The COVID-19 pandemic has created an e-commerce surge, with technology serving as the vehicle between consumers and products. For consumers who have lived through more than a year of in-person restrictions, going to brick-and-mortar stores to buy items may seem like a thing of the past, especially when online shopping has become faster and more convenient during the pandemic.
This increase in online shopping is not exclusive to commercial goods — it has become more common for people to take advantage of online retail to conveniently purchase care items they regularly need, including eyewear.
HR professionals and health plans can be a critical resource in helping employees understand how to access their vision benefits and, specifically, how that access extends to a digital medium. Identifying the reasons why members may want to opt for online retail to purchase their glasses and contacts will also be helpful when guiding employees toward their available options.
Convenience Is a Game-Changer
To use Versant Health as an example, we saw a 133% increase in online retail claims from March to December 2020, with coinciding decreases in brick-and-mortar store sales. When thinking about why that may be, convenience is a major factor to consider. Through online channels, consumers need to only upload their prescription and choose from hundreds of eyewear options. There are even more options for contact lenses, with the ability to automatically ship refills at the desired time interval.
With the click of a button, consumers are able to access many eyewear options, and in the pandemic, online shopping has become a highly valuable resource with post-pandemic staying power. Keep in mind that online shopping is a complement to in-person care — members should still see their eye care professionals for routine, preventative care and prescriptions. However, online retail helps meet the eyewear needs of many employees and members with varied tastes, needs, time and budgets.
Generational Preferences Are Taking Over
The majority of Versant Health’s online eyewear claims in 2020 were made by Millennials (ages 24-39), reflecting generational shopping preferences. Most Millennials — who became the largest generation in the workforce a few years ago, according to Pew Research — grew up in the digital age, which demonstrates their familiarity and comfortability in using virtual methods to shop.
Additionally, online shopping allows for reviews, which can provide helpful insight before making a purchase. Reviews often provide a more comprehensive picture and individual case studies, which is why many people, especially Millennials and younger individuals, may prefer online shopping. Consumers trust online reviews so much so that negative reviews can be the difference in whether a purchase is made or not.
It is imperative that HR professionals and health plans adjust their benefits access conversations to a workforce that is digitally native and a care marketplace that is increasingly diverse and tech-focused. Many employees are not only familiar but actually prefer accessing their benefits online, so having those conversations will be essential to ensure employees and members are satisfied.
Cost Savings Are Key
Employees living in the evolving post-pandemic retail landscape must know how purchasing glasses and contacts online integrates with their vision benefits. We’re continuing to track consumer trends within the industry and across the broader retail landscape, to ensure we’re meeting the eyewear needs of our members — and we encourage HR professionals and health plans do the same.
About the Author
Scott Hamey is executive vice president of strategy and manufacturing at Versant Health.