“There are very few people whose prescriptions come through who have eyesight worse than mine,” says Shaun Polovin, who’s been wearing contact lenses since he was 11 years old.
He’s now 38. He started wearing daily lenses about 10 years ago because it was more convenient than the monthly kind, but they were also a lot more expensive. And that wasn’t the only issue.
“The typical scenario is this: I’d go into my bathroom, open the drawer to find I still had three days’ worth [of lenses], then completely forget [to re-order],” Polovin says.
Anyone who’s ever worn contacts will sympathise – how many times have you accidentally-on-purpose over-worn your lenses, or had to revert to glasses for an event where you’d really prefer to be specs-free?
Polovin is the CEO and founder of Sydney-based Dimple, Australia’s first online, direct-to-consumer subscription service for daily lenses, which launched in March.
“I saw an opportunity to create a brand that would make the life of the time-poor, modern-day contact-lens wearer easier and more affordable,” he says.
A subscription model ensures you’ll never run out of lenses, unless you opt out. You control your subscription online, selecting a schedule of every four, six or eight weeks, which you can easily change, pause or cancel altogether. There’s no contract.
“We’ve removed any barriers to making changes or cancelling,” says Polovin. “But if you’re happy with it as-is, it’s a set-and-forget model.
“The same big pharma manufacturers have controlled the supply for many years … Taking a direct-to-consumer path gave us an opportunity for a small Australian startup to compete directly with the major international manufacturers.”
Subscription lenses were available to consumers before Dimple, but mainly as an “add-on” feature, Polovin says. That is, some online stores do offer an option for customers to convert an order into an ongoing subscription at checkout, but it’s not the primary function of the business.
Traditionally, you get your contact lenses from your optometrist. They come in clinical, medical-style packaging. That’s not Dimple. The product has the aesthetic of an on-trend skincare or beauty brand, with packaging designed by Sydney creative agency Universal Favourite.
“We wanted the packaging to be personable, fun and designed with the consumer in mind, not the optometrist,” Polovin explains. “Traditional boxes are designed to stack easily on optometrists’ shelves. This usually results in the contact lenses spilling into your bathroom drawer once opened.” Dimple’s lenses come in a wider, flatter box to combat that issue. And while contact lenses and blister foil aren’t yet recyclable, all the packaging is.
Polovin wagers that most contact-lens wearers have different prescriptions for their left and right eyes. In his experience, fumbling through a draw-full of lenses to find the right one for each eye is just another Tuesday morning.
“The only way to differentiate with a normal contact lens is by literally holding it up and finding a tiny little number,” he says. Dimple has a solution. Of the 60 prescription “powers” available, each is packaged with a corresponding colour-coded icon that makes it easy to tell left from right.
The contact-lens market in Australia is currently “dominated by four major pharmaceutical brands that control the whole supply chain and sell through optometrists”, Polovin says. Dimple’s direct-to-consumer model enables means consumers get a better price, because the lenses come straight from the manufacturer and don’t go through the traditional channels that get marked-up along the way. A month’s supply – 60 lenses – is $45, which includes tracked shipping. Price-wise, “We are pretty much at the bottom end [of the market],” Polovin says.
“A daily-contact-lens wearer can easily spend over $800 a year on their lenses,” Polovin explains. “We are bringing out an option for a three-month subscription shortly which could see the monthly cost equate to around $40.”
To produce its lenses Dimple has enlisted Gelflex, a Perth-based company that’s been in the business for almost five decades and is the only Australian manufacturer of disposable contacts.
In the absence of bricks and mortar, there’s an optical dispenser and customer-service team available online or over the phone.
“Our customers don’t call, they message – it’s a millennial thing,” Polovin says. “So we measure our response times in minutes and seconds, not hours or days.
“That’s the difference when you’re a direct-to-consumer brand – you get to build a one-to-one relationship with your customers and they really appreciate that.”
A dollar from every monthly order goes to Guide Dogs Australia, and Dimple is committed to sponsoring at least one guide dog a year. The first is a three-month-old girl. Her name is Dimple.
Curious? Test the waters for free with a 10-day trial; you only pay postage on a cut-down version of the regular subscription box.