Jobs in the Optical Industry - Smart Vision Labs

Post-Disruption Jobs in the Optical Industry

Post-Disruption Jobs in the Optical Industry

The effects of optical industry disruptors aren’t only seen in new startups and creative business models. They change not only how businesses operate but also how the employees work. The vision disruptors’ shared goals of affordable eye care and industry transparency need people to bring lofty ideas down to earth where they can be useful.

The changes disruptors made to the eyecare industry affect the day-to-day operations of businesses down to their smallest unit: the employee. Disruptors work with optical engineers to design a prototype, medical science liaisons to ensure the product is viable, and marketers to get the word out to potential consumers.

Not only do these positions have a new person to work with, the disruptor, they also have to adapt to the resulting changes. Eyecare industry disruptors rely heavily on technology, software, and communication to introduce new ways of doing things and the employees, scientists, and engineers that work alongside them must do the same. Engineers work with advanced 3D modeling software to design new equipment, staff opticians walk people through vision tests over teleconferencing, and licensed ophthalmologists read and report on results for a patient they never saw in person. Because disruptors have made technology and software important aspects of the eye care industry, the people who currently work in this field need to navigate these changes and incorporate them into their job description.

There are two ways optical industry professionals work along with disruptors. The first is the link between a disruptor and the technical aspects like healthcare, science, and engineering. Although it is behind-the-scenes work, it is essential to insure the disruptor’s idea is both practical and commercially viable. The other seeks to create communication between the disruptor and the consumer they are looking to reach. Telling consumers that they can afford eye care, where to get it, and why this new way of doing things is better for them are all part of fulfilling transparency goals.

Medical Science Liaison 

In order to create effective and practical solutions, disruptors’ ideas and goals need to align with the needs of the healthcare industry and the technological limits of engineering. A medical science liaison manages the healthcare part.

The primary focus of their job is to enable effective communication between industry innovators and their fellow scientists and doctors. They are the link between the people with the ideas and the people who carry them out. The medical science liaison uses the knowledge gained from getting their doctorate in a specific field (such as ophthalmology) to work with both idealistic goals and rigid industry conventions.

Their purpose is to provide balanced, informative insight on how to improve a product using the knowledge of their selected medical field. Because they are familiar with the healthcare aspect, they are able to explain the kind of effect the disruptor’s product will have.

A Medical Liaison is one of many important post disruptive jobs in the Optical Industry - Smart Vision Labs
Our former liaison Dr. Huy Tran

Optical Engineer/Optical Scientist

Optical engineers are responsible for every phase of creation, from the idea to the final implementation. Their skills need to cross several disciplines, as this position is a mix of both engineering and physics.

In the initial stage, the optical engineer needs to envision a device that will fulfill a need in the industry. This may include a new way to test for eye disorders or perhaps it involves improving an aspect of laser surgery. However, to complete each project successfully, there are several mandatory questions to answer.

What is practical? The optical engineer needs to mentally inventory the technology and materials that are currently available to create the new device. This assessment is the first step to determine the viability of the project.

How does it work? If the possibility for creation exists, then it needs to be designed. This takes the idea and brings it into the physical world through the use of measurements, materials, and the laws of physics. The optical engineer creates the framework that holds the device and the mechanical components that will make it work.

Does it work? Testing and analyzing the completed device may or may not be the final stage. Modifications or even a complete reevaluation of the project may be needed. In many cases, the optical engineer is involved in the assembly process which provides even greater control and input in the development of the device. A manufacturing engineer could also take over this aspect but there needs to be communication with the optical engineer at all stages.

The many hats an optical engineer wears during the creation-to-implementation process make this a very interesting position. Although this career is primarily a desk job, there will be many opportunities to work with others and to travel to testing facilities or laboratories. During the design or testing phase, longer work hours may be needed, yet there is a definite feeling of satisfaction achieved from creating devices that will improve the optical industry.

There is a great demand for optical engineers and the field is filled with growth, thanks to eyecare industry disruptors. As the current business model for eye care embraces ever-changing technological advances, the optical engineer will be at the forefront creating devices that lead the way into a better future.

