Optometry Marketing: How to Compete with Online Optical Stores


  • Online optical stores are convenient and affordable, but they don’t offer the same level of care and service as brick-and-mortar optometry practices.
  • Optometry clinics can rely on marketing efforts, virtual eye exams, and discount strategies to attract patients to buy their eyewear locally.
  • Your practice can focus on fast online ordering and direct patient delivery to maximize the patient experience and outsell online vendors.

As an independent optometry practice, it can be challenging to thrive among online optical stores that offer convenience and affordable prices. To stand out, you need to mix marketing and business strategies to build a reputation as a reliable source of quality eyewear. With the right approach and supportive vision product ordering software, you can keep sales up and patients happy.

The Rise of Online Optical Stores

Consumers are increasingly turning to online optical stores for eyewear needs. Vision Monday reported that 44% of people searched for prescription eyeglasses online in 2020, up from 22% in 2017. Among those who searched online, 14.1% purchased eyewear directly from an online retailer.

Most online shoppers buy when and where it fits into their schedules. 43% of online shoppers bought while in bed and 23% while at work. In addition to convenience, online eyewear shopping can also help consumers save money. According to Consumer Reports, people paid an average of $91 for eyeglasses online compared to $234 in-store.

Despite the benefits of online glasses stores, they typically don’t provide the same optical knowledge and personalized service as optometrists and their staff members to help patients find the best-fitting eyewear.

Online Glasses Stores Versus In-Person Practices

Online glasses retailers lack the precision and in-person patient experience typically found at in-person optical practices. Online services can’t offer accurate eyeglass fittings due to their virtual nature, and some have impersonal customer service that leaves customers feeling unhappy or unsure of their purchase.

Eye doctors and brick-and-mortar retailers offer in-depth eyewear prescription testing and fitting. An in-person optometry clinic also provides personalized services that ensure patients get the help they need with their vision products.

The following elements highlight the major differences between online optical stores versus in-person practices.


More complex prescriptions require more measurements and precision to ensure a comfortable fit for the patient. Optometrists can perform a number of tests to ensure the patient’s vision needs are met, including visual acuity, refraction, and overall eye health.

According to a study published by the Journal of the American Optometric Association, 44.8% of eyeglass lenses purchased online did not pass at least one optical or impact test parameter. This highlights the problem with accuracy in online glasses ordering.

child eye exam

Style Options

When patients purchase glasses online, it is difficult to determine the style before buying. They may view pictures with limited perspectives of the eyewear that doesn’t give them an accurate representation of the product. Unlike at an optometry practice where they can try on styles before ordering, online glasses purchasing can result in customers receiving eyewear products that don’t meet their expectations.

Personal Attention

Online eyewear stores may not always offer the same service as optometrists and their staff members to give patients the attention they need for their eyewear. Unlike trained optometrists who’ve made eyecare their profession, these online stores sell eyewear only as part of a for-profit business model.

How to Compete with Online Glasses Stores

As a brick-and-mortar optometrist, several strategies can help you compete with online optical retailers. For example, you can start targeted marketing campaigns and provide excellent customer service. The option of seamless online delivery directly to their homes can also increase the number of patients buying instantly from your practice.

Create a Targeted Marketing Plan

Developing a marketing plan can help you advertise your optical products and show the benefits of visiting your optometry office. For instance, you can create a social media calendar for posts about lens materials and why patients need to see their optometrist. In your posts, show patients that your opticians can provide personal service and a vast selection of frames for them to try on when they visit your clinic.

Offer incentives to patients who refer family and friends to encourage word-of-mouth referrals. You can create email campaigns with discount codes for patients when they refer family and friends to your practice. To promote your services, offer discounted items like prescription glasses with a free case.

Work with Multiple Vendors to Offer a Range of Styles

By partnering with major eyeglass frame suppliers, you can offer a variety of frames and lenses for your patients. Show off your available brands by organizing your opticals by brand name, emphasizing the premium features of your higher-end eyeglasses.

Your goal is to convince patients that getting the brand of glasses they want is part of creating a new look. Inside your practice, you can create displays with colorful eyeglass cases and chains to help patients take advantage of new style opportunities.

holding a pair of eyeglasses

Offer Exceptional Service

Employees at your practice are often the first point of contact for patients who need assistance choosing the right contacts, fitting their glasses, or understanding which ones fall under their vision insurance. To compete with online retailers, you can emphasize the importance of customer service and patient education to your staff members. Staff can learn about the various coatings of glasses and how to take the time to create precise measurements and a custom fit to meet or exceed patients’ expectations.

Provide Excellent Discounts

You can attract more patients and compete with online stores by offering new customers an introductory price on eyeglasses purchases. Give new patients a trial pair of contact lenses, and offer free travel-size solution bottles and shipping to their homes at no charge.

Offering your products and services at lower prices to special groups, such as students and seniors, can help you acquire new patients quickly. By offering these discounts, you can assess your practice’s popularity and make your practice an attractive alternative to online optical stores.

Offer Alternative Online Services

Your optometry practice can benefit greatly from offering online eye exams for contact lenses or glasses. People can access eye care more conveniently with virtual services, providing broader access to eye care. These exams can help you collect information about the patient’s medical and visual history and talk with patients about prescription  changes and diagnoses.

However, you can still emphasize the importance of visiting your practice for a comprehensive eye exam with online videos. Post videos that discuss getting precise measurements for glasses and ordering products directly from your office.

Use SmartFLOW for Contact Lens Orders

RevolutionEHR can help you compete with online retailers by optimizing your online ordering and shipping process using SmartFLOW. SmartFLOW is an automated contact lens ordering system that seamlessly integrates with RevolutionEHR’s all-in-one optometry EHR.

SmartFLOW offers a streamlined ordering process that connects you with vision vendors for quick, easy ordering that ships directly to patients’ homes. The platform can make your practice more competitive by helping your patients unmatched speed and real-time order status updates for a stress-free experience when ordering contacts while enjoying access to the professionals in your practice if they have questions or concerns.

Request a demo today to learn how RevolutionEHR gives your practice the freedom to stay competitive with online optical stores.

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