The topic of digitalization in marketing is becoming increasingly crucial for opticians. For the ZVA as an association, the challenge is to reflect the issues of a very heterogeneous industry within campaigns and effectively support as many members as possible to raise public awareness for the profession. The ZVA relies on its retail marketing platform, socialPALS, and offers topic-specific campaigns for opticians’ guilds!
Sarah, please explain a little about yourself and your position at the Central Association of Opticians and Optometrists! What is the function of the ZVA for its members?
The Central Association of Opticians and Optometrists (“Zentralverband der Augenoptiker und Optometristen”, ZVA) represents the interests of the German optician profession. The direct members of the ZVA as a federal guild association are the affiliated state guild associations or state guilds, while the members of the guilds are opticians throughout Germany. The ZVA represents the profession in the areas of professional policy, law and vocational training and provides guild members with a wide range of materials, e.g. business management-related issues.
In terms of communication, the ZVA raises public awareness about the importance of good vision and the associated role of guild opticians – and that brings us to my position: I have been supporting the ZVA since 2016, initially as a PR officer and since 2022 as Head of Communications. With my colleague Chiara-Marie Argow, I am also responsible for the ZVA’s nationwide image campaign and implement this with various agencies.
You have been using socialPALS since mid-2020 to provide your opticians and optometrists with high-quality campaign content. In the beginning, you only did one or two campaigns per year - now you offer continuous support for your members. Why did you decide to increasingly integrate this form of automated marketing/retail marketing into your communication concept?
As part of restructuring our image campaign, we wanted to enable the guild members – i.e. the opticians directly – to participate more in the campaign and not just spread the word as an association via the usual channels such as online and out-of-home measures. Expanding our range of services via socialPALS was ideal, as the platform had previously been very well received in individual campaigns.
You have now launched over 130 campaigns via socialPALS. What was the goal(s) and how much internal effort did you put into launching them?
The reason for the high number of campaigns results from the Association’s structure: right from the start, we decided to divide each individual monthly campaign into sub-campaigns for each regional guild association or regional guild. Although the content is the same, it makes sense for us to assign the participating companies to the regional guilds for various reasons. However, not only does this increase the workload, but also our – in hindsight, very ambitious – goal of rolling out our campaign via socialPALS with new content every month from the start of 2023.
Were the campaigns successful? Were you able to generate more attention for the subject using socialPALS? Has the platform helped to strengthen the image of your members and/or improve their market position?
Guild members contribute to the broad distribution of the campaign themes via socialPALS in addition to the association’s measures while appearing as senders themselves and contributing to their own marketing as guild members.
For example, a socialPALS campaign during the coronavirus pandemic was a great success: as an association, we were able to very quickly draw attention to the systemic relevance of opticians during lockdowns and the hygienically safe visit to the optician. Many opticians took part in this campaign and had a direct added value for themselves, as (potential) customers were immediately informed.
How has the automation of campaigns via socialPALS affected the efficiency and scalability of your marketing measures? Has the platform helped you to use your budgets more effectively or to save time and effort?
socialPALS serves us primarily to involve the guild members directly in the image campaign and other measures. In our case, offering the platform year-round is more time-consuming, but it was worth investing time here.
Have you acquired new insights about your members or their services through socialPALS? Were you able to draw any learnings from the platform - for example, which channels/formats are best suited for what? Were there perhaps even any surprises?
The optometry sector is very heterogeneous and ranges from small owner-managed businesses to large chain stores. There are also specializations in the services offered and very different business concepts. The degree of digitalization also varies. Against this background, it is difficult to draw conclusions for the entire industry based on the group of participants. However, we were, of course, able to identify format and topic favorites and incorporate these into the 2024 campaign planning.
It was a positive surprise for us that individual businesses from large chain stores also took part in our socialPALS campaigns despite having their own marketing strategy.
What role do KPI analyses play in evaluating campaign performance? Were you able to gain insights for your marketing strategy from our platform data?
Since we as an association use socialPALS as part of our image campaign, we tend to focus on other factors: Which subtopics best reflect everyday business life and work for other measures? Which formats or additional ad placement options are well received? We are constantly optimizing the campaigns – the steady expansion of activities at socialPALS speaks for itself.
