Selling sunglasses has become a much more difficult task than it used to be. You get found out very quickly if you don’t have a decently understanding of the sunglass category in general as an optical dispenser. With all the options available and the exposure to products that our customers have, we need to be able to offer more. We need more information, variety and customisation in their buying experience.
Our customers being exposed to the wider sunglass industry is a double-edged sword. Yes, it has inspired them to wear sunglasses more and to experiment with their look, but it has also created buying habits that lead away from our stores.
As we start to (finally) head towards spring and the warmer months, you and your team should have a sunglass plan in place for the busy period ahead. If you haven’t yet – don’t panic! By following my suggestions below, you should find yourself ready in no time.
Firstly, we need to be blunt with ourselves and understand what we’re up against. Most of us don’t have huge budgets to spend on marketing campaigns, entire ranges, or have 10 or more brand name collections. (If you do – PLEASE share your secret!)
Have a clear health message
We are in this industry because we care. We are in business for the long-term relationships and outcomes, not the one-off fast fashion sale.
So, make sure you focus on UV training. Every staff member should have two or three powerful points about sun damage and protection on the tip of their tongue at all times. Explaining the differences in sun lens qualities – without mentioning brands – is one easy way to cast doubt in a customer’s mind about purchasing unknown brands online.
Coming into spring, ALL staff should be well-informed and clear on:
- UV protection
- Lens colour options
- Difference between polarised and non-polarised
- Pros and cons of coatings, including front and / or back surface AR and mirror coatings
- Fitting – especially wrap sunglasses and how to adjust these.
- RX – RX range for all sunglasses in store
- How base curves effect RX in sunglasses
These points apply to both RX and non-RX sales.
Have a product range that fits your business
Take time to research what brands are available to you at the margins and RRP that works for your business. Keep the range wide, where possible, but try and make it have a story, ie. if there is a brand that doesn’t suit a customer’s needs, make it easy to transition to another brand you stock, seamlessly. Have sales reps or brand specialists visit your store to talk to staff about design highlights and marketing stories so that your staff know the audience your brands are being marketed to.
Have well-trained staff
To counteract the push from online sales, corporate chains and the general ‘fast fashion’ buying mentality (especially among millennials), we have to re-establish our profession and gain our customers’ trust. We need to be fantastic listeners, as well as speak their language and be able to educate them.
As always, listening in EVERYTHING. It is simply the most important skill to possess. Customers are reading and hearing information about their vision needs online, which mostly gets them confused, or is simply the wrong information for them. Having a discussion around their understanding of what they need and why, is the difference between keeping a customer and not.
By mimicking their body language, we can help them feel comfortable. Using terminology that resonates with them is helpful; you can pick this up by listening to them.
Take the time to explain the reasons why a particular pair of sunglasses would, or would not, be a good match for their lifestyle and requirements. Give them information specific to what they have communicated is important to THEM.
Pay attention to your customer and know what trends are likely to appeal to them. Ask questions that relate to what they are already wearing, and match these to the brands you have in store. For example, one of the sunglass trends coming into this summer combines pinks and other pastel coloured frames with gold-mirrored lenses. This is a trend you could discuss with, say, a female customer aged under 35. Knowing trends is more important than ever. Customers are inspired by what they see online, so we need to make sure we are too.
Take time and take care
Independent practices have an ability to connect with customers and get an outcome for them that combines what they want, with what they need. We are flexible, we have time, and we can customise the buying experience in a way that no online sale or corporate machine can.
By taking the time to know our sunglass products and having a natural way of communicating the value in them, we are sure to be ahead after the summer period by selling and educating based on eyecare first, and fashion second.
Emma Roberts, also known as The Eyewear Girl, has been in the Australian optical industry for over 17 years, starting out as a qualified optical mechanic and dispenser. She went on to optical training, store and business management, marketing and sales within the industry. Her passion has always been eye fashion; quality products sold by independent practices.