DIY Optical eCommerce vs. Optify’s Omnichannel Solution – What You Need To Know
ECPs everywhere are beginning to realize that adding their optical inventory to a convenient online store is the key to modernizing their practice and the only way to compete with the big optical players these days.
Because independence is something many private practices value, most are tempted to put together their own eCommerce experience, just like they successfully put together their business years ago.
If you decide to go solo, how much time and labor will it cost you to build your own online optical shop from the ground up with a standard eCommerce solution? And how do you decide which course to take?
We’ve put together a list of the five biggest eCommerce platforms ODs gravitate towards and included some notes on what each has to offer from an optical perspective. This will give you an idea of what to expect if you or an ECP you know is weighing the options of creating a brand-friendly optical eCommerce site from scratch.
5 DIY Optical eCommerce Options
If you’ve done any sort of searching on the internet for an eCommerce hosting service, you’ve likely run across Shopify.
Shopify prides itself on being a user-friendly eCommerce solution that is accessible for those looking to get their offerings online. It comes with a clear interface to handle transactions and a variety of apps and themes that give a taste of personality to its storefronts. A free 90-day trial also lets you test some of Shopify’s website features, with the drawback being that you can’t make any sales without committing to a subscription plan.
Nevertheless, Shopify’s straightforward approach is bottlenecked by its limited scope. There are only a handful of free theme templates to choose from before microtransactions are required to buy more, even under an active subscription. Most of its data-managing apps (which would be vital for a private practice owner to use) are also gated behind subscription fees, assuming you even know which ones you need in the first place. Troubleshooting technical support is also hit-or-miss, typically sending you on a wild goose chase through forum posts to resolve the problem on your own. Most importantly, there are no optical features or EHR connections built into Shopify, leaving you with even more work on your end.
Shopify simply takes too much time and effort for an ECP to run and manage something so significant as an optical inventory. It might appeal to creators and smaller shop owners, but it's not ideal for a professional optometry clinic.
Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce is a completely free and open-source platform that offers far more flexibility to customize your online store exactly how you want it. A large community of users also surrounds the platform, meaning there are plenty of resources to learn how to use it.
Unfortunately, therein lies the problem: WooCommerce all but requires some coding knowledge to get the most out of it. Access to a site’s HTML, CSS, and PHP code allows the user to configure to their heart’s desire, but for those who are unfamiliar with coding language, the learning curve can be significant. Most ECPs probably won’t have the spare time to learn how to use the platform, let alone learn to use it well.
WooCommerce also lacks the built-in security measures compliant with HIPAA (such as SSL Certificate) and requires you to add it yourself through third-party plugins. The entire package is excellent for those who are already very technically adept and are looking for an open-source platform to host their store, but many private practice owners don’t fall into this demographic.
Another popular eCommerce platform is Squarespace, an all-in-one website builder geared toward running a successful business and optimizing SEO traffic. It offers comprehensive site tools that are easy to learn and pick up, and the platform itself integrates seamlessly with social media channels for good advertising options.
While Squarespace does boast a variety of simple eCommerce options that help with packaging, labeling, and transactions, its plans can be troublesome for your overall profits. The cheapest business plan charges 3% for every sale. The website designer itself, despite being intuitive compared to other options, isn’t always completely straightforward and will still require some assistance to master.
Additionally, since Squarespace isn’t specifically designed with an optical focus in mind, you’ll need to spend time manually photographing and listing every one of your frame options manually to populate your store—an ongoing and extremely tedious chore to undertake.
4. My Eye Store
Kicking off the selection of eCommerce solutions designed for optical shops specifically, My Eye Store is a decent pick on the surface. It’s one of the few platforms to integrate directly with Compulink, a commonly used EHR by many optometrists and ophthalmologists, allowing it to pull patient data. It also allows the user to sell contact lenses, sunglasses, reading glasses, and eye vitamins, in addition to frames.
However, My Eye Store isn’t as sturdy for the needs of an optical store as it may seem at first glance.
It lacks some of the key customer features that have become a staple in online frame shopping, like virtual try-on, home try-on, office try-on, and even prescription eyewear functionality. That’s right: customers are unable to directly purchase prescription lenses here, which is going to be a problem long-term. My Eye Store does not contain any automated marketing options either, so you’ll need to carve time to do all that work yourself. Onboarding is self-service, so internet searches will be your primary resource to learn how to use it.
5. My OD Online
My OD Online is another optical-focused eCommerce solution, and has a bit more versatility (at a more expensive price point) compared to My Eye Store. It has a nifty onboarding program that helps you get familiar with its capabilities, and even includes advanced optical features like virtual try-on and direct purchasing that are missing from other options.
Sadly, My OD Online does not connect with a customer’s insurance plan, meaning it will likely not be a patient’s first choice when they’re in the market for new glasses (which are considerable buys for most customers). Lens options within its catalog selection are limited, and like My Eye Store, all the marketing work is left up to you. It also lacks home try-on and office try-on features. Lacking these capabilities can sometimes be a deal breaker for customers who want to have a more tangible at-home alternative to virtual try-on.
As resourceful as My OD Online can be, there’s still simply a lot of involved for a busy OD to manage without hiring extra help or sacrificing valuable time of the staff they already have. And even after heavily investing in the platform, ECPs will still find themselves at a marketing disadvantage compared to the big optical brands.
The (Optical) Problems All Of These Platforms Share
The three problems that put these options off the table for good: time, labor, and HIPAA compliance.
1. Extra Time Commitment
As a private practice owner, you’re a busy person. On top of caring for your patients, you have your clinic’s day-to-day to manage. Your optical store, on the other hand, needs to be treated like an entirely separate business to be competative. These options require copious amounts of time—and the minutes of your day are already a precious resource. Each of the eCommerce options we listed demand some form of time commitment to either learn or operate them. Most ODs simply can’t afford to spare that time.
2. Excess Labor and Staff Resources
Then there’s the extra work involved in setting up your site, filling out your inventory, marketing your selection, designing an attractive layout, and running the store each day. This is an entire role in and of itself, and very few eye doctors have the energy to accomplish these tasks on top of their existing workload or staff time to give to this exclusively. You might get away with hiring new staff to help, but then you need to worry about onboarding time in addition to another salary to pay.
3. No HIPPA Compliance
Lastly—and most importantly—it’s dubious whether or not these eCommerce options comply with the security requirements of HIPAA, particularly when they connect to your EHR. Your reputation as a healthcare professional is something you can’t risk being tarnished by a data breach, so you’ll need to check with your platform of choice and do extra work and research to try to meet HIPAA’s standards before you sell anything– and even then it's still a risk.
The Solution: Optify
Why spend all this time worrying about how you’ll find time to build and manage your online optical store or whether it will meet HIPPA standards, when you can choose something that requires little time and already has HIPPA compliance built into its framework?
Optify was created specifically with private practice ECPs in mind – designed by an optician for opticians. Meet your turnkey optical eCommerce sidekick.
What Optify Provides That Other eCommerce Solutions Don't:
Fast and easy integration directly with your EHR and website
Automated marketing at critical moments in a buyer’s journey to keep patients engaged with your inventory
All of the advanced optical features customers are expecting to find online (virtual try-on and out-of-office shopping options).
Onboarding that takes under an hour for your team, making it quick to set up and start using.
Don’t settle for a DIY eCommerce solution for your optical practice. Hear what your peers are saying about using Optify and Book a 15-minute demo to learn how Optify is the solution you’ve been looking for all along.