Chief Optical Scientist Kaccie Li - One of many post disruptive jobs in the Optical Industry - Smart Vision Labs
Chief Optical Scientist Kaccie Li

Staff Opticians and Licensed Ophthalmologists

As technology is created and improved and the optical industry evolves, optical staff technicians keep up with these changes. The on-site technicians have always collected the patient’s basic information and conducted a traditional-style vision test. Staff opticians still do these things but in new ways that reflect the influence brought about by industry disruptors.

They might have started out giving a vision test using large machines in brick-and-mortar office buildings, but now they may help a person use a small device for their smartphone. The handshake when they enter the exam room might be replaced by a wave through a monitor before starting the live video feed. The vision test might not even take place in an exam room, but in the person’s home using a portable autorefractor or even their computer’s webcam.

Conducting vision tests using telecommunications affects more than just the technicians. The licensed ophthalmologists who interpret the results don’t have to be physically near the patient either. The method of operations for the eyecare industry was to have the person come into the doctor’s office for their vision test and prescription. But disruptors discovered it is simpler and more resource-efficient to send test results to the licensed ophthalmologist. This especially benefits people who need vision care but are unable to get to an office in person, such as those who have health problems or live in rural areas. In addition to allowing ophthalmologists to see and treat patients more efficiently, they can also provide care to people who would otherwise forgo vision correction altogether.

Customer Service, Public Relations and Social Media 

Disrupting the eyecare industry isn’t just about dealing with high-tech innovations. Because this field is really about providing healthcare, there is a human element to this business that cannot be ignored. Once the optical engineers design the product and the staff technicians assist with vision exams, there is still a customer who needs to purchase a product. That is the reason the individual and the disruptor are interacting in the first place.

The responsibilities of the customer service representative have evolved as well. Before disruptors began creating a foothold in the industry, the customer service role was pretty straightforward. Sit at a desk waiting for a customer to walk in, help them select a pair of glasses, go over the invoice and get their payment information, and send them home to wait for a phone call saying their eyewear is ready. But, for a company that operates entirely online, how is that useful?

It isn’t. Which is how disruptors changed the definition of customer service. In the post-disruption industry, customers need service of a different kind, namely, more educational and information-based to lead them through the new changes.

A vital component which separates these new, innovative companies with the optical industry giants they are disrupting is communication. This element connects companies and consumers in a more influential way than just saying “I bought their product.” Communication allows disruptors to alert eyecare consumers to the behind-the-scenes practices of the industry which serve only to benefit the large corporations, creating a transparency that wasn’t seen in this business before. The consumer can also interact with a company directly in a way that wasn’t even an option before.

The overwhelming popularity of social media combines with disruptors’ needs and desires to communicate with their consumers. The previously semi-related fields of PR manager and marketer have become closely intertwined. Social media managers and social marketers are born from this union.

Running a social media account brings brand awareness, cultivates consumer loyalty through accessibility and positive interactions, and provides an outlet for people to feel heard by the company. Small startups can connect with the public on a more personal level which creates rapport between business and customer.

These positions even incorporate elements of customer service. Assuring unsatisfied customers their complaints were heard and relaying that information back to the business shows consumers, both the one you’re interacting with and potential new ones, that this business is legitimately interested in helping and making changes based on feedback. Fresh startups don’t have a long business history or traditions to cling to which makes them responsive to consumer praise or criticism in a way traditional eyecare industry businesses can’t (or don’t care to) be.

TM is in charge of ensuring Smart Vison Labs customers are always happy - Just one of many jobs in the Optical Industry
TM is in charge of ensuring Smart Vison Labs customers are always happy

Necessary Job Skills

Eyecare industry disruptors bring much-needed change that results in increased convenience and decreased costs to consumers. Yet, the disruption of the former business model also changes the parameters of jobs in this field.

At the forefront is software. Industry disruptors have used the modern advances in technology to change the “default setting” on eye care by upgrading to more efficient and accurate ways of performing everything from vision exams to LASIK surgery. While these improvements are beneficial, those in the field must be ready to adapt to them.

In many ways, the software generated and used by the industry disruptors are at the core of change. Careers in this field now center on the ability to learn new systems. The disruptors also open the door for innovative thinkers who can develop software to address the current goals of this industry. The entire disruption process carries a message that change is here to stay. Careers in eye care will focus on this message through adoption, inventions, and implementation.

Another vital skill for the job seeker in the post-disruption eyecare industry is the ability to communicate. This requirement now extends beyond the simple act of talking to patients in an office setting. Careers in this industry now require people to be able to explain in understandable terms how the technology works for their benefit.

