While discussing the opportunity, patient benefits, and practice advantages of daily disposable contact lenses with a group of eyecare providers, it was interesting to hear the variety of responses and how some perceive this contact lens technology and how it is or is not integrated into their practice currently.
The contact lens business has been a dynamic area of the eyecare practice over the past 30 years. There has definitely been an evolution of contact lens technologies that have challenged the way we think about contact lenses (comfort, modality, etc.) and also the way that we correct our patients’ visual needs. This change is critical to sustained growth.
Product Life Cycles
This made me consider the product life cycle and where our contact lens industry is with regard to daily disposable lenses. A graph available at https://marketing-insider.eu/characteristics-of-the-product-life-cycle-stages shows the four life cycle stages of any product—introduction, growth, maturity, and decline—and their marketing implications. It is important to consider how products fit into this graph. The utilization of any product will work through each of these phases, but the time spent in each phase will often vary.
For example, look at the stages of cell phone development and how that has evolved in the last 10 years. From “bag phones” to “flip phones” to “smartphones,” products are developed, competitors enter the market, peak sales are hit, and then they gradually (or rapidly) decline.
Where Are Daily Disposables?
In the one-day contact lens market, new products have been released steadily over the past 10 years in all designs (spherical, toric, multifocal, myopia control) and materials. I also started thinking about new competition with online sales of daily disposable contact lenses. If you search online, you will find a number of offers for low-cost daily disposable contact lenses shipped to your door from online retailers looking to jump on this opportunity.
Due to these factors, I estimate that we are still in the growth phase for daily disposable lenses. I can’t tell you when it is going to hit “peak sales” before moving into maturity and saturation. I know that I want to keep offering the newest, most innovative products to my patients. From my perspective, I started wondering where this market is heading.
Will the next step for daily disposables be just a new way of delivering an old product? That happened with razors (Dollar Shave Club). Is it going to be a novel, game-changing material that will change the way I fit contact lenses? Will it be medical applications (treatment of diseases such as dry eyes, allergies, or glaucoma) of contact lenses? Will there be some sort of technological contact lens (“smart” contact lens) that provides some sort of advantage to our patients?
From my perspective, in health care, progress starts with research. Research drives innovative ideas and development. Innovative products need to provide patient benefits, and research is critical to the acceptance of novel contact lens materials, designs, and modalities. New breakthroughs within the contact lens field will change your approach as an eyecare practitioner, including the way you fit a particular group of patients or how you use a specific medical device. I will be keeping my eyes open for that next big thing. CLS