Our focus this month is on The Lens Butler, a Toledo, OH-based company that provides a monthly contact lens subscription service for lens wearers. I recently had the pleasure to speak with Co-Founder Beth Samenuk.
Mrs. Samenuk, please tell us about your company in terms of its history and direction.
[Co-Founder] Allison [Granger] and I were both contact lens sales representatives. As busy moms, we take advantage of e-commerce solutions and subscription in our personal lives. At work, we would hear daily that eyecare practitioners (ECPs) were anxious to find a way to compete, whether for in-office sales or increasing annual supplies and how they could make their patients more compliant and loyal to their practice.
We knew that there had to be a way for an independent, third-party company to assist with the logistical side of supplying lenses that made financial sense for patients, and we wanted to make sure that we supported private ECPs. That’s how The Lens Butler was born. Our focus is to continue to build a better patient experience around contact lenses while also creating a stronger bond between the ECP, the brick-and-mortar practice, and the patient.
Our goal always remains to increase the ease, convenience, and automation for the patients and the practice. When patients sign up, we send their first shipment immediately, and the automation for the year begins at that point. We only work directly through ECPs; on the back end, we work primarily with ABB Optical Group, but we have a few distributor accounts and accounts with manufacturers.
Tell us about any new products or new developments in which The Lens Butler is involved.
We want to continue to drive sales back to the practice by adding features to our boxes and increasing the offering from The Lens Butler. Giving patients a “wow” moment that they can tie back to their practitioner is very important to us. It’s not always about The Lens Butler as a brand. We are a true partner with private practices; their brand is on everything that we do, and we want that to stand out. We want to increase the tether of loyalty between patients and their practice.
We are also looking to increase options for the subscription itself, making our service available to part-time wearers and other types of subscription-oriented patients whom we currently can’t or don’t service.
Tell us your vision for the contact lens field in the short term (less than 5 years) and in the long term (20 years from now).
Our short-term vision is, in short, acceptance. Subscription is a natural way to consume goods. As individuals, we pay monthly for most of the things in our lives. We know from our time in industry that it’s a natural fit for lens wearers due to lens prices and wearing schedules.
But it’s also great for practice owners because it creates patients for life. People tend to not want to stop services that become part of daily life and solve a need. The subscription arrives automatically on patients’ doorsteps, and they don’t have to do anything. I think that’s something that private ECPs need to acknowledge and understand.
Over the long term, we hope to see continued advancements in contact lenses. There’s also going to be a desire for better convenience to get more patients into that technology. So, when contact lenses evolve into “smart lenses” or custom lenses that meet specific vision needs, we need to make them affordable and attainable for all patients.
The annual supply with rebate is not one-size-fits-all. We need to pay greater attention to what consumers are doing outside of eye care—their purchasing habits, how they pay their bills, how they choose to buy—and look at how we can use that to keep patients in their practice rather than going elsewhere for the convenience that they crave. CLS