Warby Parker: Branding

Source: GigaOm, Mar 2012

What they came up with was a plan to become a fashion brand, not just a retailer, one that offered great service, lower prices and a social mission from day one.

They recruited the services of a eyeglass designer and the same manufacturers used by big eyewear companies, launching two years ago with a collection of 27 styles all priced at $95.

From the start, they emphasized doing social good through a buy-a-pair, give-a-pair program, in which Warby Parker distributed a pair glasses to people in need for every pair sold.

Blumenthal said that online sales of glasses made up less than 1 percent before the company got started but he estimates it is now about 3 percent. That shows just how hard it is to break into the eyewear game. The industry is dominated by giants like Luxottica, which owns LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Ray-Ban and Oakley and makes eyeglasses for top brands including Prada, Chanel and Ralph Lauren. But by building its own brand, instead of just operating as an online retailer, Warby Parker is able to lure people with its own name and designs. And it can cut out the middle man, which is how it can under sell a lot of designer glasses by several hundred dollars. The only mark-up it applies is for high-index lenses, a $30 fee.

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