The CEO of the optical giant points that the tendency in the sector is the clustering of companies to join forces.
One year after his incorporation to Safilo as CEO, Angelo Trocchia explains that, as the rest of the sectors, the consumer positions itself in the center of the strategy. His trajectory in other groups such as Unilevel make him an expert in consumer behavior and new challenges in the sector.
MDS: The sector has moved to being ruled by few big companies to the massive breach of new brands. Was there an unfiled niche?
AT: This is a sector that is always on the rise, due to demographic growth. People becoming older is making the optical business gradually increase, while some sectors of society have enriched, and people that didn’t have access to luxury items like designer glasses, now they do. This context creates the scenario for new brands to pop up, and they understood the market in a more simplified way, not as global, but that works just as well, going closer to the consumers and with a well-defined target. The challenge for big brands is to improve the way we approach to the consumer.
MDS: While other players appear, the traditional ones concentrate, are we moving towards a sector of bigger players or much more fragmented?
AT: Concentration is a tendency that has moved beyond optics. We have seen cases of big companies that have created alliances to find common points and this worked for them. Its hard to say what will happen in the future, but in a complicated economic, political and social context, as the one we have now, the tendency will continue to be to join forces. However, this is not a solution for everyone, you need to know how to play it in your advantage.
MDS: Just like in the music industry where intermediaries cease to exist, is this phenomenon happening also in optics?
AT: In a way it’s happening right now, and everything implies that bonds between manufactures and consumer will become closer, because consumer is asking for it. We must learn how to create a stronger connection with the consumer, its no longer enough just to have a good product.
“Concentration is a tendency that has gone beyond the optical sector”
MDS: Optical has created its market in the traditional channel, is the model scalable?
AT: There is a certain fragmentation point that is always going to be there. Optical can´t step out of physical stores, as long as prescription glasses exist, consumer will have the need to go to the store to try the product.
MDS: What can the optical sector learn from massive consumer goods?
AT: Both sectors share the obsession for consumer and sales, but optics need to go even further, especially with millennials. Massive consumer goods also found a way of engaging with the consumer and knows where the market is going.
MDS: What place does the product belong in optics?
AT: the product is very important, specially in prescription glasses, but its not everything. We need to think in terms of product with the focus in the consumer.
“Nowadays no one wants to use the same glasses for a long period of time”
MDS: It’s been a while since an iconic model came out, is there lack if innovation in the design?
AT: From the technological point of view a lot of innovations have appeared. But for model to become iconic depends in the consumer, he is the one with the final decision and its always looking for new things. Nowadays no one wants to use the same glasses for a long period of time, speed has become vital for the optical innovation.
MDS: What do you need to engage the younger consumer?
AT: Explain better the brands values. In terms of sustainability, give them differentiating elements. If you want to seduce millennials you have to be where they are, there is no longer a difference between online and offline. For that you need to digitalize the entire company, a challenge also for traditional optical companies.
MDS: Is price a key factor?
AT: It has always been, but now its not only that, its also the value you offer. Consumer is willing to pay more for a product as long as it brings an extra value. The consumer, more aware, is now in a position of judge.
“Consumer is willing to pay more for a product as long as it brings an extra value”
MDS: The entire world set eyes in a model like Warby Parker, what elements would you take from it?
AT: Warby Parker has find a way of answering to the consumers needs. We must try to learn why they were so successful and apply it to our own business model.
MDS: In childrenswear, big luxury brands work also through licensing, but they have taken control of this businesses, will the same happen to optics?
AT: Only for a few. The big brands have to reposition themselves next to luxury, understand it from today’s logics, a new consumer.
MDS: If the tendency is vertical integration, is that a threat for groups like Safilo?
AT: It could be for big luxury groups, but there are many brands that don’t count with the internal production capacity of optical companies.
“Big brands have to reposition themselves next to luxury”
MDS: Are you compelled to the launch of more owned brands?
AT: Nowadays manage a brand on a global scale has become difficult. There are more channels, more products, more ways of reaching the consumer. Some companies could reinforce with owned brands but not in short term. In the current global scenario, you cannot start a big grand from cero.
MDS: Luxury builds its image through complements, what role does the optics play in that way?
AT: Glasses have become a complement that consumers use daily. Today you match sunglasses with prescription and the outfit you are wearing. Consumer tends to differentiate itself from the rest, no one wants to use the same model.
MDS: What is more important nowadays: technical knowledge or marketing?
AT: Technical knowledge is crucial, but only with knowledge you cannot stay relevant. Anticipating to the consumer is todays main challenge.
“A challenge for us is to create the need in the consumer to buy glasses more often”
MDS: Optics have a medical component that clothing doesn’t have, is this still important to the consumer?
AT: Yes, completely. Optical has two different dynamics. Is not the same to create sunglasses than to create prescriptions, both have the same fashion component, but prescription glasses needs more technology, more innovation.
MDS: Fashion is becoming faster every time, with fast fashion as a speed element, Is optical gaining more speed? Would we go from buying glasses every season instead of buying them every two years?
AT: A challenge for us is to create the need in the consumer to buy glasses more often. Frequency is growing, but not at the speed of fashion.
MDS: What role does sustainability play in that sense?
AT: Its crucial, even for the optical sector. Beyond the product there the importance of understanding corporate social responsibility. Its something that for millennials is a must and has become an obligation for every company.