News sees a clear mobile future

October 31, 2016 02:45 PM has a vision for its mobile sales—a new app.

The retailer launched an iOS and Android app Oct. 25 to enable repeat customers to reorder their lenses. The retailer has sold products online for almost two decades, yet this is its first app, says Robert Drumm, marketing director at AC Lens. DiscountContactLenses is a subsidiary of AC Lens, No. 342 in the  Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.  

Earlier this year, DiscountContactLenses sent 1,000 consumers—current and prospective customers—an online survey about what they want when ordering contacts. The top response was a quick and easy ordering process, and Drumm says an app seemed like the best way to deliver that experience because it could keep shoppers logged in and allow for two-tap ordering. Plus, 1-800 Contacts Inc. (No. 91 in the Top 500) has an app, and factoring in the competition is always part of the decision, he says.

So far, the app has proven to be a good decision, with about 900 downloads in just a few days, and about half of the consumers who have downloaded the app have placed an order, Drumm says. DiscountContactLenses expected only a few hundred downloads at the start, so he considers the launch a success.

To announce the app, the retailer emailed its hundreds of thousands of email club members. Drumm says the quick uptick in app downloads from the email was “eye-opening” and bodes well for the app, he says.

Still, DiscountContactLenses knows that consumers are not keen to download retail apps unless they are frequent shoppers. “We know we have an uphill battle,” Drumm says.

The retailer aims to have 10,000 to 20,000 downloads in 2017, he says. “This is our first into the leap into the app world, we don’t know what to expect, so we cross our fingers and kind of hope for the best,” Drumm says.

To entice shoppers to download and order in the app, the retailer is offering a 10% discount on a shopper’s app order. The retailer plans to keep the promotion for at least six months, Drumm says.

“We still have to get over the hump of, ‘Do I download an app solely for contact lenses?’ and we figured a discount would be one way to get [customers] over that hump,” he says.

The retailer also sends smartphone alerts to app users when it’s time for a customer to renew her prescription and when she needs to reorder lenses. Because the retailer knows how many boxes a consumer has purchased, it times the reminders appropriately. A shopper can also opt-in to a third alert, which reminders her to change her lenses, as many consumers forget when they should dispose of their contacts, he says. Such push notifications will keep the app top of mind and remind a consumer to order with it, Drumm says.

Only returning customers can order from the app as they must sign into the app with their website account information because DiscountContactLenses needs to access prescription details and the app does not currently allow a consumer to upload a prescription. The retailer plans to update the app next year to allow for that.

A returning customer can order lenses in two taps on her smartphone. Once she opens the app, she is automatically logged in. The app pulls up her most recent  order, she taps buy, and then confirms the purchase.

The retailer is marketing the app to its current customer base via email and Facebook ads. Once the app can take orders for new shoppers, it will launch a larger marketing campaign, Drumm says.

DiscountContanctLenses built the app in-house in about two months. A handful of engineers worked on it part time, and the retailer did not have to hire additional developers, he says. It launched its iOS and Android app at the same time so it could send an email to its entire customer base, he says.

DiscountContanctLenses has tens of millions in sales annually, Drumm says without revealing specifics. 




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