The high street you need, or the high street you want?: Neil Harvey

2nd September 2020

Following Jeff’s blog from last week on the ‘new’ high street, I urge you to walk up and down your local high street without a plan. Just wander. Take in all the nooks and crannies. Look up at some of the architecture above the cookie-cutter facades of modern retail. Look at the faded brand names on the stores that say ‘closing down’ but in reality shut their doors long ago. Look at the ones sadly struggling with the hastily improvised COVID government recommendations. And just look at the ones that are thriving in spite of the worst that biology and business rates can throw at them. Change is rapid, rapid in both directions. To stand still is to fall behind.

Need vs want.

We all need a big shop. We need 750g of Corn Flakes, the ‘big’ Lurpak, a multi-pack of cotton buds and 40 pouches of cat food. Nobody wants these things; we just have to get them, and we’ll use the most convenient way of getting them into our kitchen cupboards. Covid has nudged hundreds of thousands of us out of supermarkets and confidently into a digital customer experience. The trust established in the store, is now driving advocacy in a digital marketplace customer want to engage with and frankly, have come to demand.

Retail myopia.

There’s a chance you’re selling to the last few people who would describe their optician as something they ‘need’. Soon, they too will find another way. So many retailers are trapped in an ever-decreasing circle – surrounded by tightening margins, increasing overheads and dwindling footfall. The move from ‘need’ to ‘want’ is largely governed by one thing; ‘the digital customer experience’ – in our world, created by trust, simplicity, convenience and brand advocacy.

Winning hearts and minds.

So, how can we be the transformational change agent that will secure the future of your practice?

People ‘need’ eye tests and they ‘want’ frames that make them look great and feel even better. We have to compete, hard, for both heads and hearts. Our patient offer must be crystal clear and communicated with absolute conviction. Patient engagement is vitally important for your health and your safety whilst choosing the right frames can affect your mood, your confidence and your outlook on life.

Make them love you. 

Your brand is critical. Customers have to ‘want’ to come and see you. They have to love you before they step over the threshold. They need to be ‘tickled, teased and told’ on a screen no bigger than a printed prescription. Every little ‘ask’, every little form, every little click is a potential barrier. They then need to be scooped up in a metaphorical kid-leather glove and looked after through the process; with advice and service that keeps them happy and willing to recommend you.

It’s easy to think you’re doing it, but difficult to admit you could be doing it better. Do your customers want you, or simply need you?


by Neil Harvey, Group Brand Director at Sparca