Optical Laboratory Web Sites...What Makes a Winner?

By Christie Walker
Most optical laboratories are a behind-the-scenes operation. The lab isn’t -visible to the consumer and in most cases; it’s not visible to the ECP. An order is sent and “magically” a prescription is filled. Most consumers don’t even realize there is a lab somewhere that filled their prescription. So what is the “face” or the “interface” of the optical laboratory? Many labs will tell you it’s their customer service department, and that would be true. But with online ordering and more doctors connecting electronically for their medical records, another interface between lab and doctor is the lab’s Web site.

When LabTalk handed out the first Optical Laboratory Web Site of the Year award back in 2000, many of the sites were little more than billboards. Today, the sites are virtual store fronts with pages and pages of useful information and tools to make life easier for the ECP.

This year, we received 426 nominations from eyecare professionals, nominating their favorite lab Web site. From the top ten nominated sites, judges ranked the sites for look and feel, quality of content, and the value to the ECP. The judges noticed an overall improvement in the look and feel of some of the sites, with the functionality becoming richer.

Looking to improve your site and make it into the top ten? Here are some tips for making that leap from a billboard to a storefront.

What’s Your Purpose?

Ask yourself, what do you want your site to do? For example, are you trying to take pressure off of customer service by providing the answers to frequently asked questions that are clogging up the phone lines? Is your site going to be a resource of information, a place where forms, lens availability or price lists can be downloaded? Once you know what you want the site to accomplish, now it’s time to ask, what do your customers want?

Ask Your Customers

Many sites are created without any customer input. In the Web site contest, this becomes evident in the “value to the ECP” category. Even if you already have a Web site in place, it’s still a good idea to survey your customers to discover their preferences. If possible, put a virtual suggestion box on the Web site to gather ideas about what your customers find valuable. You might think your library of articles is the bomb, when your customers never go to those pages on your site. How would you know where they go? Free programs like Google Analytics will show you exactly which pages are visited, how long they stay on a particular page, and where they go next. While spending time on Google Analytics will give you a picture into the habits of your visitors without a survey, a suggestion box will let you know what they would want to see added to the site.

Keep Them Coming Back

For Web sites that have online ordering, there is a compelling reason for your customers to come back. Without online ordering, ask yourself, “Why would someone visit our site more than once?” Many labs want their customers to visit their site often to find out about specials, download forms, and learn company news. Options include newsletters, Q&A columns, articles on the latest technology, or company/industry news. Incorporating e-mail communications that send customers to your Web site to get the details on a monthly special is another way to drive traffic. But traffic isn’t sales, so make sure you go back to your purpose and examine everything you add to your site in light of what you are trying to accomplish.

Top Ten Web Sites

Need some ideas? Take a look at this year’s top ten Web sites. Below each site, you’ll find comments from the ECPs who nominated them. This will give you a good idea of what your customers are looking for when they come to your Web site.

OPTICAL LABORATORY WEB SITE OF THE YEAR:

Pech Optical

www.pechoptical.com

We like how frame selection is available to view as well as lab pricing information. Love how we can e-mail a rep with questions/concerns. The site is very easy to use and locate what you need. Love that you can order supplies on the site! Very good information and it’s always up-to-date. Pech keeps their Web site updated so that you are always getting the latest info from lens pricing to latest technology. I go for their events/classes and for their promotions. The site is very easy to navigate and very informative. It has every piece of information that I need and more. I rarely have to call the lab with inquiries because the Web site already provides me with the information that I’m looking for.

iCoat Company

www.icoatcompany.com

This site showcases new products, polls, and news of the optical world, plus videos. Great Web site; has everything about optical! Loaded with information and has layout charts for lenses. Well designed, easy to navigate, quick to use, so easy to navigate. Lets you know all the materials that the lenses come in; the tracking process is amazing. Beautiful Web site looks colorful but techy. Tabs work well, very easy to navigate. Functionality of Web site keeps me browsing longer, looking for new product offerings.

Classic Optical

www.classicoptical.com

This site is easy to use, with lots of great colors, and nice design. Very informative and user friendly. The Web site is very user-friendly and the info is very clear…that is very important to us. What I like most about Classic’s Web site is the user friendliness of it. It is extremely easy to order glasses and track your orders when needed. I have learned a lot from their site. Contacting them is easy and their employees are knowledgeable, friendly, professional, and quick to solve problems and give insight. Only allows me to order materials in the program I’m ordering from. Always works and I get an instant confirmation.

P.O.G. Lab

www.poglabs.com

I really like their web specials!!! It’s easy to get around. I can find information I need without a call. Love the convenience of printing my own labels and ease of finding price list online. Think the ease of getting around the site is great.

Katz & Klein

www.katzandklein.com

Like the quick quote as well as the virtual tour. Love the information, as well as the training tools for new employees. The site is helping me to learn more about my job. Like the lens info, program info, and education for staff. All good products and information that we need.

Luzerne Optical

www.luzerneoptical.com

There is a wealth of information, and site is updated frequently. It’s also easy to order via the site. I like the explanations of the products and their optical qualities. I also like the “new products” and current marketing trends. It is very user-friendly and informative. Since they carry so many different lens types and all of the industry’s new lenses, this is where I go to get information about the new products. The site lists their current promotions, links to other vendors, and news. Love the layout; plus it’s easy read.

Optical Prescription Lab

www.opticalprescriptionlab.com

The site helps our staff keep up-to-date with the latest technology in the optical world. What I like most about OPL’s Web site is that it is very user friendly. It is not so over populated with “stuff” that you get lost. Also, I love that there are actual pictures of the optical prescription lab and its staff on the Web site. If you have never been inside of OPL, you get a mental image of the lab and the friendly personal experience that you experience not just through there service but through there Web site as well. Like having the latest news and the ability to track RX orders.

Empire Optical

www.empireoptical.org

This site is very easy to use and always answers all of our questions. I like the Empire Optical Web site because you can find the information that you are looking for, it’s easy to navigate through, and it’s easy to see. I also like it because we like Empire Optical’s service and staff.

Hirsch Optical

www.hirschoptical.com

The fact that they made an effort to password protect pricing info that shouldn’t be seen by my customers or any retailer’s customers is important to us. They update Crizal and Varilux availability, monthly. It’s incredible how many progressives are on the market and it seems like a new one comes out every day; this site makes it easy to keep up. So detailed, so easy to use—I can find items immediately. There are several online ordering options. It is great that they added their history on the site.

Cherry Optical

www.cherryoptical.com

We like the lens information and availability charts. I like all of the info they have about their yearly show “Your Eyes University.” They introduce their employees and titles clearly. I enjoy that the site is quite easy to find out whatever it is I need to know.

CURRENT ISSUE


September/October 2014