Today’s consumers are using the internet to purchase everything, from private jets and prescription medications to their daily needs.
However, the thought of ordering prescription glasses online was not something that many people considered possible until 2010. This was also the year Warby Parker’s co-founders, Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, founded an ecommerce platform devoted exclusively to prescription eyewear.
Gilboa claims they didn’t listen to the industry experts who advised them that they were launching an ecommerce site and a brand of eyewear was too much.
He says, “We loved the fact we were outsiders.” We were able to think differently and were willing to disrupt the way people buy glasses.
Warby Parker’s current market value is $3 billion. The company has also expanded to offer sunglasses and contact lenses, called Scout. The company filed a confidential application for an initial public offer to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in June. The company recently released an app which allows users to renew prescriptions by conducting a vision check on their smartphones. It plans to open more in-person shops, so customers will be able to purchase their eyewear as well as receive complete eye exams.
In an exclusive Inc. stream, Lindsay Blakely (Managing Editor ) spoke with Gilboa about the future of ecommerce retail as well as how entrepreneurs can adapt to the changing ecommerce landscape. These are the key takeaways of this interview.
1. Be aware of what is causing customer friction.
Which part of customer interaction with you business is the most difficult? Gilboa said that Warby Parker was not able to make it simple for its customers to receive eye examinations and get new prescriptions in the early years. Warby Parker customers interested in buying glasses from Warby Parker had to visit their optometrist to get a prescription. Warby Parker would send it to them.
Warby Parker’s customers needed to obtain a prescription from a doctor separately in order to purchase their glasses. Gilboa says, “I don’t think that we realized how much friction it might be for those customers and patients.”
Warby Parker has opened 140 stores in person with licensed optometrists since then. The Virtual Vision Test App allows customers to renew prescriptions using a smartphone vision exam.
2. Find ways to improve your retail experience.
Entrepreneurs should look at the opportunities for improvement in traditional retail shopping experiences, regardless of whether customers are looking for new swimwear or a car. Gilboa and his co-founders wanted to make eyewear shopping fun.
Gilboa says, “We didn’t like the experience of shopping in a cramped shop where every frame was locked and key.” The salesperson is very staring at the customer while you look into a handheld mirror. They try to sell you different coatings and lenses. You may not understand what you are buying but they bill you hundreds of dollars.
Warby Parker attempted to replicate the in-person shopping experience that customers love about online shopping when creating an experience for retail. According to Gilboa, 70% of their retail customers began shopping online. The customers then visit a physical store and try the frames on before purchasing the glasses online or in person. He says that the company focused its efforts on creating a single tech platform to integrate all of these experiences.
3. Your customers’ needs should be your guide.
Warby Parker closed temporarily its retail stores during the pandemic. Warby Parker saw an increase of online orders and a demand for their home trial program. This allows customers to test out a variety of frames before they purchase. The Virtual Vision Test App was used by more people. Customers could also avail telemedicine video consultations from the company.
Gilboa says, “We tried to figure out the best ways to use digital tools so that everyone can access proper eye care” and the contacts and glasses that they require.
Publiated at Wed 28 July 2021 23.23:35 +0000