Warby Parker Becomes Massive Through Understanding The Market
Written by Matt Clement
Creating a start-up business isn’t easy. In fact, it may be one of the most challenging tasks in today’s over-saturated market, predominantly controlled by big businesses. That’s why when prescription glasses company, Warby Parker, hit their one-year sales target in a matter of three weeks, it left competitors in a state of shock.
How had such a small start-up company gained massive success in an incredibly short amount of time? The answer: affordability, action, and advocacy. All of these were based around listening to what the market was telling them.
Banking on Affordability
Founded in 2010, Warby Parker was created by four students participating in the Venture Initiation Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Their goal? To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.
As glasses prices continued to rise due to optical giant, Luxxotica owning most major eyeglass brands and chain locations, these four students were determined to make a change. Their decision to create an online store was an easy one. By removing the cost of maintaining traditional retail locations, glasses could be sold for a significantly lower price online.
Unsurprisingly, the idea to target middle and lower classes with modestly priced glasses was a hit. In fact, the moderate pricing of their glasses is such a staple in Warby Parker’s brand identity that they’ve created many commercials highlighting their affordable prices, such as the one below.
Acting on Advice
As Warby Parker continued to grow their brand, more and more consumers began to voice their desires for an in-person shopping experience. With customer satisfaction as one of Warby Parker’s top priorities, they decided to dip their toes in creating a series of brick-and-mortar stores. Although they had an interactive showroom for customers to virtually try on pairs of glasses, many craved the personal interaction and experience they received in-store and valued instant gratification, putting Warby Parker in a tough position.
The decreasing popularity of brick-and-mortar stores certainly posed a threat to this booming business, but Warby Parker wasn’t worried. As mall tenants continued to close by the thousands, some wondered why they were taking this leap into building physical locations. This was a big step for Warby Parker, as they had founded the company with online exclusivity in mind.
What consumers didn’t know, however, was they had a strategy. While many stores had opted for large locations with plenty of space to shop, leading to their eventual downfall, Warby Parker took the route less traveled. By creating smaller retail spaces for their stores to reside in, they could keep operational costs low while still increasing sales. Commonly referred to as “rightsizing,” Warby Parker wanted to create small yet efficient locations by utilizing modern technology. Think, “Apple Store” vibes.
With handy personal gadgets at their side, employees could complete all necessary tasks without having to access a traditional register. By doing this, the company not only took the initiative to prepare themselves for heightened success but was also catering to their consumer’s desires. An example of one of these stores can be seen below.
Advocacy for Those in Need
Recent studies have found that nearly two-thirds of consumers place a higher value on brands who participate in activism. Since Warby Parker’s founding, they’ve placed a strong emphasis on just that by making charitable donations to those in need. One particular initiative created by the company is the “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program, which has been in effect since Warby Parker’s initial launch.
Through this program, over five million pairs of glasses have been gifted to individuals across the world. Warby Parker also established the Pupils Project in 2015, which focuses on providing free vision screenings, eye exams, and glasses to school children in the U.S., as well as Mexico through a similar model called “Ver Bien.” Most recently, Warby Parker donated money to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This funding went towards a study regarding the correlation between the intervention of vision treatment and reading scores and the benefits of providing access to glasses for youth in urban settings.
Warby Parker’s flexibility with fitting consumer needs is what has continued to create prosperity. With a total of 97 stores across North America, Warby Parker is currently valued at $1.75 billion dollars— and they’re not stopping anytime soon. Armed with a desire to provide the best products at an affordable price, Warby Parker will continue to provide an exceptional experience for customers both online and in-person, through affordability, action, and advocacy.
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