In an attempt to change the entire eyeglass industry, Warby Parker has achieved what few companies have ever attempted, let alone succeeded to do: give the power to the people. Driven by a completely consumer-based business model, the minds behind Warby (Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, Jeffrey Raiderand) were dedicated to perfecting their users’ experience from start to finish. This idea that the user comes first is is one that drives the entire Ai team, and what makes us particularly drawn to the brand. Well, that and the fact that they make stylish, inexpensive, and downright fun (to buy and wear) eye wear.
Escalating to the top of a $28 billion industry less than a decade after its establishment in 2010, Warby demonstrates it’s focus on catering to customers from the first touch point by sending customers five pairs of glasses to try on for free. Recognized by Fast Company as 2015's most innovative company, Warby's business approach backs up its winning title. From designing their glasses in-house, embracing nontraditional marketing channels, addressing customers directly, and selling their products for the strikingly reasonable prices, Warby far exceeds the normal e-commerce transaction, especially within their industry.
As Wired author Marcus Wohlsen puts it, "[Warby Parker's] customer service seems to be conducted by real people, not robots or, even worse, people trained to act like robots," in the 2014 post "Is Warby Parker Too Good To Last?" Powered by giving customers exactly what they want, the company ultimately sacrifices their own money, time, and control to fulfill such a unique business model. But the strange reality is that it actually works. Just last year investors valued the company at $1.2 billion. Yeah, it's working alright.
With such a unique foundation, Warby has seen a huge backing from millennials. This is due in large part to what many companies lack according to Accenture: a connected shopping experience. In a recent study put out by the consulting group, delivering a seamless shopping experience requires a presence at every stage of the process, meaning retailers must integrate their operations. Luckily for Warby, they've been doing this since the beginning. In an interview with Slate, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby David Gilboa stated, "We’ve taken a very hands-on approach, to ensure that we’re getting the best quality, and that we’re working with partners whose values are aligned with ours. That requires a lot of hand-holding, a lot of flying all over the world, but we think that that’s worth it."
Another thing that sets Warby apart from its competitors is the company's global awareness about the lack of adequate vision care. According to the company site, 703 million people currently live without access to eyewear. Working by the buy one/give one approach, Warby makes a monthly donation to their nonprofit partners (primarily VisionSpring) which in turn covers the cost of thousands of glasses. So far, that number is well over 1 million. Fun fact: people love companies that give back (We're looking at you, Toms). According to a 2013 study by Nielsen, 46% of global consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that have 'giving back' programs.
So blame it on the free delivery and returns, blame it on the one-for-one style giving, or maybe blame it on the fact that Warby Parker stands as the first ever e-commerce site for eye wear, whatever the decision may be, you can't deny the magic of this incredible company. Come close to this unique business approach, and you just might find yourself at the head of a skyrocketing start up, leaving companies in the dust unable to look the other way.