This means that patients need to be introduced to new concepts in a clear way. For instance, Smart Vision Lab’s 5-Minute Vision Exam offers convenience and cost savings. Yet, patients will not fully appreciate the benefit to themselves until it’s explained. Another example is buying eyewear online. Whenever consumers are offered a different way of doing things, there is always a learning process. That’s why communicators are a vital force in the eyecare industry disruption.

Just like the disruptors have a vision for change, so will those working in this industry. Certain skills will be magnified to better enable eye care to attain the goals that will best serve the people they seek to reach.

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Visit VU Frameworks in the TurnStyle underground market and get a Smart Vision Exam in 5 minutes

Shopping, Dining and Vision Exams at TurnStyle

Where can a busy NYer get chic new glasses, an updated prescription, and an artisanal meal in under an hour?

Try looking down.

Visit VU Frameworks in the TurnStyle underground market and get a Smart Vision Exam in 5 minutes

Pop Quiz: You want to get a new pair of stylish, sophisticated and environmentally responsible glasses to show off your new hairstyle when you go out this weekend, but you need to get your eyeglass prescription updated first, and you’ve got to do it all during your lunch hour and still find time to silence the grumbling in your belly.

Answer: Check out VU Frameworks in the ultra-chic TurnStyle underground market below Columbus Circle. Conveniently located in what is arguably one of the easiest locations to get to quickly from anywhere in New York City, VU Frameworks is surrounded by upscale shops selling hand-made stationery, ultra-chic messenger bags, and a variety of tasty delicacies ranging from artisanal donuts and savory French Crepes, to critically acclaimed grilled cheese sandwiches, Bolivian Saltenas, and Taiwanese dumplings.

Not only can you satisfy your hunger for food, but you can also satisfy your hunger for fashion – especially the fashion that sits on your face. VU Frameworks creates eyewear with an Urban Zen style. Even better, every faux wooden frame in their collection is designed to raise awareness of the strains consumerism puts on nature.

Vu Frameworks - Smart Vision Labs partnerAh, you say, but what about updating your prescription? You don’t have time to wait for an appointment with your eye doctor, and you don’t have the time to spend waiting in an office for a separate eye exam. Never fear, VU Frameworks Owner Nai Wang has got you covered there, too.

Nai is all about meeting the needs of her customers, some of the most demanding, most discriminating, high energy and time-challenged working professionals in the world. She recently began offering Smart Vision Labs’ 5-Minute Vision Exam, the revolutionary smartphone-based technology that can get you in and out of her store in less time than it takes you to finish your Espresso Affogato, and give you your new prescription in less than 24 hours thanks to cutting edge optical telemedicine.

Chic and convenient? Environmentally aware, technologically advanced, and fashion forward? Yes, to all of the above.

And you’ll find it all down below Columbus Circle, at VU Frameworks in the TurnStyle underground market.

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International Vision Care Disruptors

Vision Industry Disruptors! International Edition

International Vision Care Disruptors  

Buying glasses should not make you roll your eyes. It also shouldn’t make your eyes widen in disbelief at the price.

Enter the eyecare industry disruptors. These are people who have caught a vision of a better, simpler, and less expensive way to purchase eyewear. They are creating companies to promote their ideas; they are using social media to introduce these ideas; they are making a disruption in the industry that is scattering traditional ways of doing business.

And it’s all for the best of the consumer.

One of the trademarks of the eyecare industry disruptors is the breakdown of geography. By using current technology, consumers are not limited to a place for a vision exam or to purchase eyewear. Smartphones and the Internet open up possibilities that never existed before. Instead of going to an optical store to look at hundreds of frames, consumers can sit at a computer and view thousands of them. Add to that try-on technology in the comfort of home and the traditional business model doesn’t look so good anymore.

Most interesting about the eyecare industry disruptors is the fact that their vision extends worldwide. The viability of any change in a business model can be measured in the level of acceptance across a wide audience. Internationally, these disruptors are making inroads in areas that are diverse in culture, yet common in a desire to affect change in an industry that needs reform.

A look at some of these international industry disruptors will reveal a common thread of placing the purchasing power into the consumer’s hands. These companies offer new business models with some unique ideas. The end result is an industry that will be better able to address the real needs of consumers.

