Eyewear industry is resilient: 3 T’s that will power the “restart engine”: Akash Goyle, Country Manager and Managing Director, Luxottica India
Technology can play a big role in shortening consumer stay inside the store and at the same time in making the experience more engaging writes Akash Goyle.
The Eyewear Industry has had a strong growth run for well over a decade in India. Growth fuelled by increase in awareness around vision care and by rising aspirations of increasingly style conscious consumers. The industry has seen a retail revolution with investments in world-class stores, offering a wide variety of brands and latest fashion trends for their discerning consumers.
In February 2020, the industry was looking forward to another great year and we, along with our key customers, were finalising plans for travel to Milan for showcase of the SS 2020 Collection. There were some rumblings in the media about a virus beginning to impact the Lombardy region in Italy. For the sake of caution, we cancelled the trip. In the coming weeks, the scale and spread of Covid-19 started to sink in. It became apparent that we were going to be in this for a while and may never return to old ways of working.
The social, health and economic crisis related to the pandemic has impacted the eyewear industry too. With retail stores closed across the country, the industry has struggled in these past few months. However, with every crisis, there also comes opportunity. During lockdown, the industry has taken the opportunity to reflect, challenge and learn. I believe that the post Covid growth of this industry will be driven by the 3 T’s – Trust, Training and Technology.
‘Trust’ has always been the cornerstone of eyewear retail. It is very common to find families across generations coming to the same optician. As our retail partners start opening their stores, we see them going all out to reinforce this trust by implementing robust health and safety protocols inside the stores. These include appointment-based selling to limit consumers inside the store, sanitization of eyewear before and after each trial, providing a safe and clean environment for eye exams, thermal scanning, face masks, gloves etc. These real and overt actions signifying safety are critical in ensuring continued patronage of their consumers.
I believe that post lockdown, consumers will emerge gradually and will be very cautious, which will require the store staff to have high levels of empathy. Here training will play a crucial role. I see many companies and retail stores in the industry, actively engaging in formulating and training on ideal operating procedures for the post lockdown world. Training on dealing with a cautious customer, understanding his/her requirement first and then suggesting the products (hence limiting contact), training on brands to enable storytelling and to enhance the instore experience. As the consumers emerge from the lockdown, they will be looking at fashionable eyewear as one of the categories to reward themselves. Their need for an enjoyable shopping experience at the store will be same, if not more.
Eyewear is a planned purchase and the consumer desires an immersive shopping experience including trying on products before buying. This is best delivered at a physical store. However, technology can play a big role in shortening consumer stay inside the store and at the same time in making the experience more engaging. One such way is the webstores and digital presentation of curated collections that can help shortlisting of products at home, which can then be physically tried-on for final selection and purchase at the store.
Another fascinating technology is the Virtual Try-On, a confluence of digital and physical at the retail store. We, at Luxottica are pioneering a new tool that will help our partner stores to allow their consumers to virtually try-on our entire assortment, of all our brands, irrespective of whether the store has the physical product or not. This on one hand ensures that the consumers do not have to physically try many products (and thus limit exposure) and on the other hand enables the retailer to offer a very wide variety of products, even when not in his inventory.
The eyewear industry is resilient and the same growth drivers will be there post-pandemic i.e. growing awareness around vision care and consumer’s growing love of brands. Now, the growing awareness around ‘Protection’ will further fuel the growth of specific categories like sunglasses, clear glasses, and goggles. The underlying need of the customer here is - 'Clear Vision for a Better Quality of life' - which cannot be postponed or substituted. I am confident that as the markets open-up, our consumers will be able to shop in a safe, immersive, and experiential environment. I firmly believe the eyewear industry will come out of this crisis stronger than ever.
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