This year, the contact lens market is projected to reach $5.76 billion in sales and is expected to grow annually by 3-4%. Many optical businesses are taking advantage of this upward trajectory by offering a contact lens fulfillment service to meet the needs of the 45 million contact lens wearers in the United States.
However, not all contact lens services are created equally or optimized to position your business or practice for success.
Keep reading to learn more about:
- What an optimized contact lens fulfillment service looks like
- Characteristics of a great fulfillment partner
- How to choose the right contact lens fulfillment partner
What does an optimized contact lens fulfillment service look like?
A streamlined contact lens fulfillment process increases operational efficiency while promoting enhanced services to patients and customers. At a high level, four major components make up this process:
Inventory management focuses on the entire life cycle of inventory, from forecasting to procurement to storage and warehousing.
Successful inventory management starts with accurate demand forecasting that factors in historical sales data, market trends, product availability, and other components that influence buyers. From there, building supplier relationships is essential to negotiate favorable procurement terms and collaborate on future needs to avoid stockouts.
Storage for contact lenses requires specific controlled environmental conditions to prevent damage and deterioration. Warehouses must maintain an appropriate temperature and humidity as well as incorporate efficient layouts to optimize storage, track inventory, and simplify picking.
Technology and software solutions are crucial in streamlining order processing and minimizing errors in contact lens fulfillment. At the same time, the human side of order fulfillment—dedicated, well-trained employees and a culture of continuous improvement—can’t be underestimated or replaced by technology.
There isn’t a single stand-alone technology that can manage all aspects of order processing and fulfillment and ensure accuracy. A scaled fulfillment operation has successfully integrated all or most of the following processes, systems, and technologies (and potentially even more).
- Order management systems
- Automated order verification tools
- Prescription verification (where required by local policy)
- Inventory management systems
- eCommerce/ordering platforms
- Carrier systems
- Barcode/scanning technology, to track product going in and out of the warehouse
- Customer relationship and management tools
- Data and reporting systems and tools
This intricately designed combination of systems and processes is the lifeblood needed to maintain speed, accuracy, and compliance with state and federal regulations for distributing contact lenses.
Let’s think of distribution in three parts.
- Localized distribution: Having multiple regional distribution centers helps to localize inventory, ensure redundancy, and manage risk—especially in the case of something like an extreme weather event. And, when the product is closer to its end destination, shipping options will most likely be more flexible, faster, and cost less.
- Carrier relationships: An additional benefit of localized distribution is that it can be easier to negotiate favorable terms with carriers that have a strong presence in that region. Having different options for speed, storage, tracking, and special handling makes it easier to manage costs.
- Returns and exchanges: Customers may need to return or exchange their contact lenses for any number of reasons. Fulfillment partners need to have streamlined policies and processes (internally and with their carriers) to handle returns and exchanges efficiently. Without these, it’s difficult or impossible to ensure both good service to customers and quality control for returned products.
Successfully incorporating efforts across these three areas can take years to perfect. It requires expertise in logistics management and process, investment in infrastructure, dedication to building reliable carrier partnerships, and strong systems for coordination and visibility.
With the rise of eCommerce, customers have increasingly high expectations for fast, transparent, and reliable fulfillment. When something goes wrong, they expect to be able to communicate with the brand to get the issue resolved. However, the quality of customer care and support is extremely variable from company to company—and customer sentiment usually aligns with the level of quality.
To get it right, it’s crucial to ensure the following:
- Support is available when it’s needed and via multiple platforms in most cases.
- Customer service representatives (CSRs) are knowledgeable and trained to represent your brand.
- CSRs have access to the information they need to offer meaningful assistance, through systems integration and comprehensive order tracking.
What are the key attributes of a great contact lens fulfillment partner?
A great contact lens fulfillment partner helps businesses to build long-term relationships with their patients and customers by providing a simple and competitive service at every step of the process. Here are the characteristics to look for in a strong fulfillment partner:
A partner with deep knowledge of contact lens fulfillment has systems, processes, and infrastructure in place to effectively manage the life cycle of contact lenses. From successfully managing a vast inventory of contact lenses to offering fast and accurate deliveries, an operations-obsessed partner takes great lengths to ensure your business can offer great service at any scale.
A brand-focused partner is dedicated to making your business shine while delivering enhanced services to customers and patients. Whether it’s offering integration with your customer ordering systems, flexible delivery options, custom-branded packaging, or a knowledgeable customer support team, a brand-focused fulfillment partner goes above and beyond to ensure satisfaction.
A strong fulfillment partner actively seeks out ways to increase the value of your service. This can be achieved by offering competitive, transparent pricing, seeking out economies of scale, and optimizing processes at every step.
Choose the right contact lens fulfillment partner.
Whether you’re an optical store or online business, choosing the right fulfillment partner can enhance service levels, boost scalability, and ensure satisfaction.
Luna has the right combination of experience, process, and customer service you need to scale your business and deliver exceptional services to patients and customers.
Learn more about the benefits of optimizing your contact lens fulfillment service by watching this webinar. Hosted by Kellen Fowler, President of Luna, it reveals the business benefits of a streamlined fulfillment service, best practices, and more.
To discover how you can elevate your contact lens service, contact a vision expert at Luna today.