The Eyes Have It!
For inspiration on how to build or strengthen your retail brand, look no further than Warby Parker.
by Lori Yuhas, CEO & Managing Partner, Marquee Brand Builders (home photos used herein)
Every so often I experience a brand that tickles me silly. Perhaps, like me, you’ve had the good fortune of experiencing E-talier-cum-retailer prescription eyeglasses & sunglasses provider Warby Parker?
Founded by two Wharton MBAs, Warby Parker has disrupted “the fix” by offering fashionable prescription eyeglasses starting at $95.
My Warby Parker story
l discovered Warby Parker through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. (How often do I preach that brands tell stories? That brands are stories? That people tell brand stories?) During a recent eye exam at my neighborhood ophthalmologist—my first visit in years—I was shown an assortment of frames. After convincing myself I looked simply darling in PAIR D, the assistant pulled out her calculator, pushed her eyeglasses up her nose and got to work on a price estimate. There were the frames themselves, and the lenses . . . non-reflective a must for computer use . . . and did I want scratch-resistance, too? “Yes, of course,” I politely responded. (That calculator got a workout!) When the assistant spit out a final estimate of $565 I thanked her for her time, snagged my prescription and left the ophthalmologist’s office feeling irritated. Why does buying prescription eyeglasses have to be so pricey?
Turns out it doesn’t.
After sharing my irritation with a friend (I’m from the value-oriented Midwest), she recommended I check out Warby Parker. I did, and I couldn’t be more delighted. There are too many brands that take my energy, and few that give me energy. Warby Parker is a giver.
Key things they do right:
Work from a clear and energizing strategic foundation, including a customer-centric North Star.
Driving insight: Buying prescription eyewear is pricey.
Market Position: Warby Parker offers designer eyewear at revolutionary prices while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.
Customer-Centric North Star (Experience Manifesto): “We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.” WARBY PARKER
How’s that for strategic clarity? Notice how Warby Parker built an end-goal customer feeling state right into their manifesto? Everything Warby Parker does is with their market position and customer-centric North Star (promised experience) in mind. And in this customer’s experience, Warby Parker delivered wonderfully on their promise.
Speaking of experience … here are some of the other things Warby Parker does right:
An exceptional customer experience that anticipates my every need.
Because a Warby Parker retail store isn’t opening within a 5 mile radius until this summer, I went the E-tail route: Explore online, take an eyewear fit quiz, browse frames, choose five to try-on at home (for free!), receive home try-on box #1 (came quickly!), read literature (learned WP gives a pair for every pair purchased!), return trial box #1 (so easy!), back online to choose more frames, receive home try-on box #2, make my choice (they’re darling!), return trial box #2, upload my prescription to the site, receive my glasses, feel happy—delighted—yet again, smile hugely, tell my story to everyone. All along my journey, Warby Parker stayed in touch with timely, approachable, informative and directive emails.
Here's an email that addresses prescriptions (links disabled):
NO PRESCRIPTION? NO PROBLEM!
Order whenever you want, with or without a prescription. We’ll get your frames prepped and shipped as soon as you send over an up-to-date one.
WHAT’S YOUR PRESCRIPTION SITUATION?
“I don’t have a prescription” OR “I think it’s expired” Schedule an eye exam with your doctor or find an optometrist on ZocDoc.
“I don’t have it on me but my doctor does” Email email@example.com or call 888.492.7297 with your doctor’s contact info and your date of birth. Consider it handled.
“I have a prescription! It’s right here!” Upload a pic of your prescription (make sure the exam or expiration date is in view!) at checkout OR email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I have my prescription but not my PD (pupillary distance)” Measure it here. It’s a cinch.
STILL THINKING ON IT? Here's what you just tried on.
Throughout my journey it seemed as if Warby Parker knew exactly what I was thinking—and needed—at every single step in my shopping and buying process. They were always one step ahead of me, and I greatly appreciated their foresight.
BRAVO, Warby Parker! You’ve though of (practically) everything.
Throughout the customer journey I felt known, trusted, understood, appreciated and delighted. Imagine all that. Plus, Warby Parker offers incredible price value. It’s no wonder I feel they’re givers.
Did I mention ease & simplicity?
Yes, I was lured in by Warby Parker’s great price (which includes fames, lenses, non-glare coating and scratch resistance). But Warby Parker had me at ease & simplicity. A few examples:
From the way the website led me through the discovery, trial & buying process, to the perfectly informative Home Try-On Handbook that came with my home trial, to the stream of emails I received along my journey, they went out of their way to make my experience as easy-to-follow and effortless as possible.
Buying eyeglasses can be an overwhelming experience. In traditional retail environments, there are simply too many frames to choose from. Warby Parker simplified things and put my mind at ease by providing just enough frame options, with clearly differentiated reasons for being (shape, bridge width, color). (Apple is another brand that keeps selection to an easy-to-navigate minimum.)
Assortment note to Warby Parker: Would love to see red frames in the mix!
In a nutshell: simple. Props to Warby Parker’s copywriters, because simplification in the written word is an art form. Warby Parker’s communications give me just enough information to provide direction and answer my questions, without paragraphs of technical detail. I especially appreciate their choice of fresh-mouthed yet approachably colloquial language (and iconography).
A great personality . . . verbally and visually.
First and foremost, Warby Parker oozes authenticity (being true to who they are, with a clear belief in themselves), and it’s attractive. The brand’s personality shines through as a knowledgeable, friendly and dependable trusted advisor who speaks to me as a smart yet busy professional who could probably use some help on her eyewear buying journey ... but has little time to receive the offered help.
Warby Parker lives with a clean (lots of white space, light on design) visual identity that puts what & who they’re for—eyeglasses & Millennials—squarely at the center without any extraneous “visual noise”.
