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Eye on Retail: How to Bridge the Digital and Physical Store Experience

Bill Vaughan, President, VSP Global Retail
Bill Vaughan, President, VSP Global Retail

Bill Vaughan, President, VSP Global Retail

Despite reports of a retail apocalypse, we’re actually in the midst of a renaissance. The best retail brands are bridging digital and physical stores with high-touch experiences, curated product assortments, and consistent brand experience. Consumers are paying attention and rewarding those who adapt.

This summer, after years of selling eyewear and contact lenses exclusively online at Eyeconic.com, we opened two physical stores in Chicago to expand our footprint and provide more access.

We conducted market and demographic research to target our ideal customer segments better, going beyond traditional psychographic profiles. We wanted to create a new kind of visual experience that catered to the needs of retail-minded consumers, especially those in Chicago’s urban core who were looking for something different. Throughout the process, one attribute weighed above all other considerations: Be true to our brand values.

Eyeconic is a wholly-owned retail arm of VSP Global, whose businesses include VSP Vision Care—the country’s largest and only not-for-profit vision insurance provider. On balance, Eyeconic is focused on demystifying frame fit and simplifying lens selection, while championing the importance of eye health and connecting patients with VSP network Doctors of Optometry for comprehensive eye exams. To amplify our digital experience in a traditional retail footprint, we focused on what our customers loved most about online shopping. That meant ensuring we delivered the latest eyewear, transparent pricing, and a no-pressure sales environment.

  Finally, our decision to expand into traditional retail was reinforced with the power of data‚Äč  

Our stores feature a hand-selected lineup of over 500 frame facings based on local preferences. An endless aisle integration with our site expands choice to over 2,000 styles and offers the convenience of virtual try-on, in-store pick-up, or delivery right to your home or optometrist’s office.

Visually, store design feels warm and approachable and mirrors what our customers see online with the same seamless insurance process. In-network VSP members are delighted by the savings they receive, while private pay shoppers or those with other insurance plans can find affordable options and high-quality experience, too.Our physical brand expression is an opportunity for us to go deeper and help our customers look their best and see clearly.

As a doctor-founded, doctor-governed organization, health and wellness is at our core. So, we partnered with a VSP network doctor and brought state-of-the-art exam technology into our stores so customers can receive a full, comprehensive eye exam that looks at the overall health of the eyes—not just a simple vision screening.

Finally, our decision to expand into traditional retail was reinforced with the power of data.

In Chicago, we saw an opportunity to help minimize some VSP members from going out of network—particularly those who preferred getting their eye care and eyewear from retail settings, even if it meant not getting the full value of their benefits. We also identified a unique, uncommitted consumer looking for a balance between price, quality, and experience. Eyeconic helps meet those needs and the needs of roughly 20 percent of folks who prefer to shop at retail or online-based solutions instead of traditional private practice.

As a digitally native brand, we’re excited by the current clicks-to-bricks evolution—especially when you look at it through the lens of offering differentiated eye care and eyewear-buying experience grounded in personalization, choice, and well-being.

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