Jen And Warby Parker, Sittin’ In A Tree …

February 2, 2012

If you know me, and if we’ve crossed paths in the last few weeks online or off, chances are good that you’ve heard me mention Warby Parker. Smart, successful, sexy, and stylish with a generous spirit and an aim-to-please nature…what more could you ask for? I’m in love. With a brand.

Warby Parker (named after characters in Jack Kerouac’s journals) is an internet-based eyewear designer, producer, and retailer. Founded by four friends who met at The Wharton School in Philadelphia, the brand launched in 2010 with the objective to “create boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at a revolutionary price point…” (as stated on their website).

According to a recent profile of the brand in AdAge, Warby Parker hit its first-year sales goal in just three weeks, sold out of its top 15 styles and had a waiting list of 20,000 customers after a month in business. Their role models: “Apple as a master of design and function; Zappos for customer experience; Nike for building an enduring brand; and Method and Patagonia as trailblazers with clear “do good” missions.” Clearly a recipe for success.

While there are many, here are just a few reasons I love Warby Parker:

The brand:
The brand is beautiful, and more importantly, perfectly attuned to its target customer and always consistent in voice — from the website, to social media, throughout the customer service experience, to the packaging and materials housed with the frames.

The product and price:
I seem to have a taste for what always turn out to be expensive frames and usually pay big bucks to avoid ridiculously thick lenses. Warby Parker’s glasses are a flat $95 for both frames and lenses. I almost feel compelled to place an exclamation mark here. They are able to do this by avoiding traditional channels and dealing directly with their customers. The frames are custom made from cellulose acetate with antireflective, antiscratch polycarbonate prescription lenses (thinner and lighter than glass). Even with high index lenses (an extra $30 to avoid the aforementioned ridiculously thick lenses), I’m paying a couple hundred dollars less than I’ve paid for my last pair of glasses.

Buy one, give one
For every pair of glasses purchase. Warby Parker donates a pair of frames to someone in need. The brand distributed over 100,000 pair of glasses in 2011.

The focus on creating an an awesome customer experience from introduction to the brand through to purchase:
The website is clean, simple and easy to navigate. To alleviate anxiety over ordering frames online, Warby Parker offers several ways to get comfortable with your choice. They have a virtual try-on tool which is better than many out there, photos of the frames on customers/models in various angles, along with measurements of the frames so you can get a better sense of how they fit on a face. And, the best part, they offer a free Home-Try-On option. You can select five frames and Warby Parker will ship them to you free for five days. This focus on customer experience carries through offline as well (as I experienced in email and phone correspondence with them during a glitch in my ordering process…totally user error by the way).

Consumer engagement
The real magic of this brand, and reason for my infatuation with it, is its success with building a huge following and a fast-growing network of brand evangelists. Count me among them. I’ve mentioned them in conversations, I’ve tweeted, I’ve sent an all office email, and now here I am again on the Peepshow. My coworker has suggested I seek a commission, as two other Fast Horse ponies have placed orders with a third pending. Warby Parker’s Facebook following has grown from 6500 in January of last year to over 50,000 in December. @WarbyParker has over 13,000 Twitter followers and they say they averaged 56 Twitter mentions per hour in 2011 (according to its “annual report“, which by the way, is another example of its smart, engaging content strategy).

Through all channels, they are engaging in authentic conversations with their customers, providing fun, brand-right, relevant content, and creating brand experiences through events like the recent #warbywalk – along with Instagram NYC, they hosted a stroll around Soho and the Meatpacking district ending with a rooftop party and trunk show.

Here’s a couple of us in our new Warby’s:

Me in my Zagg frames

Bob in his Spencer frames