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- Country Manager & Managing Director, Luxottica India
The Eyewear Industry has had a great growth run for well over a decade in India. While the increasing awareness around vision care and growing aspirations of the Indian consuming class have played an important role, the growth has also been fuelled by increasing accessibility to quality vision care services. The Industry has seen a retail revolution of sorts with investments in world-class stores, offering not only a wide variety of brands and latest fashion trends for our discerning consumers but also providing access to the latest in technology for quality vision care services.
The Social, Health and Economic crisis related to Covid 19 has impacted the Eyewear Industry too. With the lockdowns, partial lockdowns, and restrictions being announced every day, the scale and impact of this unprecedented event are starting to sink in. It is becoming apparent that we are going to be in this for a while and perhaps need to accept that we might never return to old ways of working. In the current scenario, faced with existential issues like falling demand, rising costs, cash flow issues, supply chain disruptions, it is very easy to lose hope.
However, even though the impact of the current crisis is very real and apparent now, the Eyewear Industry is resilient and has very strong foundations, which hold a bright future ahead. At the same time, it is also pertinent that the Industry evolves and adapts to the new dynamics of retail. Going forward the consumer behaviour and retail dynamics will shift and would require all of us to adapt to the new abnormal. I believe that this Industry will come out stronger in the Post Covid world, leveraging the 3 T’s – Trust, Training and Technology:
‘Trust’ has always been the cornerstone for Eyewear Retail. This Trust has been built over many years and it is very common to find families across generations trusting the same optician with their vision care needs. However, in the current scenario, the same consumer is apprehensive to walk into stores. The need of the hour is to reinforce and build this Trust (built over many years) and to reassure this consumer.
The Optical Retail ecosystem in India was very quick to define and implement a robust health and safety protocol inside the stores, which was a very important first step. Now, these protocols and associated services need to be adopted and reinforced as part of a normal daily routine. Such real and overt actions prioritising the well-being of consumers are critical in reinforcing this Trust. We must accept that many of these new protocols are good practices and the consumer will start expecting the same as a part of quality vision care service going forward.
Over the past few years, many retailers have embraced training and have made it a fundamental pillar of their sales strategy. We have seen a lot of interest in our Training Sessions around brands, products, and design. However, in the post-Covid world, Training also needs to incorporate the need for high levels of empathy, required by the store staff to deal with the changing consumer behaviour. The key areas where I see Training needs would be – dealing with a cautious customer, understanding the consumer need and shortening the journey, dealing with the consumer mindset in these uncertain times, customised training content to enable storytelling for brands and enhancing the in-store experience.
An important point here is that Training must become more democratic and accessible. It must move away from a scheduled classroom-type session to ‘Training on Demand’ accessible to all at any time. We have seen a very strong response for our Luxottica University Online Training Platform, which allows individuals to take short courses as per their own needs and allows the Managers to keep track of their employee’s Training journey.
“Digital presentation of curated collections can help consumers to shortlist products at home, which can then be physically tried on for final selection and purchase at the store”
Eyewear is a planned purchase and the Consumer’s need for an immersive shopping experience including physical touch and feel, and vision testing (in case of spectacles), is best delivered only at a physical store. On the other hand, Online shopping offers the unique ability to the consumer to speak directly with the Brand, in a personal and consistent way. Going forward, Technology will play a very important role in bringing about a confluence of the Physical and Digital world. This will make the Consumer Shopping experience more engaging, personal and enjoyable.
At Luxottica, we are pioneering a state-of-the-art digital tool called ‘Smart Shopper’ which is now ready to be launched in India. This digital tool requires just a Tablet (Android/IOS) and will allow the consumers at our partner stores to explore and Virtually Try-On any product from our entire assortment, from our entire brand portfolio, 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 will enable our Retailer Partner to cater to all types of consumers, by offering the entire assortment of Luxottica, even when the same are not in his inventory.
Apart from enhancing the selling experience at the point of sale, Technology will also play an important role in shortening the Consumer journey in-store. One such way is the web stores and digital presentation of curated collections that can help to shortlist products at home, which can then be physically tried on for final selection and purchase at the store.
In conclusion, the future of the Eyewear Industry remains ‘Clear and Sunny’. The fundamentals which drove the growth in the past i.e. growing awareness around Vision Care, rising accessibility and consumer’s growing love of brands will continue to fuel growth. The Industry takes care of an underlying need of the customer – ‘Clear Vision for a Better Quality of life’ – this cannot be postponed or substituted. Together, we have the resilience and agility required to tide over the current crisis. I am sure that we will come out of this stronger than ever.
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