Seeing Glasses in a Whole New Light

If you wear glasses you know that shopping for them at the traditional places like LensCrafters and EyeMart etc.. is mildly, well…. antiseptic. One thing it is NOT is sexy or fun. Stores are boring with bad lighting, doctors smocks, mysterious pricing and ultimately, very expensive.

I found this out first hand recently when I needed a new pair of glasses. After multiple visits to the big box stores I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed. Yes, they have big brands with sexy names, like Prada, Gucci and Bulgari. But interesting and cool designs are extremely limited. And the prices!? Oh. My. God. A pair of funky Gucci frames with my prescription lens was, get this.. almost $500. For glasses?! Yep.

Part of why they are so pricey is – as I had seen on this 60 Minutes a few years ago – the eyeglass industry is basically a monopoly controlled by one company called Luxotica. They make all the frames and simply charge significantly more for the branded ones.

Well, one thing I hate is getting ripped off.

Enter Warby Parker. Warby Parker is a small, NYC based company/brand that is making the process of getting glasses sexy. They are truly disrupting an established controlled business by creating a unique, personal, convenient and inexpensive online solution – truly reinventing the glasses buying experience. To top it off, they even have brick and morter stores too.

Here’s why I love them.

1. WarbyParker.com is clean, contemporary, simple to navigate and the value proposition is straightforward and clear.
2. They offer a limited selection of funky frames for a flat fee of $95, including prescription.
3. They donate one pair of glasses for every pair purchased (wow, there is some good margin in this business).
4. You can select 5 frames to try at home, free shipping, for 5 days.
5. They tell their story. It’s personal.

So.. I went online, selected 5 frames and placed an order early Monday morning. They arrived Wednesday afternoon!

In all honestly, the quality is not “the best.” That is, the frames are slightly flimsier then I am used to. And you don’t get a choice on width. They have a very limited selection. And.. what do I do about getting them fitted? But really, how important is that? And for $95 what the heck do you expect? They are great looking and I was psyched to try them on! Here are the 5 I selected.

Most interesting though, is the model. It’s a bit of a mind game. I found myself evaluating the 5 options to pick one and yet was suddenly able to easily rationalize buying two (since the price was so great). It only later occurred to me that I didn’t “have” to buy any at all. Perhaps because they were already in my house? Or because they had invested in me by sending the samples at their expense? I felt a sense of obligation. Unconsciously I felt I “owed” them. I mean, it’s “only” $95. From a marketers perspective…brilliant.

Ultimately, I did decide to order the Sibley in Revolver Black (did I make the right choice?). I just can’t pass on a pair of fashionable glasses. Especially when they are a deal. I can’t wait for them to get here. I actually did have to hold myself back from buying a second pair.

While I await my delivery I did a bit more digging and no surprise, already found people knocking Warby Parker off. Technically it’s a duplicable model. Why not? But, like any knockoffs it’s “close” but not the same. Take Eyefly.com. It appears they’ve copied WP, even down to the charitable component. At least I “think” it’s a knock off. Technically I don’t know which was first, but I do know EyeFly.com feels like a ripoff. It’s simply not as cool a brand. The site isn’t as well done. They don’t have a great story behind their name (Warby Parker is named after two Jack Kerouac characters). And it’s an intangible part of brand but it simply doesn’t convey as emotional, thoughtful, genuine or as cool as WarbyParker.com.

So bravo Warby Parker. I’ll be sharing your story and encouraging word of mouth for your brand because you are a little offbeat, funky, value driven and into stirring things up. You’re just like me!

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