India’s Industry Disruptors

Industry disruptors are problem solvers. To succeed, they need a problem to fix.

The problem is numbers.  For the first time, India is dealing with an aging population as well as a large one. As the country grew, so did the life expectancy. In 2015, the World Health Organization reported India’s life expectancy to be 68 years of age. In the 1990s, it was only 58 years.

This affects all aspects of the eyecare industry from prescriptions, to medical treatment, to corrective eyewear. Change is needed to more efficiently reach the many people who need it.

Consumers deal with a few different vision problems. As people get older, there is a greater likelihood their eyesight will weaken. There has also been an increase in instances of myopia. These people need corrective lenses to maintain their quality of life.

Many unchecked vision problems can progress into vision loss which is indeed what happens here. India has the largest population of blind people in the world. The market even reflects this. The biggest sectors of the eyecare industry here all deal with conditions which relate to blindness: cataracts, retinal disease, and glaucoma.

India’s problem is a lack of doctors to provide preventative vision care. Due to government regulations and insufficient training programs, India has only about one-third of the eye doctors it needs to provide care to all the people. But if the doctors are busy treating patients with glaucoma and cataracts, they just don’t have the time or resources to see the patient who just needs glasses. That patient who didn’t get to see the doctor goes without vision correction until it severely impairs their sight and the cycle continues.

This is the place the disruptors enter the market. Eyecare industry disruptors around the world share one common goal: accessibility to the consumer. They want their product to reach the people and areas left untouched by the largest companies.

Winkk addresses the frustration many people feel when trying to purchase eyeglasses. Only after navigating the frame selection and confusing lens upgrades with the “help” of a pushy employee does the customer learn the price of the eyeglasses.

Winkk - International Vision Care Disruptors

They set out to offer frames that are both trendy and cost-effective. What is Winkk’s contribution to transparency in the eyecare industry? Their eyeglasses have a listed price which includes the prescription lenses. Offering frames that are both affordable and fashionable gives the consumer purchasing power and reduces the number of people going without vision correction due to a confusing sales experience.

Glassic was founded after learning the reason the eyewear market was so confusing and overpriced. Over 80 percent of the market was being controlled by a single supply chain, from manufacture to sale. The founders of Glassic are able to keep their prices reasonable by making their glasses in-house and cutting out the retailer by selling through their own website.

Glassic - International Vision Care Disruptors

A few creative solutions allowed them to overcome the concerns of not being able to see yourself in the frames first and the unclear lens options. A virtual try-on which uses the customer’s webcam creates an experience just like testing frames in-person. Glassic addresses the lens selection issue with a unique algorithm which suggests lenses after the customer selects their power, ensuring the product they buy is their best option. This algorithm also eliminates the navigation of lens types as well as the price variation between different opticians.

Lenskart expands on convenience of shopping for glasses. By offering a vision exam at home, the consumer is not only able to get a lens prescription, but this keeps an optician free to care for a patient with more immediate issues. Certain areas are eligible for a home visit to try on frames. An employee brings 100 frame options and helps the customer with their purchase.

These innovative companies prove the power of a creative idea to change the status quo, create solutions, and assure the consumer that they made a good investment.

Latin America Eyecare Industry

Three factors contributed to the eyecare industry disruption in Latin America: a growing population, a steady increase of people requiring vision correction, and runaway inflationary rate on eyewear. The first two factors seemed to point to a steady volume of consumers, but the rising retail cost of eyewear made them postpone or cancel purchases.

The traditional business model has merely assumed that a steady customer base equals steady sales. While this may be accurate to an extent, consumers have become more cost-savvy and will not purchase a product if they feel their best interests have not been realized.

Eyecare industry disruptors saw this and reacted by offering more cost-effective choices. In Latin America, this was done by two primary methods: acquisitions and partnerships.

For example, Luxottica, the eyewear superpower, increased their distribution by acquiring retailers. Having retail-ready locations for their manufactured products builds a strong competitive edge and gives consumers a network of locations to purchase eyewear.

Partnerships have a similar strategy but balance the power differently. Chilli Beans, the major retailer of sunglasses in Latin America, partnered with GoECart to run the e-commerce side of their business. This type of industry disruption embraces the technology that is available and makes product selection more accessible.

