Eyecare Industry Disruptors in the US
Industry disruptors challenge traditional approaches in decisive ways; their independent thinking removes obstacles and replaces them with optimistic and effective solutions.
Disruptive technology is changing the eyecare industry. Innovations are reshaping the core of this business while restoring consumer confidence. Disruptors have followed a steady progression that has encompassed several key ideas.
Recognizing the need for change within the eyecare industry and coupling that with available technology began the course of disruptive innovations. Three main factors were addressed by the early disruptors: cost, convenience, and accessibility.
Traditionally, eye exams and eyewear had a prohibitive cost for many people. Industry disruptors used technology and innovative product development and procurement to lower the cost and keep the quality.
Convenience is a sought-after commodity in today’s busy world and eyecare industry disruptors made the exams and purchase of glasses and contact lenses easy. Smart Vision Labs, for instance, has a 5-minute vision exam (no appointment necessary) that can determine if corrective eyewear is needed. A prescription is generated and a secure online portal holds the patient’s information. Convenience encourages and motivates consumers and is a hallmark of change that disruptors bring to industries.
Accessibility takes the idea of convenience one step further by bringing eye care to everyone. Rural areas benefit, as well as the house-bound or anyone either physically or mentally unable to go for traditional vision exams. Eyewear can be purchased online and delivered to the door. All of these things make people more inclined to take an active part in their eyes’ health.
Who Are the Vision Industry Disruptors and How Do They Disrupt the Eyecare Industry?
The disruptive companies are creating solutions to long-standing industry problems. Specifically, they have been targeting areas of eye care and eyewear. Creating connections using the Internet rather than in-person introduces opportunities to reach new consumers.
Some of these innovative companies work toward making vision care available for everyone, regardless of their financial situation or physical location. In addition to the Internet, advancements in laser technology and the prevalence of smartphones assist these eyecare industry disruptors in providing another option to the status quo.
Opternative uses a smartphone and computer to offer an at-home vision test. In less than 25 minutes, the consumer gets a signed prescription to shop for their eyewear anywhere they like.
EyeQue’s Personal Vision Tracker uses an optical miniscope which works with a smartphone application to deliver your prescription. In addition to storing the results in the cloud, the app also tracks vision history and has customizable notifications about things from health reminders to current eyewear trends.
Eyenetra offers Blink, an at-home vision test performed by a trained technician. The “Visioneers” collect the person’s health history and use the Blink devices to perform a vision test before sending the results to a licensed optometrist within their network.
PUPIL has a free at-home vision test where the technician will also bring different frames for the consumer to try out. If they find something they like, they will have their glasses that same week.
20/20 Now uses HD video conferencing to get the client from exam to prescription in 15 minutes or less.
PlenOptika created QuickSee, a handheld autorefractor. This innovation came about specifically for places where glasses are very inexpensive but there is a lack of doctors to prescribe them. QuickSee allows doctors to work more efficiently, see more patients, and get them the proper vision correction.
Smart Vision Labs pushes the boundary of vision care further while setting the standard for convenience. Their 5-Minute Vision Exam uses technology similar to LASIK to create accurate prescriptions quickly. The consumer doesn’t even need to schedule an appointment.
Other innovative companies work to disrupt the fashion side of the eyecare industry, which has been forcing unknowing consumers to purchase their vision correction from the established leaders. Glasses and contact lenses are both affected by this problem but disruptors are working to change it. The benefit of affordable and accessible vision testing is diminished if the consumer can’t afford frames or be able to replace their contacts routinely.
1-800 Contacts was the first online retailer offering contact lenses. They have grown into the world’s largest contact lens store. The high volume they work with means they are the most likely to have exactly what the consumer is shopping for and at a low price.
On the eyeglass front, Zenni Optical began by offering low-cost frames and lenses. For under $9, you could get a complete pair of glasses, frames included.
Warby Parker disrupted the industry by making new ways to connect with the consumer. Being able to see how frames look, either virtually or through their Home Try-On, invites customers to take an active part in the buying process. These innovations, in addition to connecting through social media, really resonated with their target audience of young adults, proving they are a viable market.
Eponym provides a venue for smaller fashion companies to break into the eyeglass market.
