Specsavers trials in-store VR headsets to diagnose eye problems as brand aims for ‘more scope’

Specsavers wants its brand to ‘stand for something’ as it shifts its marketing focus towards eye tests and new technology such as VR.

Specsavers is testing in-store VR headsets to help spread awareness to customers of the risks of eye disease and partnering with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) as it looks to give its brand “more scope”.

Speaking today (7 September) to Marketing Week at a launch to celebrate the new partnership with the RNIB, Specsavers’ co-founder Dame Mary Perkins said VR could help to diagnose eye conditions and spread awareness to young people of the benefits of routine eye tests by simulating what it’s like to suffer from partial vision.

She revealed: “[VR] technology really excites us and we’re trialling new stuff in stores, which could involve diagnosing eye conditions by doing things such as putting on a headset.

“Of course people still like to be seen by an actual person but if technology provides another way to spread awareness then we will embrace it.”

Standing for something

Nearly half of all cases of sight loss in the UK could have been prevented, according to the new State of the Nation: Eye Health 2016 report by Specsavers and the RNIB.

It also found 14 million Brits fail to take an eye test every two years as recommended and that sight loss costs the UK economy £28bn annually.

To spread awareness of both the research and the eye testing it offers in stores, Specsavers has launched a humorous new TV ad that highlights the everyday problems good eyesight can prevent. The ad also makes it very clear this is something that could be lost should a consumer fail to regularly get their eyes tested.

The ad (above) slightly switches up the famous slogan to ‘You should go to Specsavers’ and ends with the message ‘Transforming eye health”.

But despite this shift in messaging, Perkins insists the brand isn’t becoming too serious or abandoning its usual comedic marketing style.

“The ‘You should’ve gone to Specsavers’ slogan is almost engrained in the English language now so it isn’t going anywhere, this is just a slight change but the humour is still there. This is more about giving our brand more scope and ensuring it stands for something that really matters,” she added.

“On the advertising front we still need to reach out to a lot more people and bring down the barrier that exists around eye care. This is just the start of that journey.”

Brexit Armageddon ‘never happened’

Perkins is somewhat of a British retail veteran having led Specsavers from its inception.

Yet despite the current economic concerns around the Brexit vote, she says the business is recording “steady month-on-month sales percentage gains”.

She concluded: “This Armageddon that was supposed to happen after Britain voted out of the EU just never happened.

“Maybe some people have been slightly put off but I’ve been here since 1984 and we’ve always performed strongly during times of concern. We haven’t noticed any impact on our sales [since the Brexit vote].”

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