By Mylena Vazquez
Last year, after years of trudging to opticals to search for my next pair of glasses, I took a chance and requested my five-day, five-pair home try-on kit from Warby Parker. I’m late to the game, I know, but as the saying goes: better late than never.
I’ve been wearing glasses since I was eight years old, so I know a thing or two about the difficulties associated not only with finding the right pair, but finding one at an accessible price point. For years I was forced to choose between something either too expensive or too ugly, and nearly always left feeling dissatisfied and underwhelmed by my best possible choice.
So when I realized that Warby Parker was actually accessible to me, with my high prescription and narrow face (one year I had to get children’s glasses), I took the plunge. But really, it wasn’t much of a plunge.
Eye-catching, in more ways than one
First of all, Warby Parker frames are just really nice. They have frames for all face shapes, in all widths and sizes, and to suit all styles. You can choose a traditional shape and color combo for a classic look, or try a bright hue for a bolder feel. But the key is that all their frames are well-designed, at once classic and modern. With Warby Parker, you don’t have to pick the least-worst option; you can choose between several of the best.
Warby Parker also has great brand equity. Their clean, minimalist branding exudes cool and consistently generates word of mouth. Most significant, however, is their “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program, which has distributed over eight million pairs of glasses globally to people in need. Not only does it allow the consumer to feel like they are making a small difference in the world, but a big difference in someone’s life.
In the eyeglass industry, different is definitely better
Choosing Warby Parker is easy. The national average cost of a complete pair of prescription eyeglasses is $366 without insurance, and prices for designer frames range even higher. Meanwhile, Warby Parker charges just $95 — yes, for the entire pair.
With Warby Parker, those $95 go far. Included in the price are polycarbonate lenses, a scratch-resistant coating, and an anti-reflective coating. These are features that other opticals offer as upgrades, which could raise the price of the glasses by hundreds of dollars.
What’s most egregious is that profit margins on eyeglasses from traditional retailers is astronomical. The lenses alone are marked up between 700–800%. And the frames? The markups can be as high as 1,000%. This is the result of monopolistic mergers that have allowed EssilorLuxottica, the main purveyor of designer eyewear, to control 39% of the market share (and, at its peak, 51%).
But Warby Parker has vowed to disrupt that. As a direct-to-consumer brand, they’ve not just cut out the middleman but exposed the obscure pricing practices of the industry leader. By comparison, Warby Parker has established itself as an honest company that provides great value to the consumer. And it shows in Warby Parker’s performance thus far. It now accounts for 7% of the market share, an impressive feat for an independent company going head-to-head with massive multinational conglomerates.
Low hassle, low risk
Warby Parker can likely thank its rapid increase in market share on its unique hassle-free and low-risk business model. Warby Parker started out as an online-only retailer, and it had to do something to attract customers who would be wary of making such an important purchase online. The company had a genius idea: to offer prospective customers a free try-before-you-buy opportunity, right from the comfort of your own home. For five days, customers can test out five pairs of their choosing; once returned, they can even request another five. This allows customers to feel safe in their purchase decisions.
Now, Warby Parker even has over 150 brick-and-mortar stores across the United States. They offer eye exams and frame consultations, and know exactly what to recommend. When I visited my local store, the salesperson quickly pulled up my try-on history, saw more or less the styles I enjoyed, and recommended some pairs for me to try on. I walked out of the store in 15 minutes, receipt in hand, and received my glasses in the mail, free of shipping, a few weeks later.
Warby Parker’s process is seamless and stress-free, its glasses stylish and sensibly priced, and its business practices transparent. If anyone has a chance at overtaking Goliath, it’s Warby Parker.
Have you been sold by Warby Parker’s home try-on service? Where did you buy your current pair of glasses?