Frameri builds on the online glasses market by trying something new: interchangeable lenses. Their lenses can pop-out of one frame and into another. This encourages people to try out new styles or change up their appearance easily without purchasing another lens.
Timing the Disruption
Eyecare industry disruptors know when it’s time to ‘better the business.’ Changes, of any type, are most effective when certain conditions appear.
Information and technology are the two elements that move disruptions from the idea stage to full implementation. Industry disruptors have pinpointed the areas for change and developed a strategy. Yet, to actually bring this innovative thinking into the industry requires the collective consciousness of consumers.
Information begins the disruption.
The eyecare industry has a secret or two. They have been pairing with vision insurance providers and retail eyewear manufacturers. This has created an uneven flow of money. People with vision insurance feel obligated to use that benefit but when they do, they are directed to in-network providers for both the exams and the eyewear.
The secret is that the consumer has other, more beneficial, options than their coverage suggests. Vision insurance has traditionally created a conduit for the consumer to receive eye exams and corrective products. Eyecare industry disruptors are offering choices that bring the power back to the consumer. This is done by comparing the options.
The insurance-priced versus the direct-priced methods show a significant monetary difference. A consumer paying directly for a vision exam or corrective eyewear can see a price drop of at least 50%.
The price change reflects information that creates transparency in the eyecare industry. When consumers see the actual cost of products and services, the idea of vision insurance does not seem so beneficial. Disruptors have seen the artificial inflation that has permeated this industry and have a plan to bring real options to the consumer.
Technology helps to not only spread this information but it also provides access to exams and products in a cost-effective and convenient way.
Smartphones can be used for vision exams, and cloud-based technology can send and store patient information. Try-on software can make buying frames easier and 3D printing can create custom looks for consumers.
Information paired with technology uncovers secrets and creates solutions. Disruptions give power to the people.
Eyecare industry disruptors see the need for change and offer real solutions.
Where are the Disruptions Taking Place?
That’s the best part about the eyecare industry disruptors—they are making changes everywhere.
The disruptive technology can be accessed from any location. There are no geographic boundaries that limit the spread of information and innovations that are reshaping the eyecare business. Rural communities benefit as well as those in large metropolitan areas. These disruptions are removing geography as a factor in maintaining eye health.
But physical location is only part of the ‘place’ where the disruption is occurring. The mind is another vital location where the industry disruptors are making their presence known. Consumers are getting knowledge about how vision insurance has created an option to maintain eye health at a cost to the very people they seek to help. That cost is monetary but also comes with a loss of personal freedom.
Being directed to certain places for vision exams or to purchase eyewear limits choices. When there is no competition in an industry only a few companies set the price. Consumers know that the price of corrective glasses and frames is very high, yet the actual cost of this product is not.
Eyecare industry disruptors put price and cost in their proper places to benefit the consumers.
When a disruption is taking place in an industry, it will never be business as usual. And that’s a very good thing.
The eyecare industry has maintained a status quo existence for a long time, so why should we welcome these industry disruptors now?
The single word answer would be ‘motivation.’ These eyecare industry disruptors are motivated to change a business that has become stagnant and cost-prohibitive. By embracing and using current technology, the business of eye health can—and should—have a fresh new look. And that will positively impact every consumer.
Disruptive technology is currently in place to address real needs and concerns. Consumers already understand the value of vision exams and using prescription eyewear if needed. However, what they don’t understand is the inconvenience and prohibitive costs associated with this industry.
Eyecare industry disruptors do understand. They have technology in place to bring the vision exam to the patient, whether it’s a rural area or a place that doesn’t require such a stringent time frame. Patients do not want to schedule a vision test around their work or school schedule. Time is valuable to them.
Disruptors believe in transparency in the cost of eyewear which is another huge concern to consumers. Price and cost have not been fully explained to consumers and therefore, the traditional industry method of distribution has favored the manufacturers. Disruptors challenge the current business model and invite the purchasing power of the consumer to come alongside them.
But perhaps the biggest innovation that eyecare industry disruptors bring is the power of choice.
They recognize that change needs to be implemented to address the valid concerns of consumers. They use disruptive technology to create a new industry standard. They form innovative companies that not only herald the change but spearhead the movement.
The result is an improved vision for the eyecare industry and one that is motivated to connect consumers to more affordable ways to care for their eyes.
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