4 Ways Warby Parker Sets the Stage for the Future of Retail: How the Brand Serves up Unique Customer Experiences by Integrating Their Mission and Strategic Omnichannel Retailing

I’ve had glasses since I was nine years old. Let me tell ya, finding the right pair of glasses is a struggle. Through my middle school years, I went from blue wire frames to green plastic to thick tortoiseshell.

On and on they came and went as I tried to adapt my glasses to my current style. I resorted to wearing my contact lenses to give my wallet a breather. But, the search is still on for that perfect pair. Maybe you’re in the same boat and have tried Warby Parker’s Home Try-On program, too.

If you haven’t tried out their glasses yet, you should. If you’re still picking from the small selection at your optometrist’s office, you’re probably overpaying. And, you’re definitely missing out on some pretty cool frames.

Warby Parker makes shopping for glasses fun, affordable and incredibly simple.

That’s why this month we’re crushing on Warby Parker.

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Back in 2010, Wharton School students Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa and Jeffrey Raider founded Warby Parker. They were over the high cost of attractive eyewear. So they went on a mission to make well-crafted glasses available to customers without it costing them everything.

They realized that most “designer” glasses were licensed to a few giant eyewear companies and then sold in bulk to optical shops. If they cut out the middleman by designing and selling their own glasses online, they could make eyewear more affordable.

Fast forward a few years, they were shipping glasses nationwide. They began opening retail shops that let customers try on glasses in-store and buy them through their site. They’ve been killing the customer experience game and are consistently praised as the innovative poster child for the future of omnichannel retailing.

We’re digging into four ways Warby Parker is using omnichannel retailing and mission to build a customer experience that’s changing the game for us all.

1. They meet you where you are with their Home Try-On program

Buying a pair of glasses is pretty miserable when you don’t have a way to see how a pair will look on your face. Believe it or not, the models in the pictures are not always helpful. Though some sites allow you to upload a photo of yourself and hold a graphic of the pair you’re interested in over your face, this too isn’t the ideal.

There’s a reason that most people bite the bullet and dish out the cash for a pair of glasses from their optometrist’s office. Warby Parker recognized how hard it is to find eyewear you like without getting to try it on. They’re solution? Home Try-On.

Warby Parker changed the customer experience game by trusting their customers to take home glasses to try them on. How does it work?

  1. Pick 5 frames — They’ll mail them to you for free
  2. You get to spend 5 full days with them — try them on, conduct polls with your Instagram followers, make your pick! Then, send them back with a provided free shipping label.
  3. Find your favorite, or not — Warby Parker will help you to buy them fit with your prescription, now from $95. If you don’t like any of them, no problem! Send them all back and move on. You’re not tied to anything.

Warby Parker brings the eyewear shopping to your front door without any added cost. They entrust their customers to pick and choose their preferred style. You don’t have to drive yourself to a retail store to find glasses that work for you. They’ll meet you where you are so you can find the right fit without leaving your home.

2. They’re creating physical spaces for a full omnichannel retailing experience

As brick-and-mortar retailers strive to replicate in-store profits online, Warby Parker went the other direction, taking their online presence to an in-person experience. Warby Parker, though successful online, realized that shipping 5 glasses is not the same as trying on 50. 

They saw the benefit to having a social experience with someone helping you. At the end of the day, people still crave the interaction of other people during their shopping experience. And, will go out of their way to interact with them.

While continuing its focus on selling eyewear through its online distribution model, Warby Parker uses its physical stores to give customers something to do with those glasses. Even providing comfortable sitting areas and libraries modeled after Sweden’s Stockholm Public Library.

Warby’s Miami store has a floor that mimics swimming lanes, drawing customers in for refreshing Instagram content. Want to show your friends what you look like in your new pair of lenses? Try them on in the store for a holistic experience.

While creating an Instagrammable space for your customers is important, cosmetic facelifts alone won’t lift your store into the retail hall of fame. When paired with strong customer service though, you might have a recipe for success.

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Each Warby store has a concierge desk and is filled with brand educated associates. iPad in hand, each associate is ready to access customer accounts and inquiries. CEO Neil Blumenthal stresses that “no one wants to be followed around the store.” But, having available, friendly and knowledgeable employees are key.

This personalization and focus on the customer creates strong brand affinity for both at-home and in-store shoppers.

3. They’ve integrated their online and offline experiences with omnichannel retailing

Warby Parker didn’t just pick one thing — online e-commerce or in-store retailing. They found that the seamless integration of the two through omnichannel retailing set them apart. Customers weren’t picking one channel over another. Instead, they were happy to use every channel available to drive their experience.

Warby Parker wanted to use the data gathered from in-person interactions, and what was made available through customer online interactions to deliver a personal experience.

Co-founder Dave Gilboa said, “We were finding that 75% of people that buy something in our store have been to our website first. What they really value is convenience so we invested in technology to make the online and offline experience as convenient as possible.”

The company invested in technology that lets customers “favorite” items on the site or app before they headed into the store. And, when they get into the store, associates have access to that information, immediately. And, they saw the reverse play out, too. Customers were trying on frames in the store but weren’t quite ready to check out.

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Either they didn’t know their insurance information or wanted other’s opinions. With the help of Warby Parker in-store associates, they could take pictures wearing their favorite frame, convert it into a digital bookmark, and have that image sent to their email. From there, they could, with one click, add it to their cart.

Another innovation is Warby Parker’s “Find Your Fit” feature. Using an iPhone 10 or 11, shoppers can take measurements from 30,000 points on their face, leading to more accurate recommendations.

Whether you prefer to go in-person and get assistance or order online, Warby Parker knows that customers have different preferences while shopping. They converted their less-than-omnichannel retailing to include every channel to make the experience as simple and seamless as possible.

4. Their mission is externally focused and believe everyone has a right to see

Warby Parker is devoted to living out its mission and uses it to drive their development and brand. They’ve sold millions of pairs of glasses, and it has done so while maintaining a commitment to having a net-zero carbon footprint and providing eye care to the developing world.

Warby Parker’s mission is bigger than giving Americans access to affordable designer eyewear. They saw a problem that stretched further than designer eyewear and they wanted to fix it. Alleviating the problem of impaired vision is at the heart of what they do. And with the help of their customers, they have distributed over seven million pairs of glasses worldwide through their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.

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Developing a company with an eye on underprivileged vision was the path CEO Neil Blumenthal seemed to set early in his career. After college, Blumenthal joined VisionSpring, a nonprofit that increases access to affordable eyewear. He found that something as simple as eyewear can make a world of difference.

VisionSpring estimates that owning a pair of glasses is all that stands in the way of restoring vision for more than 700 million people, and uncorrected vision problems result in a global economic loss of over $272 billion annually.

Blumenthal saw this partnership between Warby and VisionSpring as a tangible way to make an impact worldwide — eventually developing their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair model. Customers first purchase a pair of glasses. Warby Parker records the number of glasses sold and makes a monthly donation to its nonprofit partners.

Warby Parker’s combination of mission, ease, affordability and personalized omnichannel retailing consistently set them apart from their competition. And today, their glasses are sold nationwide using data and the best parts of retail to drive their customer experience.

We all could learn a bit from Warby Parker’s incredibly unique model.

We all want the best for our customers and our employees when we take on new platforms. Use these 101 questions when you evaluate your next contact center software to up your omnichannel experience.