How To Sell An Old Product In A New Way
Warby Parker is a boutique online glasses shop that sells vintage-inspired specs for $95. In 2011, its second year, sales quintupled, and it has had to move offices four times to accommodate growth. Success came from not thinking, or acting, like a LensCrafters.
A typical optical shop carries up to 1,000 frames; Warby offers 50. That might exclude many customers' tastes, but it builds trust with those who like what they see. "It's easy to browse. It's not overwhelming," Neil Blumenthal says. "And it forces us to really hone our designs and produce only the ones that we're most proud of."
Warby Parker will mail users up to five glasses at a time, to try on and return. (Shipping is free.) That isn't just useful. The company finds that people try on glasses and then post the photos to Facebook, soliciting feedback. The average post receives five comments, thus spreading word about
The company is always surveying customers and found that many feel like glasses with logos turn them into "walking billboards." (A few said they'd even scratched the Prada logo off pairs.) So Warby puts no branding on its frames.
Every week ends with Inspiration Friday. "Our staff brings in articles, videos, images---anything that has sparked their creativity and innovation," Blumenthal says. That's led to everything from a creative annual report to an April Fools' Day "Warby Barker" (glasses for dogs) site.
Graduates from Tufts University (majors in International Relations and History; spends semesters in Argentina and Spain)
Moves to El Salvador to join VisionSpring, an organization that helps low-income people by teaching them how to start their own businesses selling eyeglasses. (Eventually becomes VisionSpring's director)
Develops collection of eyewear for individuals living on less than $4 per day and travels to Asia to meet with factories
Is named Fellow for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Wagner School of Public Service
Marries jewelry designer Rachel Leigh
Warby Parker hits first year sales target and sells out of top 15 styles; gets featured in GQ and Vogue; graduates frin The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (MBA)
Warby Parker distributes 100,000th pair to someone in need through VisionSpring; first son Griffin is born
Is named Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum; his son, Griffin, starts walking
Photograph by Mike McGregor
A version of this article appears in the June 2012 issue of Fast Company.