Are You Letting Money Slip Away? Computer Lenses, a Lucrative Niche

By Julie Bos
Many call them computer lenses or task lenses. Some refer to them as small office environment or occupational lenses. Others call them near variable focus (NVF) lenses. Regardless of the varied names they go by, these lenses have a singular purpose: to provide people with the widest midrange viewing for occupational tasks, deskwork and hobbies. Offering better correction for intermediate vision than general-purpose PALs, these lenses also offer reading power at the bottom of the lens and some distance (up to about 13 feet) at the lens top.

This is a departure from general-purpose progressive lenses, which prioritize excellent distance vision and good reading vision—oftentimes at the expense of intermediate vision.

With NVF lenses, however, manufacturers changed the design priorities—choosing to optimize near and intermediate vision instead. Because of this unique design, NVF lenses are being praised by an every-increasing number of users. Why the growing popularity?

The Numbers Speak for Themselves

In a recent study conducted by PRIO Corporation, subjects overwhelmingly preferred NVF lenses to progressive lenses for computer use. The survey took current wearers of premium progressive lenses who spend a minimum of three hours daily at the computer, and fitted them with NVF lenses.

The results were very positive. In fact, 81 percent preferred NVF lenses over standard progressives, with 70 percent stating a “strong preference.” Likewise, 84 percent of participants experienced the lowest level of computer eyestrain with the NVF lenses; 86 percent reported the best clarity with NVF lenses; and 89 percent said they required less head movement with NVF lenses.

Sales Roadblocks

Despite the rising popularity of NVF lenses and their promise of better intermediate vision, this lens category is growing slowly. Why?

According to Jon Torrey, president of PRIO Corp., the slow growth may be attributed to a number of small issues, including: Inconsistent Ordering Processes—Many ECPs have tried NVF lenses in the past, but experienced problems with testing, ordering or fitting. That’s because lens manufacturers all have slightly different requirements for recommending, fitting and ordering these lenses, doctors are often confused about what information the labs need to process the lens and ensure proper placement of the powers.

Misconceptions About Progressive Lenses

Another factor is patients’ false belief that progressive lenses can “do it all” and meet all their vision correction needs.

Cost—When a patient’s vision care plan only covers one pair of glasses a year, it’s tough convincing him that he needs a second or third pair of glasses for a specific task or hobby.

Uncertainty of the Problem—A secretary that spends eight hours a day behind the computer may not realize that her continual eyestrain, headaches and back/neck pain could be related to her vision. She may try to resolve her problem with other solutions, such as a more ergonomic chair, a lumbar support device or glare-resistant computer monitor. Lack of Information—Although NVF lenses have been around for about 10 years, they are still catching on with the industry, and relatively few ECPs are regularly discussing the benefits of NVF lenses with their patients.

Ways to Increase Sales

Despite these challenges, your lab can take a number of steps to drive its NVF category sales and encourage ECPs to do the same. Consider the following strategies.

Focus on Education

Believe it or not, there are still a lot of ECPs who have never ordered a pair of computer lenses, and may not even be aware that the category exists. Pam Gibson of Pech Optical (Sioux City, Iowa), shares some tips her lab uses to achieve success:

• Spend time educating the relevant people in your lab, including the customer service manager, servicing department manager, finishing department manager and marketing/sales manager.

• Take advantage of opportunities for screen savers and informational displays—either bulletin-board fashion, or “did you know” type reminders around the office.

• Conduct seminars for ECPs on computer vision whenever possible, teaching them to ask questions related to computer-related vision problems and discussing the benefits of lenses specifically designed for the work environment (e.g., reduced stress, eye fatigue, increased productivity).

• Help ECPs create an educational campaign to attract local business people who may not need any other glasses.

• Help ECPs capitalize on their current customer base and position NVF lenses as a lucrative add-on sale.

Clarify and Standardize the Testing/Ordering Processes

Take steps to eliminate the guesswork for ECPs interested in this lens category. Define exactly how you want ECPs to provide the RX information for NVF lenses. Then, create some product materials or ordering guides that will assist in the ordering process. Or encourage ECPs to invest in PRIO Tester or Shazam! Lens Calculator, a Windows software utility developed by PRIO Corporation, which helps doctors and dispensers determine the best lens for a patient and simplifies the lens ordering process.

Outfit Your Employees

Anybody in your office that spends a lot of time on the computer should be wearing a pair of NVF lenses. This will give staff members who are taking orders and answering customer service questions firsthand product knowledge—and a chance to promote them personally.

Create Affordable Packages

NVF lenses are almost always purchased as a second or third pair. Consider packaging a progressive lens with a pair of NVF lenses for a discounted price. Or create a “standard” package that includes a NVF lens, affordable (non-designer) frame, and basic, one-year anti-reflective (AR) coating at an affordable, all-inclusive price.

“Today, NVF lenses represent between three and five percent of the lens market, but considering the prevalence of computers—and computer users—they ought to be a third of the market,” said Torrey. “The beauty of this lens category is that when a you have a chance to educate people on the benefits of these glasses, they really do sell themselves.”

The Most Likely Prospects

Although most people refer to NVF lenses as “computer lenses,” the truth is that people in many professions could benefit from these lenses—not just the ones who sit behind a computer. For example, prime candidates are those in visually demanding occupations, such as:

• Auto mechanics

• Architects

• Chefs

• Florists

• Graphic designers

• Hair stylists

• Hobby enthusiasts (e.g., sewing, painting, carpentry)

• Lab technicians

• Musicians

• Physicians

Market Selection

Within this category, the selection of specific lenses is plentiful. For example, ECPs can choose from a wide variety of manufacturers products, including:

• Access (SOLA)

• Business (ZEISS)

• Interview (Essilor of America)

• Nikon Online (Essilor of America)

• PRIO Browser

• PRIO Computer Lens

• Shamir Office

Did You Know? • Studies have shown that as many as 90% suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). • New studies indicate a significant correlation between workplace productivity and computer vision problems • The American Optometric Association has stated that 70-75 percent of all computer users need computer eyewear. • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that CVS is more common than carpal tunnel syndrome and the number one office-related complaint.

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August/September LabTalk 2017