The courage to trust themselves. The courage to trust me.
Yes, the founders had the courage to found Warby Parker in the first place and trust themselves and their team to take on an entrenched honeypot industry dominated by a single company. Just as important, the founders had the courage to trust me … their customer. Their free in-home trial trusts me with their property. Their free in-home trial trusts me to make an unassisted decision. Their trust in me left me feeling valued as a customer. As a result—and I suppose it’s because I trust in myself—I trust that they know what they’re doing. I’m left having an emotional relationship with Warby Parker rather than a transactional one.
At-home eyeglasses trial? Who’d have thunk it? Yet Warby Parker’s founders brainstormed the central idea that turned traditional prescription eyeglass buying on its head, and then figured out how to provide a terrific and seamless in-home trial experience that left me free to explore frames’ fit and appearance on my own timing (and in my pajamas).
NOTE: If you’re keen to ideate breakthrough creative ideas like this one, check out Marquee’s Creativity Experiences.
Brand consistency across all touchpoints ... web, Home Try-On, email and retail.
I was in downtown Detroit recently, and took a short stroll to see how Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert & Little Caesars’ (pizza) Illich family are turning the city around. I’d just been through Warby Parker’s E-tail experience when there on Woodward Avenue, before my wide, delighted eyes, was a Warby Parker retail store. I walked inside and was greeted by an oversized welcome mat (it’s often the smallest, unexpected touch that sets a brand experience apart) followed by a sales associate who welcomed me with a warm hello and a big smile. The brand’s retail voice and personality—represented by the sales associate and store design—matched the brand’s voice and personality at all other touchpoints. Not surprisingly, the store’s shelves were lined with the same frames sold online. I tried on nearly every pair that could fit my face (and even some that didn’t) and found that Warby Parker’s web-enabled fit quiz and Home Try-On did a great job at funneling me to a pair of glasses I’d have chosen in-store. The retail experience reaffirmed my E-tail experience and strengthened my emotional relationship with the brand.
Finally, Warby Parker is an exemplary Brand Citizen.
At Marquee Brand Builders, we believe brands have a responsibility to make a conscientious and meaningful contribution to the Greater Good. We call this Brand Citizenry. Brands can express their citizenry on three levels of action: Positivity, Purpose and Activism. Warby Parker is an ACTIVISM brand, partnering with non-profits to distribute a pair to someone in need for every pair purchased. (To-date, they have distributed over 3 million pairs.) In fact, Brand Citizenry is right there in their market position: Warby Parker offers designer eye ware at revolutionary prices while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.
For their exemplary Brand Citizenry, Warby Parker earns Marquee’s most enthusiastic STANDING OVATION!
Note: Check out our thinking on Brand Citizenry and learn how Marquee Brand Builders can help your brand define and activate its role in the Greater Good!
YOUR NEXT MOVES
As a brand-builder, always remember that what customers want most is to feel something good. After all, that is what branding is all about—making people FEEL something good—a (desirable and wanted) feeling that keeps them coming back. Whatever your product or service category, why not deliver a feeling customers can only get from your brand?
How to build or strengthen the experience your brand is offering your customers:
IT ALL BEGINS WITH STRONG FOUNDATIONAL STRATEGY
A clear, focused strategy from which to execute is a necessity for your business or brand’s activities, and is an important first step to achieving marketplace success. A clear, focused strategy – where you’re heading, and why – engages, energizes and enables everyone on your team or in your organization, and your partners, to execute with excellence and deliver a consistent stakeholder experience across all business or brand touchpoints. When a strategy is clear and focused, it makes a GINORMOUS difference to your execution, and thus your top and bottom lines.
Strategy is a process. First, clarify the customer problem you're solving for. Often, the customer problem is not what you think it is. For example, most eyeglass retailers may think the customer problem is "people need stylish prescription eyeglasses." (Or they're not thinking about the customer problem at all. They're only thinking about their top line.) But as Warby Parker has shown, the real problem is "prescription eyeglasses means big expense." Do your Human Understanding work and spend the time necessary to clarify the problem you're solving for. Next, how do you now, or how will you, resolve this problem? This is often your marketplace differentiator - the HOW you do what you do that makes you different. Finally, what’s your promised brand experience (customer-centric North Star)? Does it include a customer feeling-end goal, and is it aspirational for employees and customers alike? If you need help creating or strengthening your foundational strategy, please get in touch!
CARE ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS FROM ABOVE
The people in your organization already get it. So if your title begins with any of the words “Chief, President, Vice or Executive”, I invite you to engage with each other and then your marketing, sales and operations teams on what an ideal customer experience means to your product or service category and the customers who 'shop' it. The companies who do the best jobs at delivering an exceptional customer experience have customer passion and advocacy coursing through their executives’ veins.
THINK IT THROUGH IN DETAIL
What feeling do you want to leave customers with? Happiness? Security? Belonging? Exclusivity? And is that feeling: 1) something customers want, and 2) unique in your category? Recall how Warby Parker built an end-goal customer feeling state right into their North Star Manifesto: “We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.” Then, map out your customers’ journey from end-to-end, including every brand touchpoint. What can you plan into your experience delivery—both overtly and behind-the-scenes—that will leave customers with that feeling? Reinforce the experience—and feeling—all the way to the journey’s very end. Be attentive to the smallest of details. [Recall the welcome mat that greeted me in the Warby Parker’s retail store?]
ENGAGE & MEASURE
Engage customers in designing your experience (through research, “experience play” and conversation). Experiment. Then, measure and analyze your customers’ experiences at every one of your brand’s touchpoints to ensure you’re delivering, and doing so with consistency. Improve where you’re not.
Thanks for reading. Now go and put your inspiration to good use. Yes, you can!