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LensDirect seeing optimal results

  Article , Retail , Success stories

Contact lens retailer focuses on paid search

Four generations of successful marketing

Photo of Manhattan Optical Shop in 1927.

LensDirect.com, history.

As a child, Ryan Alovis was taught lessons about business management, customer satisfaction and marketing that would last a lifetime. As he recalls, much of this instruction took place amidst the curious gaze of an endless array of Manhattan sidewalk shoppers.

“I have vivid memories of my family’s window display on the Upper West Side,” explains the CEO of LensDirect.com, the fourth generation of his family to make a career in optical. “I was a kid, and I was rambunctious and energetic. I would jump up and down in that display window — I’d act like a mime, I’d even do the robot dance — just to get people to come in and buy glasses and contacts.”

The family legacy began in the early 1900s, when Ryan’s great-grandfather Barney began selling everything from curly temples and turn-pin spectacles to Teddy Roosevelt-approved “pinch nose” eyeglasses on the Lower East Side. His son and grandson would take up the family business in the decades that followed, watching the science of optometry evolve — along with the customers’ preferred styles, from wire frames to tortoiseshell to Jackie Onassis-inspired oversized lenses.

“The Alovis family is deeply embedded in the optical space and, honestly, the optical history of the United States,” Ryan Alovis says with pride. “As long as we’ve been here, we’ve been selling eyeglasses — and now we’re selling contact lenses.”

In the early ‘90s, when his father and uncles saw a future in mail-order contact lenses, they became progenitors of what would eventually become a billion-dollar, internet-fueled industry. By 2009, Ryan Alovis would take over the company dubbed LensDirect.com (a division of The Stella Group), continuing the family’s evolution from pushcarts to stores to websites.

Paid search is our main channel of customer acquisition on the web. It provides the best value, flexibility and transparency into maximizing our advertising spend.

— Ryan Alovis, CEO, LensDirect.com

X marks the spot

Photo of Ryan Alovis

Ryan Alovis, CEO, LensDirect.com

“LensDirect.com aims to be America’s optical store,” says Alovis. “We’d like to imagine that our store is virtually located on every Main Street.”

These days, Ryan Alovis rarely breaks into the robot dance. But those lessons he was taught as a child still apply, even in the digital age. “Like my father, I know we’re selling a commodity. There are plenty of companies that sell contact lenses,” he explains. “So, how do we win? What's our X factor?”

Following in the footsteps of his forefathers, Alovis attracts new customers and stands apart from the competition by offering superior customer service.

“Our X factor is clear as day; our X factor is service,” he explains. “We offer a compelling subscription program called AutoRefill that allows people to never run out of contacts. In 2016, we did away with generic customer service and created the Dedicated Account Rep, which is a one-to-one relationship — every customer has the direct contact information of their specific rep, and this rep is their go-to person for everything. They know what their rep looks like, they know what their rep sounds like, and it’s a relationship. That’s the goal here: We play the long game, and we invest in relationships.”

With a smile, he adds: “If you care about the customer, the customer cares about you.”

Bing brings ‘em in

LensDirect.com website

LensDirect.com

Recognizing that a strong digital strategy is critical for the business, Alovis has developed search engine marketing (SEM) efforts that amplify and complement that tangible customer service.

“Paid search is our main channel of customer acquisition on the web. It provides the best value, flexibility and transparency into maximizing our advertising spend,” he explains. “It allows LensDirect.com to bypass the need for an agency and directly reach new customers.

Not only is the company reaching new customers, but it’s also capturing the kinds of eyeballs that LensDirect.com is eager to treat. More so than the competition, Bing Ads helps the company reach an audience that is predominantly a bit older, wealthier and more likely to spend. LensDirect has also discovered that the Bing Network audience is more loyal — and when your desire is to recruit brand loyalists who will return time and time again, nothing could be better.

“For us, the biggest challenge is customer acquisition, which is always top of mind in terms of growing a business. When you look at where we were three years ago, we were always trying to squeeze more out of what we had,” explains Justin Tamburro, the company’s vice president of operations. “But with help from the Bing Ads account team, we've actually grown the program without expanding much on what we needed to spend. Getting advice on new opportunities that are available has really helped us expand with Bing Ads, and that's definitely been a plus that has helped us grow the business.”