Chilli Beans - International Vision Care Disruptors

Yet, the eyecare industry disruptors in Latin America are not looking to just take over the competition, they are in the business with long-range and innovative goals. Lema21, the “Warby Parker” of Brazil, sells private label frames directly to consumers. They compete with designer brands, which are made in the same Chinese factories as their own products. The difference is a much lower price, averaging about $100.

Lema21 - International Vision Care Disruptors

But Lema21 didn’t stop with the monetary benefit; they added a virtual try-on tool and a home trial that ships four different frames to consumers. Now, people can shop conveniently, have choices, and save money. The industry disruptors listened to the consumers, made changes in the business model, and everyone walks away happy.

European Industry Disruptors

European consumers are welcoming the eyecare industry disruptors. In Germany, consumers are buying glasses online at an increasing rate, while industry experts predict an even bigger growth in this venue of sales.

Industry disruptors are responding to consumer concerns about buying eyewear online: the lack of an optician to provide advice when making a purchase. This can be remedied through a variety of means. Try-on technology and an easier return policy are ways to give consumers more confidence. Social media, blogs, and forums can connect customers to style experts both within and outside of the industry. All of these things contribute to a better buying experience.

Eyecare industry disruptors will concentrate on these issues since most consumers have stated that they are very satisfied with the lower costs of purchasing glasses online. Price is an overriding factor in consumer appeal and industry disruptors will continue to refine the entire process, stressing the personalization of each sale.

In France, Paul Morlet, the founder of Lunettes Pour Tous (Glasses for All), is making a bold claim: get a pair of glasses for 10 euros in 10 minutes. His democratic approach to making glasses both affordable and accessible is shaking up the core of the industry in this country. The basic idea is for consumers to buy glasses and leave with them the same day.

International Vision Care Disruptors

His business model is basic with lower prices, reduced markups, and large volume sales. His marketing strategy includes educating consumers about the high profits opticians enjoy as they sell glasses that are cheaply made in China. Truth-telling is a large part of the eyecare industry disruption strategy since no consumer wants to feel taken advantage of.

Throughout Europe, these same principles are steering the eyewear industry into new ways to do business. Cost, choice, and convenience are the keywords that consumers use, and industry disruptors are providing real solutions in these areas. While each country may have varying measures of progress in the disruption phase, industry experts see a steady increase of consumer confidence in purchasing eyewear online.

Technology and transparency in the eyecare industry is forever changing the view (and the resulting purchasing power) of consumers.

Japanese Eyecare Industry Disruptors

A trademark of industry disruptors is their lack of boundaries, either physical or creative. Japan-based Jins Eyewear perfectly captures this element of being a disruptor. Crossing borders and collaborating with tech, fashion, and business allow this company to make headlines.

Jins Eyewear - International Vision Care Disruptors

Although they were unknown in the US, they operated over 300 stores overseas Japan and China. So why open a flagship store in San Francisco, California? Because the trendy city is a great fit for their brand of eyewear that is fashionable and tech-savvy. Young, progressive cities are like a magnet for industry disruptors because they are full of the kind of adventurous consumers which startups need to succeed.

The technology allowing them to disrupt is Kanna, their in-house eyeglass manufacturing robot. Having a lens lab right in the store means not only are the materials sourced directly from the company, the manufacturing is too. Really embracing the concept of controlling the whole supply chain to keep costs down also results in the fast wait time between selecting and taking home a new pair of glasses. The Jins experience is going home with a pair of glasses for only $120 and 30 minutes of time. In San Francisco. The low cost enables their fashion-savvy consumer to have multiple pairs quickly and inexpensively.

The Jins flagship store has another unique collaboration: a fellow disruptor. 20/20 Now, who offer vision tests through video-conference, rents space in the back of the store. If you add an inexpensive refraction to your trip to Jins, you can still leave your visit with a new prescription and a new pair of glasses for under $200. Again, this is San Francisco.

The Worldview

The most important goal of industry disruptors is creating transparency. Regardless of the problems the eyeglass market faces, information is what leads to solutions. Overpriced eyeglasses and consumers who are kept in the dark about their true cost is a problem worldwide.

Eyecare industry disruptors are creating solutions. The fact that they are all working towards fixing the same problems shows the issues the market faces are due to the distribution model rather than their physical location.

The future of this industry rests in the vision of these disruptors.

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