The eyecare industry has been affected by the pandemic like most businesses but recovery seems imminent
In line with most global business trends, the eyecare industry in Malaysia has also been affected by the pandemic.
However, with several sectors of the economy gradually opening up, there are positive signs of an imminent economic recovery.
Johnson & Johnson Malaysia (J&J) Vision Care Business Unit Lead, Ong Lee Chin shared with The Health on the market recovery and prospects for the eyecare industry.
“The contact lens business as a whole in Malaysia has dropped by 31 per cent in the last 12 months.
“J&J Vision Care, as a well-known eye health company, is also affected. While that is only expected, we are confident the eyewear market will recover.”
Compared to 2020, J&J Vision Care has been observing signs of recovery.
“But it would take some time for the market to fully recover to the pre-pandemic landscape.
“There has also been a shift in sales as well as consumer behavior which require eyewear companies and independent eye care professionals to adapt to the new normal to sustain and remain in business.”
The key change is in the preference for online shopping which has led to reduced footfalls at optical stores.
“But there is also a positive consumer behavioral change which benefits the eye care professionals. Adhering to SOPs, patients and customers are now more likely to make appointments rather than walk-in.”
More awareness on eye health
Malaysia also offers good growth prospects for contact lenses as it has a market penetration of four per cent. Comparatively, the highest market penetration in a developed country is Japan at about 40 per cent. Meanwhile our neighboring country Singapore is at 15 per cent.
Ong said the prospects for the eyecare industry in Malaysia was looking bright and Malaysia had good growth potential along with imminent recovery when businesses start opening up.
“Since there has been an increase in digital use and screen time, more people are experiencing dry eyes and eye fatigue, and this makes them more aware and concerned about eye health.
“This provides a great opportunity for eye care services and businesses to inform and educate their clients about eye health.
“At J&J Vision Care, our core customer age group ranges between age 25 and 40.
“Now we are seeing opportunities in Gen Z group. Looking good helps to boost their self-confidence. So, this will be an important group to grow into.
“We are constantly trying to adapt to the pandemic and always engaging with our clients via zoom.
“For the safety of our staff and clients, we discourage face to face meetings. Virtual calls are encouraged for meetings and discussions.
“The pandemic also serves as an opportune time to conduct training. It is the best time to do professional training with the eye care professionals and
During these unprecedented time, J&J Vision Care started a direct to patient delivery programme to ensure our eye care practitioners and patients are supported.
“The DTP programme launched by Acuvue helped patients to get their replenishment of contact lens from their appointed eye care practitioners conveniently with reduced contact.
We launched the new product, Acuvue Define Fresh, during the pandemic in March this year. It was our first virtual product launch event, and it was a success.
“In line with digitisation and adapting to the pandemic, we also launched the MyAcuvue app, which helps consumers to connect and consult their eye care professionals.”
How independent optical practices can pivot
For independent optical practices, Lee Chin said that there is a need for differentiation.
“Professionalism would be the main differentiation factor and change the transactional relationship with consumers to value co-creation particularly in terms
of eye care.
“As for eye care professionals, they have to go the extra mile in strengthening their relationship with their customers by giving more professional advice and differentiating themselves versus other retailers.
The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation and online shopping, and brick-and-mortar businesses may need to adapt quickly to change in order to survive.”
She noted it was tough to balance between online and in-store sales because according to Malaysian regulations, contact lenses can only be purchased with a valid prescription and from authorised optical stores.
“Eye care professionals need to ensure first-time users visit the store and consult with optometrists and undergo eye examination process before buying and wearing contact lenses. The online option should only be for replenishment for long time users with valid prescription and undergoing periodic eye examination.”
Ong commented Malaysian optometrists who saw themselves as the primary eye care service provider are deemed highly professional in the Southeast Asia region.
“Optical stores in Malaysia are no longer seen as just a business. Certain stores are even focused on getting the right equipment for a comprehensive eye screening and examination to serve their customers better.”
What the future holds
Driving ECP professionalism and educating consumers on eye health and contact lens eye care is important going forward, Ong stressed.
“Several eye care professionals have approached us and are keen to collaborate. They are interested in raising professionalism in their stores because they are aware that stores which have higher professionalism tend to be more resilient in the marketplace.
“We are always proud of innovation
in J&J Vision. Development process involves extensive research, clinical findings, results and evidence before we are able to launch products.
“At J&J Vision, we want to ensure the products we bring to the market benefit our consumers.
“You can expect to see new J&J products launched in 2022.”
One area which interests Ong is telemedicine for eye care, an area with great potential for growth in Malaysia.
Ong has been with J&J for quite some time and started off as a medical device salesperson.
“I was later given an opportunity by J&J in marketing and was transferred to China, where I was based in Shanghai for three years.”
Her experience in China equipped her to compete in a competitive environment which is crucial for the vision care business in Malaysia.
She returned to Malaysia in January this year and was tasked to lead the Vision Care Business Unit.
“We will continue to provide safe and quality contact lens and always be in the forefront in educating consumers eye health.” — The Health