The Optical Industry: 3 Tips to Consider When Marketing to Millennials™

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

Summary of key facts:

  • Millennials control 21 percent of Consumer Discretionary Purchasing Power in the US or $1.3 Trillion.
  • Today’s Millennial consumer is more likely to influence older generations on “what’s fashion forward” with respect to eyewear and more.
  • According to Barkley’s “Millennials as New Parents: The Rise of a New American Pragmatism,” new implications for marketing to Millennials as parents is that “Useful is the new essential” and tech simplicity will be valued more than ever by time-pressed, digitally-comfortable consumer brand partners.
  • 16.6 percent of Millennials shop their optometrist for eyewear and 13 percent shop Walmart Vision Centers whereas only 9.1 percent of the adult population said they shop Walmart Vision Centers. Wal-Mart and Target have strong corporate (“host”) brands that confer certain evoked brand benefits to Optical.

Let’s explore some considerations that optical retailers should keep in mind when marketing to and with the Millennial consumer.

Tip #1: Fashion Trumps Comfort

Millennials are more focused on keeping up with the latest fashions and being unique than the overall adult population. In a recent survey, 31 percent of Millennials responded that they like to keep up with the latest fashion trends vs. the 21.7 percent within the overall adult population. Millennials are also more image-conscious in relation to designer brands than the overall adult population. It should also be noted within the fashion consideration that Millennial consumers said they are less conservative and care less about comfort than the overall adult optical consumer.

Overall Millennials like to make a unique, personal statement. This is something to be considered for allowing Gen Y to customize their lenses in brand, color, fit and more. Retailers should have the latest designer brands on hand to appeal to the Millennial consumer.

Finally, according to Barkley’s initial survey “American Millennials: Deciphering The Enigma Generation,” if you are selling in the fashion retail space then your store associates better be able to reflect fashion in what they say, wear and do in store.  Nothing will create a #fashionfail faster than store associates who are unable to deliver the brand image.

Tip #2: Create High Participation/High Shareworthy Brand Experiences

Millennials are significantly more likely to purchase their eyewear online than all prescription eyeglass/contact lens wearers (200 Index).

Warby Parker is one brand that comes to mind when looking at the online optical retail space. The brand was not the first to adopt the sale of eyewear online, but they were the first to do so with a highly differentiated consumer journey. Warby Parker has a medium to high participation/high shareworthy outcome that is designed into their business model for maximum impact.

The one for one model, try before you buy and low-cost eyewear are just a few of the reasons they have set themselves apart as a disruptor brand within the category. It also doesn’t hurt that 45 percent of Millennials said they were more likely to buy a brand they know supports a charity (see research tab on

40 percent of online eyeglass purchasers are Millennials. The online channel is overall small compared to traditional optical centers, but the level of confidence that Millennials have in their ability to customize a personal product without an actual live-fit is something to be noted.

Tip #3: Use “Blue Ocean” Thinking: Who Will Be The Next Disruptor?

Warby Parker may have been the most recent category disruptor but it is often very difficult to repeat. Consider creating new business models that are more consumer-centric.  Millennials have little equity in old schemas.

A few questions to get you started:

  1. Are their significant unmet consumer needs?
  2. What is the most tech-friendly solution to allow for customization and personalization?
  3. Did you design brand experiences that merit sharing?
  4. How can you move your consumer’s journey away from a transactional experience to a sharable experience long after the transaction has occurred?

Julie Ray contributed to this post. 

Photo Credit: Flickr via Roitschlcarurs

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.