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Industry focus: In the US, bargain hunters want eyeglasses online

Current industry observations following the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act

Because of concentration in the online eyeglasses industry, it can be expected that the sales of online eyewear will grow somewhat slower than predicted. Yet e-commerce is still growing and consumer behavior is changing, globally. This makes a sensitive item such as glasses, a worthy topic to discuss in relation to e-commerce.


For the last 15 years, the online eyeglasses and also the contact lens sales industry has been benefiting due to changes in legislation. We are referring to the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act which has made it possible for consumers to receive contact lens prescriptions without being under an obligation to purchase any products from one particular seller.

Because of this legislation, the optometrist which is providing prescriptions can no longer demand that people who make use of their services purchase those contact lenses or other products from them. This is providing online eyeglasses suppliers with an opportunity to provide their products directly to consumers who have already obtained prescriptions. There is also the issue of increasing numbers of senior citizens that are also ensuring that a lot of business is going to online providers of eyeglasses and contact lenses. According to statistics more than 4 million adults above the age of 40 has some kind of visual impairment. These and other statistics is available from the national eye Institute.

What is happening in the US market?


Over the last five years there was industry growth of almost 4.5% in the online eyeglasses and contact lens sales segment. This has resulted in a revenue of more than $1 billion in 2019. Over this same period of time, the number of available online businesses was growing by more than 4.5%. The number of people who are employed in this industry has grown by 6.5%. There are currently more than 1500 businesses providing eyeglasses online. Employment levels in this industry are just below 11,000. The online eyeglasses industry provides many products such as nonprescription eyeglasses and contact lenses, sunglasses and many similar products. They are nevertheless many things which are posing significant threats to the online eyeglasses industry. It has been noted that a significant portion of optical care is funded by vision and private health insurance. It can, therefore, be expected that any increase in the number of people with access to private health insurance might also result in more visits to an optometrist. Statistics seem to indicate that there will be a substantial increase in people with private health insurance in 2019. There is however a significant amount of influence from the political sector which is resulting in a lot of uncertainty as far as private health insurance is concerned. This could make things difficult for the online eyeglasses industry.

There are other important considerations


There are many other factors which are threatening the online eyeglasses industry. It is expected that as the Internet and computer usage increase this will also lead to an increase in the confidence of consumers when it comes to online purchases. Increasing numbers of people can, therefore, be expected to purchase a whole range of products online and this also includes eyeglasses and contact lenses. It is also expected that broadband connections will increase substantially in 2019 which will provide the industry with additional opportunities. It must be remembered that eyeglasses are sensitive products which can be easily damaged and that may require a person to get new glasses. This can be very costly especially if a person does not have health insurance. In one instance an eight-year-old boy has broken six pairs of prescription glasses in one year. Having them replaced by conventional means can be very costly. Fortunately, the parents of this boy obtained those replacements online at only $25 a pair which included the frames and lenses. Naturally, they were only too happy that this option was available to them. Especially when it comes to growing children online options seem to make a lot of sense. Accidents are going to happen and naturally, parents are going to look for the most cost-effective method when it comes to those replacements.

Eyeglasses for only six dollars: Yes, consumers are price sensitive!


This is where it gets interesting: For many consumers, price sensitivity is a key consideration. That is precisely why many people are turning to online providers of eyeglasses in order to purchase prescription eyewear. There are many popular online prescription glass retailers such as, Zenni, Warby Parker and EyeBuyDirect where it is apparently possible to purchase eyeglasses for as little as six dollars. This is a different picture from the one where consumers are frequently paying hundreds of dollars for prescription eyeglasses when they go to conventional optometrists and similar businesses. At this point in time, the online sales of prescription eyeglasses are still rather insignificant. According to statistics, approximately 4 to 10% of all prescription glasses are obtained online. However, increasing numbers of people are now becoming aware of those opportunities. This is resulting in a situation where online sales are slowly increasing. In the decade between 2007 and 2017, the industry has grown by 600%. In the last year alone more than $600 million worth of prescription eyeglasses were purchased online.

Virginia Sagal

Virginia Sagal interviews CEO's from around the world and writes about Tech / Fintech / Medical and Tourism. She majored in business management, is a yoga instructor and world traveller. She cares about sustainability, environmental issues an ethical consumerism.
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