Brands We Love: Warby Parker
My older sister stared out of the window of the car, mesmerized. “I can see the edges of the clouds” she said, “and the street signs are so crisp.”
No, she wasn’t high. She had just picked up her very first pair of glasses.
Around half of the people in my family wear prescription glasses. So, while I don’t wear them myself, I know that glasses aint cheap.
Well, that was until I heard of Warby Parker, whose frames start at just under $100 in the US, including prescription lenses. But that’s not their only difference. Their try at home for free service has changed the way people shop for frames, and their commitment to distributing glasses to people in need for every pair sold is allowing their customers to contribute to a bigger cause than themselves.
And while we’re not loving the fact that they don’t ship to Australia :( we are taking notes about how they’ve managed to build such a remarkable, stand out brand. So, today, we’re breaking down three strategies Warby Parker use and how you can apply them to your business.
They are focused on creating a remarkable experience
After one of the founders of Warby Parker lost a $700 pair of glasses and squinted his way through his first semester of college, he began questioning why glasses were so expensive— where were all the options? And why weren’t glasses available online?
It turned out that glasses weren’t all that expensive to make, but they did discover that most of the popular brand names and distributors (think Ray Bans, Chanel, Sunglass Hut and Oakley) are all owned by a single company who, without strong competition, has set the prices sky high.
Warby Parker’s idea was to skip the middleman— to design, manufacture and sell to consumers directly online, at a much lower price. So, they started asking people with glasses— ‘would you buy your glasses online?’ They soon realised that many of their potential customers thought buying glasses online was too risky and they probably wouldn’t shop online, even if it was available to them because they couldn’t try them on, and had no idea how they would look and feel.
“One advantage of Warby Parker having a direct relationship with customers is that we get feedback and can move quickly,” said Co-CEO Dave Gilboa.
Knowing that they needed to overcome their customers’ objections to even have a shot at changing their purchasing habits, the founders came up with the idea of allowing their customers to choose 5 frames to try on for free before they ordered anything. They floated the try-before-you-buy idea past potential customers again, and the risk free offer was a winner.
If you’re a busy person, or just want the convenience of shopping online, this process is a game-changer. Warby Parker absorbs all the risk, you get a cheap pair of glasses, and you don’t even have to leave the couch. That one remarkable experience is not only memorable, it's something you're likely to share with friends too.
Co-founder, Neil Blumenthal explains—
"We had people getting these home try-on boxes delivered to their office and they would open them and try on their five pairs of glasses with everybody in the office. One customer turned into 10 customers."
Even now, with Warby Parker opening retail stores, the brand is still all about making it as fun, convenient and efficient as possible for their customers, allowing them to get prescription glasses ordered within 10 minutes and including fun surprises like personalised notes and ‘build your own snowman kits’ with purchases.
"Walking into one of our stores or visiting the website, having the box arrive, opening the shipping box, the charcoal gray gift box, the light gray glasses case, and so on. We think about all aspects of the experience", said Blumenthal.
The takeaway: There are always areas where a customer experience or product can be improved. Look for ways you can elevate your customer’s buying experience by talking to them and understanding the pain points that they experience. Asking ‘what could we do to make this more convenient, simpler, more fun, less risky or more efficient for our customers?’ is the best way to find areas that you can stand out and separate yourself from competitors, even in a crowded market.
Their website is simple and focused
This online-first company relies on their website being able to convert visitors into sales, so it’s no surprise that there is a lot to love about their online experience.
When you land on the Warby Parker homepage, you can see they keep things nice and simple. They immediately give you a call to action— do you want to take their quiz to find frames or shop online? Clicking on 'browse', gives you 2 more options— womens or mens? They don’t bombard the user with too many choices, but guide them, step-by-step to arrive at the right page.
It’s also worth noting the simplified navigation menu— they’ve put four really important links in their primary navigation menu, and left the rest in the footer. This is a move to avoid overwhelming the customer by giving too many options and distractions.
“Some people love to put badges all over a homepage, but we thought that the best indicator of quality was actually beauty and good design. If we made that homepage beautiful and also simple and didn’t have too many distractions on it, it would be easier to use, but more importantly, it would give people the confidence to shop with us. Too much choice impedes decision making,” says Blumenthal.
You’ll notice one other important element on the home page for warbyparker.com, and that’s the call to action to join their email list. Although we generally recommend offering an incentive (lead magnet, discount etc.) to join a list, I love that this is front and centre. They don’t miss an opportunity to stay in touch with their website visitors and convert more of their traffic into sales.
Finally, I love their simple process diagrams that spell out exactly how you can try on their glasses at home or purchase a pair of glasses. As purchasing glasses online is still a new experience for many people, this is the reassuring reminder potential customers need to feel confident in Warby Parker's process.
The takeaway: Your website doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, but it does need to be strategically designed and easy to use if you want to drive sales. Focus on 1-2 important calls to action and keep them clear, simple and straightforward for maximum impact. A simple 'how it works' section on your website can also go a long way in clarifing and simplifying your process so that it's less intimidating.
They are masters of storytelling
One of the reasons Warby Parker have gained so much traction, so quickly (aside from obvious hard work and quality product) is their ability to cut through with their marketing. One way they do this is by telling their story in a way that both engages people and encourages them to become a part of that narrative.
They could just say, ‘we sell cheap eyewear’. But instead, they tell the story of 4 college students who, after realising that a greedy industry giant was monopolising the eyewear industry and inflating prices, set out to create a company that not only sold quality, affordable glasses, but also gave away a free pair of glasses to those in need for every pair sold.
When they first launched, Warby Parker’s underdog or 'robin hood' story quickly caught the attention of media outlets such as GQ, which subsequently lead to them hitting their first-year sales target in three weeks and generating a 20000 person waitlist.
Warby Parker's one-for-one initiative gives their customers the ability to be a part of this story too. They are giving their customers the power to help those less fortunate by directly tying their purchase to a donation to someone less fortunate. They can be a part of the narrative simply by choosing to buy Warby Parker.
The takeaway: Humans are wired for story, so sharing your backstory, desires, obstacles, impact and outcomes (for your customers) is a great way to build rapport, create connection and encourage memorability.
What we love about Warby Parker is that they are committed to understanding their customers’ painpoints, creating remarkable experiences on and offline and crafting their brand story in a way that resonates. All of these strategies have unquestioningly helped to build a stand out brand, but are all small steps that you can use in your business too.
Did you like this article? I'd love to hear from you! Leave me a comment and tell me how you could make these strategies work in your business.