October 28, 2015 35 Comments
Well the boys from Wharton sure have done it. From a no-name upstart to one of the most recognized eyewear brands in the world in only five short years, Warby Parker got their $1.2 billion valuation by smartly targeting Millennials—a demographic known to have the Internet woven into their DNA.
Warby Parker dictated a new Rx for the eyewear consumer: A $95 package of trendy eyewear that eventually defined them as a fashion brand. Their attractive package pricing also resonated with more than just Millennials. Consumers finally found their feelings validated that eyewear is not much more than “a few pieces of plastic.” More importantly, ECPs were wounded by being described as greedy middlemen. Deserved? Maybe.
Take a look at our reactions to Warby Parker. It smacks of the 5 Stages of Grief. First: Denial (“They can’t be any good.”) Second: Anger (“They called us greedy middlemen.”) Third: Bargaining (“Wait!” as they walk out with Rx and PD in hand. “We have some $99 packages too!” “Really? You have complete eyewear packages for around $100? Why haven’t you told me before? Oh, I see… perhaps you are a greedy middleman after all!”) Depression follows the loss of business. Eventually, you may find acceptance. In the meantime, here’s a recipe on how to deal:
Lose control—Refusing to release the Rx, the contact specs and now the PD has not won us fans in the court of public opinion. With evermore sophisticated apps poised to empower consumers further, it’s time to learn from our past and start to give the public what they want: The full optical menu, served a la carte. And without the feeling of being controlled.
Respect consumer choice—Buyers today have access to far more choices than a brick-and-mortar door could ever have. As established companies redirect their marketing to forge an even stronger brand connection with the end consumer, many call for eliminating any brand sold online from your store. But is that constructive? In my honest opinion, it’s better to align yourself with popular brands and make covering your monthly nut that much easier.
Make yourself a brand—Start by defining who you are and what you represent in a crowded eyewear market. That’s called a mission statement. Retell your origin story. Tell them your promise.
Reality check: Your customers are going to buy more and more optical goods outside your store. And they are going to need a local “eye guy” to give adjustments, repairs, emergency service and lead them to upgrades. So don’t refuse to service outside glasses. Trust me: You’ll be far better off welcoming a competitor like Warby than waiting to whither. You agree?
—Barry Santini, Contributing Editor