for well-integrated systems that satisfy the needs of both consumers and the many roles within the business. E-commerce is evolving and it is showing no signs of letting up. Fortunately, the technology behind platforms like Sightly, a patient-commerce tool (more on patient-commerce shortly) developed specifically for optometry practices has evolved far beyond the days of point, click, and purchase.

The volatile time we are living in, is overwhelming for many people and businesses alike with full effects that have yet to be realized. One of the ways you can help your patients adapt and even embrace this new normal is to bridge the gap between you and your patients created by social distancing. You can achieve this by elevating your online store experience from simple e-commerce, to what we at Sightly have termed, patient-commerce. Sightly defines patient-commerce as e-commerce meets practitioner value, where e-commerce pursues the sale, patient-commerce nurtures the relationship and the integrity of your patients’ ocular health. To that end, what we are seeing now is harmonious partnerships forming between multiple channels of service that ultimately benefit your patients.

“As a Joint Venture of two family companies, Labtician Théa considers our customers family, and we want to continue to deliver innovate ways for Eye Care Professionals to service their patients in this new normal. We have heard from many of our customers that they are looking for solutions to ensure their patients continue to have easy access to their much-needed treatments, while staying connected to their practice” Fiona McCloskey, General Manager Labtician Théa. “Our partnership with Sightly offers a patient-commerce solution that provides 24/7 access to our products through the clinic, the convenience of shipping directly to their patient’s home, and the ability to have multiple virtual touch points between the clinic and the patient to help guide them through their treatment journey.”

As we acclimate to working from home and limiting gatherings, so too are we adjusting to conducting many of our daily affairs through electronic portals. Still, even a partial abandonment of personal contact between doctor and patient, in favour of electronic delivery of your patients’ optical health care is simply not realistic. There are prescriptions to write, comprehensive exams to schedule, new patients to welcome, frames to size, cases to triage, and so on. Many of these priorities can be accomplished simultaneously, utilizing your storefront to its full potential, without compromising patient care.

At Sightly we have come up with a checklist, we call The Six C’s of Patient-Commerce. If you want to move past basic e-commerce and offer your patients a more connected and nurturing experience, then consider measuring the current use of your storefront against the following criteria.

The 6 C's of Patient-Commerce

We have to start here. Of course, one of the most attractive benefits, if not the most attractive, to online shopping is the anytime-anywhere access it delivers, with plenty of options to choose from. Furthermore, increased convenience fosters ease and expediency. Put yourself at your patient’s keyboard and “walk” through your storefront. Is it easy to navigate? Are your product descriptions detailed? Is help readily available? 

Convenience and clarity go hand-in-hand. Make sure your terms, policies, and pricing are plainly stated and easily found.

Your patient-commerce site is much more than an online store. To encourage early adoption by your patients, use the features of the platform at every step of engagement, and stay in touch in-between visits. With Sightly, you can send an electronic reminder to schedule appointments or reorder products, direct patients to book their appointments online, add recommended products to their shopping cart during or following their appointment (especially convenient during a video chat), encourage them to take advantage of direct shipping and follow up on any issues they were having or products they chose.

Send out reminder emails and newsletters using Sightly’s email marketing feature. Align all your social media channels and website with the same messages. Use these channels to direct traffic to your other channels. Share your unique knowledge and experience to encourage regular eye exams and offer tips for maintaining good eye health.

Get personal. Your website should include doctor bios and, ideally, your staff bios as well; and not just the academics. You don’t have to share your life story, just your human side. Keep it brief and keep it real. Include a photo!

Last but certainly not least, be strategically competitive. Prices are important to people, we can’t deny that, but price isn’t king, information is. So, strive to be the best in value and service, rather than focus on price. Authenticity, accessibility, quality, mastering all of these things will be invaluable to your patients.

With a patient-commerce approach to managing all aspects of engagement, prior to, during, and following office visits, you are not only taking on a partnership role in maintaining your patients’ eye health, which your patients will thank you for, you are also preparing for any future economic and/or business disruptions, the likes of which we have recently seen. Would it be wise, knowing what we know now about the enormous impact COVID-19 has had on our communities, our economy and our lives, to return to not-so-old habits, or do we learn from experience and move forward? The answer seems obvious. Welcome to the new normal.

To book a virtual demo of Sightly with a member of our team or to learn more about how to make the most of your existing online store click here.

Powering Your E-commerce Store for Your Practice
Sightly is YOUR e-commerce store for YOUR patients to continue purchase the products YOU sell in between their visits (contact lenses, eye-drops, eye-vitamins, frames, etc.).

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