Awakened Abstract: Market’s don’t turn businesses bad, failure to respond to markets does…
Over the last year, I began to notice I was holding books a bit further away. And, getting headaches with increasing frequency.
Now, I’m 44 years old, I don’t wear glasses or contacts and the last time I went to an optometrist, my vision was 20:15. In fact, the guy laughed, sent me on my way and told me clients like me made it hard to pay his kids’ college tuition. Flash forward 5 years and it appears I’ve entered what’s known as the mid-40s vision-drift crowd. Still 20:20, but I now need reading glasses when writing or reading for long periods.
I learned this while visiting a new optometrist last week. After the exam, he shared, I’d love to sell you something, but my glasses range from $300-$700 and frankly you’d be better off grabbing a pair for $20 at CVS.
Thanks, I replied, then added, So, are you going anywhere for the holidays?
No, he said, business is really tough right now.
I’m new to this whole glasses thing, I replied, but I’m curious, what’s making it so hard? Is it the internet? Can people buy what you’re selling for a lot less online?
Bingo, he snapped back. You can’t imagine how many people come in, try on every pair of glasses in the store, write down every bit of information, even ask for model numbers, then, after using up an hour of my time, split never to be seen again. I’ve got retail rent to pay, inventory to carry and staff to take care of. But, the internet is killing us.
Little did he know, on the drive over, I’d actually called an eyeglass-wearing uber-geek friend and asked how the whole glasses thing worked these days. And, that friend confirmed the optometrist’s lament, sharing how he goes into the local eyeglass franchise, tries on glasses, buys for 70-90% less online then goes back to the local biz to get free adjustments.
I’m hearing a lot of people complain about how the market’s left them behind lately…
So, when my new optometrist friend brought up his “business” issues, my mind began to spin.
Okay, I said to him, from what you’re telling me, the market is moving strongly away from the model that supported the industry for generations. That’s something that doesn’t seem all that changeable and you don’t have any real interest in joining the fray online and trying to bang out a living by competing on price.
Yup, he replied, I like the people aspect.
Well, I added, if the trend you mentioned keeps on, it seems like you’re not going to be in business five years from now (yeah, I’m blunt like that, as my consulting client’s have discovered, lol). My question is, how can you tap the CHANGE in market to change your business model and provide a solution that is either still needed or has increased in a substantial way BECAUSE of the move to buy glasses online?
What if, I asked, you offered a new service?
Right now, web-buyers are the bane of your existence and you’d do anything to get them out of your store, so you can stop wasting your time on people who have no intention of buying from you. What if you looked at these folks differently and saw their new patterns as economic opportunities? New problems to be solved?
With the massive, demographic driven growth of the Boomers, the need for glasses is about to explode way beyond the size of the current market. But, unlike other “pure” commodities, potential buyers are very concerned about how their glasses:
- Fit, and
ON THEIR FACES!
And, once chosen, their glasses must be further customized with prescription lenses, so they want to choose right before ordering.
But, they also know they can order for a fraction of the price online.
So, let me ask you this, I said, what would happen if you kept your $50 exam service and credited that amount to purchases like you do now, but then added a second service that specifically accommodated and even reached out to all the people who are now the bane of your existence?
What if you launched a new web-purchase try-on service?
Charge somewhere between $35 and $50. People could come in, they’d get up to one-hour with a consultant to try on as many frames as they likeed. Then, they’d leave with a printout of every brand, model and list of 5 websites where they could buy them online. You’d also email them a copy with links directly to those product pages. They’d also get a photo-sheet of how they looked in their top 5 picks.
These folks could then either go home or buy online, most likely using the links you included in your email to them OR…they could buy online using the kiosks you’ve set up in your store that link through to the most reputable discount eyeglass websites. Either way, the links you provide them would be affiliate links, so every purchase would also give you an additional affiliate fee.
This new service would potentially:
- Capture revenue from an endless stream of people who are now “using” your store as a free try-on service with no intention of buying.
- Allow you to keep a way smaller inventory,
- Dramatically reduce carrying expenses. And
- Likely make you far busier, because now instead of people feeling awful about “scamming” you and knowing you know what they’re really up to, they’re feel great about it and will be far more likely to come and refer friends.
Well, what about the fee, came the reply?
I can’t answer, I said, I don’t know what the right price point for something like this is and I don’t know your business model well enough to make a seriously educated guess or understand the break-even and profit points. But, what I’m saying is…
The market is telling you that a service like that has value. Your job is to do something with that.
And, because they’re saving so much money because they can now buy the “commodity” side of what you’re selling for a good 75% less online, I wonder if they might see the expense of a high-touch try-on service as something worth paying for?
Plus, a certain percentage of those new people, folks who’d never have wandered into your shop in the first place, will end up getting an eye-exam ($50 upsell) and taking a liking to you. They’ll feel a sense of reciprocity, a need to support the little guy AND, because we tend to be addicted to the notion of “now,” a percentage of people who intended fully to avail themselves only of your try-on service will end up wanting their new glasses from you…now. And, they’ll realize they really do want a local guy to help them out when needed.
So, you’ll likely end up with higher traffic, selling those people in the store.
A few seconds passed as my new optometrist friend contemplated the idea, then, as most folks who’ve been wedded to an industry, a course of dealing and an age-old business model do…he laughed it off and moved on to something else.
Because when a market moves away from you, it’s not the market’s fault when you end up out of business.
It’s up to you to respond. That may mean changing your model, assumptions and solutions. And, yes, that may also mean short-term anxiety, pain and risk in the name of a renewed sense of long-term opportunity.
But, it also may do something else that terrifies many of us…
If the new model, assumptions and solutions, the ones the market now wants, no longer hold the same level of passion appeal to you, then it may be time to either innovate more or, painful as it may be, move into a different profession with a better mix of economic potential and passion satisfaction.
So, my question to you, as you gear up for 2010, is...
- Have you taken the time to look back at how your market has changed over the last year? To see where the pain points, needs and desires have moved?
- And, if they’ve put pressure on the way you’ve been doing business for years, have these changes opened up new opportunities that might require a bit of a leap of faith, but might also deliver both you and your business into the next generation?
- Or, have they stripped the essential qualities that made you come alive out of the business, leaving you with some bigger picture decisions to make?
Maybe it’s time to stop bleeding and complaining, maybe it’s time to evolve….
As always, just thinking out loud. What do YOU think?
Share your insights, questions and ideas below…
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