Interview with Dr Oliver Bohl

Dr Oliver Bohl, chairman of the focus group Digital Commerce in the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e.V., met with us to talk about digitalisation opportunities in the optics industry.

"One danger is to not recognise the digital change as such"

opti: How much potential do you see in the digitalisation of opticians?

Dr Oliver Bohl: Today, clients no longer see a difference in online and offline. They expect access to relevant information anywhere and at any time in every segment of trade. The greatest opportunity for opticians is in developing and offering added-value services.

This is how sales can be prepared by directly involving the client and using digital touchpoints (website, app). On site, the optician can then rely on the prepared information and focus on elevated customer consultation.

Some services can be offered directly online, and additional sales as well as delivery of replacement components can be processed via mail order. The connection of all contact points delivers the highest added-value for the customer.

opti: So, you see great opportunities in digitalisation for the optometric industry since, in your opinion, 90 percent of sales is achieved on site in comparison to the 10 percent online. Which study do you rely on and what do these numbers tell us about the digital future?

Dr Bohl: I base my statement only on sales figures, which measured about 3 to 5 percent in recent years, for example, in the frequently cited study of ZVA (German Optician and Optometrist Association). These studies always assume an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent.

"The customers can already be one step ahead of the retailers"

This potential will not necessarily only be spread among the pure players. Opticians on site should directly apply their familiarity and reputation also on digital channels. And taking the size of this market into account, it is also important to add glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses without corrective effects into this calculation. If you add these, a rate of more than 10 percent on online sales does not seem to be too much over the top already today.

opti: In your opinion, what are the reasons that industries such as optics have a hard time "getting used" to digitalisation?

Dr Bohl: One danger is to not recognise the digital change as such. In many industries, digital change is a successive process and no sudden break. It is important to identify opportunities, have experiences and adjust business models and processes early on. The customers can already be one step ahead of the retailers.

However, digital approaches are often still at the very beginning of their development due to their volume of sales. Therefore, one danger is that digital approaches play a subordinate role in comparison to strong-selling stores, which is why chances to promote digitalisation are missed.

opti: Which consequences do you see if the optics industry turns their backs on these new technologies? Can opticians learn from the mistakes other industries have made?

Dr Bohl: On the one hand, there is the danger of opticians not wanting to use innovative technologies such as 3D printing glasses. On the other hand, new services that provide customers with the higher convenience they request are established too late or not at all.

Moreover, only few members of the industry actively tap the potential of using digital touchpoints, for example, for directing customers into the stores on site. This opens the door for the pure players' attack.

Dr Oliver Bohl

Photo: Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e.V.

Dr Oliver Bohl, chairman of the focus group Digital Commerce in the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e.V.

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