These efforts have placed an emphasis on improving the customer journey, from the search engine query through the ad being served to being properly directed to the landing page that will best serve their needs. Universal Event Tracking has given LensDirect.com greater flexibility in understanding and tracking customer behavior, which has resulted in a positive impact on the bottom line.

“Also, Remarketing in Paid Search has been great,” Tamburro says. “It’s a nice way to stay in front of people who have already displayed interest in LensDirect. We've really seen some success there. If people are unsure and they're still shopping, we have the ability to go back and get in front of them.”

Knowing that an estimated 72% of millennial shoppers are favorable to retargeting, Tamburro adds: “When Ryan was young and standing on the side of the street, he couldn't chase people around the city all day.”

Other Bing Ads features have also been beneficial. “Improvements in Bing Ads Editor have allowed for increased efficiencies in managing our search campaigns, while Bing Ads reports allow for easy data visibility and optimizations,” Tamburro says.

We can piggyback off the CTR growth at 44%, where Bing is higher than the other guys. That CTR is amazing, and we live and die by it, so that's a big deal for us.

— Ryan Alovis, CEO, LensDirect.com

Service time

Datatable displaying results

Results provided to Bing by LensDirect.com

Bing Ads-specific results in the past calendar year back up this undeniable success story, portraying it with as much clarity as a fresh set of contact lenses:

  • Conversions are up 60%.
  • Average click-through rate (CTR) is up 44%.
  • Site traffic is up 112%.
  • Advertising budget is up 202%.

“The big takeaway for us is those conversions up 60%, which is an obscene number,” says Alovis. “And we can piggyback off the CTR growth at 44%, where Bing is higher than the other guys. CTR is everything; we want to make sure that as many eyeballs that look and search for our products end up on our website. That CTR is amazing, and we live and die by it, so that's a big deal for us.”

LensDirect.com is getting better results with Bing Ads than with other advertising platforms. “When you look at Bing Ads versus the other guys, you can actually see that we may be getting less traffic, but that's not what matters. What matters is the conversion rate. We're seeing greater sales with Bing Ads,” Alovis says. “So actually what's happening, to be honest, is we’re spending less and yielding more. To me, that's a monster home run.”

With such success, LensDirect has come to rely on Bing Ads. “Bing Ads has become a focal point, a central pillar of our marketing efforts,” explains Alovis. “And it’s growing every day of every week of every month of every year. It’s clear that our interest in the customer is mutually aligned.”

When you’re a business built on the belief that personalized customer service will rise you up above the competition, you look for a similar ethos in those around you. It’s no surprise, then, that Alovis has an immediate answer when asked what he likes most about his partnership with the Bing Ads team.

“We share a common goal; Microsoft wins on service for sure, and I believe that LensDirect does exactly just that too,” he explains. “It’s clear that the Bing Ads team cares about our business and not just the bottom line. Microsoft walked us through everything; they helped us test, they helped us expand our reach. They gave us advice on what they think would work better, and that's honestly why we saw a much higher CTR than the other guys. The Bing Ads team offered us that hands-on approach from the very beginning, and I just wish other guys offered that type of hand-holding service.”

Ultimately, Alovis says, he sleeps better at night knowing his family’s legacy is being looked after by people, not just faceless algorithms. “That is exemplified by the sheer accessibility of the Bing Ads account managers,” he explains. “It's not often that you can reach someone at such a large company. But with the Bing Ads team, accessibility has always been paramount and it shows. If we need someone, we can pick up the phone; Bing really nails that human touch.”

A clearer view

Bringing things full circle, Alovis recently discovered that the shared priorities of LensDirect.com and the Bing Ads team has resulted in an unexpected benefit.

“We know we’ve succeeded when a customer comes back for that second, third or fourth order,” he explains. “So, we checked to see which customers from which search engines stay with us more as a customer, and the numbers speak for themselves. There's something way bigger here than we even realized — because the Bing Network customer cares more about quality of service than any other channel or search engine we've seen thus far.”

As it turns out, a company with strong customer service is smart to align itself with like-minded marketing efforts — something the Alovis family has known for over a hundred years.

“Such lessons have been instilled in me ever since I came into the world. It's something that my family always talked about,” Alovis says. “I’m proud of my lineage, my legacy, and most importantly, the future of LensDirect.com.

See a summary

LensDirect uses Universal Event Tracking and Remarketing in Paid Search for a second chance at converting site visitors.

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