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About 60% of Germans now regularly wear glasses to correct their vision problem. Since 2004 glasses, however, no longer come under the remit of statutory health insurance. The rationale for this decision is that a refractive error is not considered disease. Only in specific cases, such as therapeutic vision aids due to eye injuries and diseases or severe visual impairment do insured people still have a right to benefits.

In the non-refundable corrective eyewear segment, there has been a cooperative model of online eyeglass merchant Mister Spex opticians which deserves attention. About a year ago, the start-up company’s affiliate program first started with 30 branches mainly in urban areas – and since then, the company has announced its 200th partner opticians. In the medium term, the cooperation model is to grow to 300-500 partners throughout Germany and will continue to develop its offerings.

The idea of the partnership is to provide a response to concerns regarding a lack of customer advice when buying online with the possibility of subsequent adjustment to the optician. Advantage for customers are that it saves time and money. The concept relies on the partner optical shop to undertake the appropriate services such as eye tests and glasses adjustment. Of benefit to the optician is that they can benefit by working on the growth of the online retailer in the form of revenue sharing.

The market potential of this multi-channel strategy is seriously underestimated according to Dirk Graber, founder and CEO of Mister Spex: the revenue potential of a multi-channel concept for prescription is three to four times as high as for a pure Internet model. Therefore, a market share in the segment for prescription glasses for his company of 20 to 25 percent is possible. This will, however, need to be shared with competitors like Brillen.de or Brille24 that compete with strategies of their own in order to influence the wearer. The result of the Optometrists Partner Program is certainly promising: sales of prescriptions in the first half of 2012 have tripled for Mister Spex compared to the same period last year.

For the players on the resource market, they could ask the question whether such a cooperative model also works with selected tools. This raises the consequent question of whether more intensive counselling aids in partnership with representatives of the medical trade could be sold.