I think the best thing about the Luxottica- Essilor deal is just maybe we can get over the Warby Parker Stories. I think that Warby Parker in general has been good for the optical industry. (Shoot me now!) When they started in 2010 they were disruptors and because of them and other disruptors, eyecare professionals had to change. That is not a bad thing.
Previous to Es-Lux merger, the viral news was Warby Parker was opening a lab. So what! They are giving jobs to local people, they have kept the business in the USA. Look at the labs such as Zeiss that built a lab in Mexico. As the the ‘comments’ they are going screw up? No offense to the labs, but all labs have screwed up at some point. The only ones I feel sorry for is the local labs that were doing their edging. They are going to lose business.
That said, Warby Parker was founded in 2010 and now it is said to be worth over $1 Billion. It seems that they are always in the news (good PR), and I am sure everybody has read at many articles about their success… but what are the key points that eyecare professionals can learn from.
- Opened up new markets: Found a niche in millennials and parlayed the shopping online experience.
- Eyecare Professionals gained business: New Customers came in with their frames and it gave the ECP opportunities to educate the consumer. It also gave eyecare professionals a chance to learn more about how and why people shopped online.
- Promoted the Give back model: To date over 186 Companies have a Give Back Marketing Platform. That does not count the numerous companies that have sustainability programs already in place: A&A Optical, Clearvision Optical, Essilor, Hilco, Jins!, Kering, Lamy, Luxottica, Sama, VisionEase, Zyloware, to name a few. Add in Companies that support Think About Your Eyes, Companies that have brands with a Give Back program (De Rigo, McGee, Revo, Tura) Large Retailers such as National Vision, SEE Optical, Owndays, SpecSavers, Sass and Bide, Ace and Tate and Wal-mart. In fact since 2010 a few independent optical offices have started their ‘own branded’ eyewear or accessories with a give back platform. (Optical Underground, Femie, Iolla)
- Pricing model: The flat free model has always had a place in optical, but with their marketing nailed it.
- Introduced The Send Home Platform: While this is not hugely popular (and very expensive to do) there are about 20 online companies that this service is available.
- Showed that consumers will purchase eyewear without insurance: Many WP customers ended up purchasing more than one pair.
- Realized that just online wasn’t going to cut it: opened up stores and they are busy. To date they have opened up over 45 Brick and Mortar Locations. It showed the importance of brick and mortar stores.
- Demonstrated the power of Social Media: How to build a community. Very few eyecare professional were on any social media back in 2010. They made it easy to share news.
- Showed the power of Branding: They invested in their company branding, from transparent year end reports, school busses, pop up stores, easy merchandising. Showed the importance of a Brand and a focussed positioning of product, market, fun and convenience.
- Keep one-upping themselves: They had to stay in the lead. They did not rest on their laurels. Instead they got creative and did some unusual out of the box marketing ploys that worked.
- Personality Wins: They made it fun to shop. They were transparent, they social medi-eyes their staff.
- Don’t have to have a lot of inventory, just the right inventory. Eyecare professionals re-looked at their inventory and suppliers and hopefully sharpened their mix.
Bottom Line: Warby Parker taught us not to take for granted customers and bring home the fact the optical biz has changed and we that are in this business need to change with it. Rebellion is a good thing.