Specsavers and the Power of the Brand

When Specsavers pops into your mind that is the power of the brand.

Monday morning, I get up, pick up my glasses from the bedside table, and the arm comes off in my hand. “Bad Words” A frustrating start to the morning, but sellotape did a good repair and later the superglue did a better job.

I have worn glasses since I was 19 years old. I had a few years of contact lenses. But that was too much screaming at the bathroom mirror, as I tried to get wet cellophane off my finger and into my eye. Laser surgery is out, those things are best used by Bond villains, so glasses are a fact of life.

Time to call Specsavers

The first job of the day when I at the desk is to call the optician. Now I have used Specsavers for years I guess it’s a habit I got into, and the two pairs for one deal has always been an attractive offer. It means that you can get a pair of glasses and get a second pair of prescription sunglasses at the same time.

I telephoned the Elgin store and said I need an appointment for an eye test. The assistant began to explain that there were no appointments to be had until the end of the month. However there might be a cancellation, there was, could I make Wednesday at 10.30.

So why are my optical arrangements interesting and how does it improve your business? Have you read the E Myth Revisited?

Specsavers is a Systemized Business.

They are an international company and have over 700 branches all over the country. Also in on researching this article I discovered that they turnover £2.7 Billion. That is a lot of glasses. But back to my optical journey.

Now Elgin is a small Scottish town about 45 thousand people. That branch/shop is fully booked for the month at the beginning of September. Now how did they achieve that? First, let’s follow my customer journey and look for clues.

I arrive on Wednesday morning at 10:25 for my 10:35 appointment. Remember small Scottish town middle of the week. The place was heaving with customers, people choosing frames or talking to staff. I forgot to do a staff count, but there were at least six people maybe more wandering around.

On booking in, I am shown to the waiting area, within moments whisked away by young women to do the visual health checks. These are machines that test the health of your eyes. They test the eyeball pressure and photograph the retina all early indicators of eye problems. She also offered me the opportunity to book a hearing test. To which I said “pardon” to be fair she did laugh, as if she had never heard that joke before. I will get to hearing business later.

Deskilled Processes

In the past, these test would have been done by the optician, but Specsavers have deskilled the process by training the support staff to carry out the tests. The results are attached to the patient file to be reviewed by the optician during the eye test.

I returned to the waiting area, just got out my notebook to work and was called into the examination room. 20 minutes give or take and we are done. Test complete he prints out a prescription and calls the desk for a dispensing optician.

The Sales Process

The dispensing optician (which is the salespeople for want of a better word) collected me from the examination room and showed me to a seat in the shop. He went through the options following the test and the examination notes. Then he suggests I go and look at some frames.

The dispensing optician is there to make you feel comfortable buying your glasses, they help and advise you what looks right on your face. They explain how the different frames might work with your prescription. However this is dressed it is a sales process, and at the end of the day, you are buying glasses.

I wonder how they would react If I had just left at this point?

I selected my frames, and two weeks later I get to collect them.

Power of the brand

So jumping forward two weeks, I am back in Specsavers to pick up these new glasses.

They explain my 90 Day 100% satisfaction guarantee. They give me a golden ticket (a 50% discount voucher) to buy more glasses. Plus detail of the hearing test and other services.

The System

What they’ve done is separate out the optician ( the skilled bit) from the time-consuming aspects of the process. They have created systems for every aspect of buying new glasses.

This is the standard operating procedure that ensures they are providing the best service to their customers and operating a profitable company.

As said above this is a £2.7billion operating at an international level.

The Power of Branding

The Specsavers process starts with the brand that is supported by TV and radio advertising.

“Should have gone to Specsavers!”

The catchphrase began in 2003, and the company developed a range of humorous advert of people making mistakes because that I don’t wear the right glasses.

The power of the brand and the message has loaded the market with this idea of that you should go to Specsavers. The advertising is backed up with leaflet drops and direct mail offers.

They also use digital marketing advert and remarketing campaigns. Every aspect of the marketing process explains their system and with the two for one offers as a key driver. They have also recognised that their ageing client group have hearing issues. Hearing aids are another high-value market sector, it must be competitive. But the sales cost is high around £1000 for a pair.


The Optical Business.

If you’re not into buying glasses, you don’t wear them you might need a little explanation. Traditionally going to the optician was an expensive process. My parents 20 years back would pay £200 or more for glasses. At Specsavers today they would be paying half that amount.

The optical industry was a profitable monopoly. Specsavers broke the mould because even with the incentives and discounts the margin on frames and lenses are good.

Over the last 15 years, the market for glasses has grown. Maybe it is the use of computer screens. But that fact is that 61% of the UK population needs optical correction and wear glasses or contact lenses.

Specsavers have ridden that curve and become a market disruptor. It is their systems and supply chain that has taken the money out of independent ophthalmic optician. Take a look at your high street how many independents can you see?

Sales and Marketing Lessons

What can we learn from the journey of my glasses?

1) How can you build a brand that fits the market need and is recognisable for your core message and value?

“Should have gone to spec savers.”

2) How can you add systems to your business to make the customer journey as smooth and efficient as possible?

The Specsavers Process
Appointment, Pre-test, Eye Test with Optician, Dispensing Opticians sells frames. The glasses collection and guarantee.

3) How can you maximise your opportunities from your current customers?

Specsavers: Use direct mail for eye test reminder. They use leaflet drops and digital marketing. On the completion of the sale, they offer discounts for a repeat sale, or the option to pass on the discount.

What do you need to do in your business to replicate the Specsavers success?

I would suggest a strategy…


The Follow-On Story

There is a sting in the tail of this story. There is a new disruptor in the market, and that is the online sales and distribution retailers.

Power of the brand While there will always be people that want the personal service. There is a growing interest in buying glasses using web-based technology. Currently, it requires an up to date prescription, so an external test is needed. However, the websites give the user an opportunity to see the frame on an image of your face, and they will send out frame samples for trial at home.

The online trade is small at the moment, but it will grow as the younger generation who are more comfortable with online purchases age and need glasses. Also as technology changes who is to say that remote eye tests are not possible?

I guess that Specsavers will rise to the challenge and offer a competing service at some point. They have the resources to put up a fight. They would be well to take heed. Blockbuster ignored Netflicks until it was too late.


The important point is, have a strategy