Thanks to our joint onboarding, we now have 1,254 registered opticians on the platform, who have automatically published over 44,000 posts on their channels. How difficult was it to motivate your members to join? Is the "online marketing" module accepted as part of the communication concept/sales concept?
As we do not usually communicate directly with guild members, we must provide in-depth information and education via various channels. Among other things, we have set up a permanent rubric on socialPALS in our member magazine, which is sent to all guild companies every month, designed a flyer and recently started offering regular online information events.
Overall, the possibility of online marketing via social media has been better received than traditional POS materials, for example. On the association side, we have also focused the campaign much more strongly on online measures.
How has using socialPALS affected the collaboration between you and your members? Have there been improvements in the exchange of information? Has the members' perception of the ZVA changed as a result of the digital support? Has there been an increase in satisfaction?
I can only answer that with regard to the campaign, because digital support is only a very small part of the association’s tasks at this point. We only receive indirect feedback from the individual companies on socialPALS or the campaign, as support is provided directly via the platform. However, the feedback we receive is consistently positive!
Each optician confirms participation in a socialPALS campaign and thus the playout of the turnkey content calendar after a one-time registration with a single click. Are there any opticians who are more closely involved with the platform and, for example, plan (additional) postings or allocate their own advertising budget?
As far as we can see from our insights, there was still a little hesitation at the beginning of this year: content plans were hardly individualized and usually confirmed directly. In the most recent campaigns, however, we are seeing an increasing trend towards individualization and both the download and advertising options are being used more frequently.
What challenges do you currently see for both the ZVA and your members?
I can also only answer this about the campaign. Digitalization is becoming increasingly central to the individual companies’ public relations and marketing. Many have long since recognized this and are very active in this area, while others have some catching up to do regarding a lack of personnel in all areas of the companies’ activities.
For us as an association, the challenge is to reflect the issues of a very heterogeneous industry in the campaign and effectively support as many members as possible in the public’s perception of our profession.
How would you rate the customer support provided by socialPALS? Were there situations in which you had questions or problems - and if so, how were you helped?
Durch interne personelle Umstrukturierungen parallel zum Neustart der Kampagne bei socialPALS war das Onboarding für uns sehr wichtig. Hier erfolgte eine gute Einarbeitung. Auch während der einzelnen Kampagnen stehen wir im ständigen Austausch mit unserer Ansprechpartnerin, können bei Problemen kurzfristige Telefonate vereinbaren und sonst auch alles schnell und einfach per Mail klären.
Do you have any suggestions? How can socialPALS as a retail marketing platform help you to (even better) master current challenges?
We are often asked whether there are more individualization options in the separate campaigns or the option to insert postings in the editorial plan individually or, in our case, for a regional guild – but this is a very special case that is due to our association structure. A short-term addition or change to the editorial plan would also be desirable without users who are already registered having to activate the plan again.
Here's what the guild opticians have to say:
We have been using socialPALS from the very beginning. Initially only on Facebook, now also on Instagram. After receiving the invitation, we briefly check whether the content and dates are suitable and, if necessary, change dates or suspend posts. The system has become an ideal addition for us. This way, we regularly get into the timelines of our followers. Even if we don’t have time to create our own posts, our account always looks up-to-date. Our own posts are well framed by socialPALS and are well perceived. So far, we have not used the support of socialPALS. The platform is so clearly laid out and the process is so simple that we haven’t needed to use it yet.
Augenoptik & Juwelier Neuhoff, Rellingen
SocialPALS is a beneficial addition to our social media activities. We don’t always have something individual to post. It is, therefore, highly valuable for us to have plenty of “background noise” via socialPALS. That way, we always stay present with our followers. It’s good when the type of postings alternate, sometimes something individual, sometimes something general on the topic of “seeing”. It’s a healthy and sensible mix. We have decided to use socialPALS only for Facebook, as Instagram requires a little more imagery and has not yet taken advantage of other advertising placements. But that may still come. socialPALS is great because it saves a lot of time as we can plan posts. This is very valuable in everyday working life. After all, social media shouldn’t be a time waster; it’s an advertising platform in the same way traditional advertisements once were.
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