We Welcome Warby

Image by  Barry Pousman

Image by Barry Pousman

Well the boys from Wharton sure have accomplished something in five short years. What was once a no-name upstart, offering cheaply-priced glasses, has become one of the most recognized brands in the world of eyewear. With a current market valuation topping $1.2 billion dollars. Warby got there by smartly targeting today's most desirable demographic group: Millennials - ages 16 to 36. This generation literally grew up with computers, with the internet woven into the base pairs of their DNA and are clearly the current masters of the latest smartphones and tablets.

WP's eyewear promise consists of quality eyeglasses, priced under $100, complete with poly Rx lenses, AR and a trendy, iconically-style plastic frame. This value package clearly resonates with many more than just Millennials. As seen on 60 Minutes, consumers have long and latently felt that glasses cost too much money for "a few pieces of plastic."  But beyond a carefully calculated price point, the main damage felt from Warby boils down to calling us "greedy middlemen."

Ouch! Hurts. 
Deserved?  Mmmm...I think so.

Compare our industry's reaction to Warby Parker with the 5 Stages of Grief:

  1. Denial - "At that price, they can't be any good!"
  2. Anger - "They called us greedy middlemen."
  3. Bargaining - "Oh wait, Mr./Ms. Millennial!" ー as they walk with their Rx and PD ー "We too have some $99 complete packages!" "Now wait a minute, Mr. Eye Care Professional. You actually have a value, complete eyewear package for around $100? Why didn't you offer it to me before? Oh, I see...perhaps you are a greedy middleman after all."
  4. Depression - "With all those Rxs walking out, will I still be able to stay in business servicing only aging baby boomers?"
  5. Acceptance -  I'm not sure there is any...yet. But here my suggestions on how to deal:

Don't Be Afraid to Lose Control

Going back to our refusal to release the eyeglass Rx, then contact lens specifications, and now the PD, how's that been working out for us overall in the court of public opinion? With smartphone refraction looming on the horizon, will we refuse to learn from our past and continue to deny the public what they want? I sincerely hope not.

Respect Consumer Choice

Buyers forever after will have access to far more choices than any single B&M storefront could ever offer. Further, the established frame and lens brands are realizing the true power of their brands and are redirecting their direct-to-consumer marketing efforts, forging an even stronger connection the end consumer, their 'true' customer. You could, like others have, decide to stop carrying any brand sold in alternate channels or on the Internet. But is that really constructive? Or you could find ways to re-align yourself with the brands that make the best sense for your business, and make covering your monthly nut that much easier.

Make Your Office a Brand

In today's crowded line of scrimmage, you can only get to the goal line by finding an opening to run through. Why not consider becoming a brand specialist, conspicuously aligning yourself with both well known and not so well known brands? Choose ones that best fit your demographics and your office mission statement. You do have a mission statement, don't you?

Remember: There are going to be thousands of people who will buy glasses elsewhereー many of whom will most certainly come from your client base ー who are going to need adjustments, repairs, emergency service and even upgrades. So instead of refusing service for Warby frames and the like...welcome them. Be the first in your area to stake out a position that proclaims "We Welcome Warby." 

Look, your individual mileage will most certainly vary. But if you don't start taking advantage of emerging opportunities, I guarantee your competition will. I've already tweaked my own website's search optimization for "eyewear repair and adjustments," and realize 3-4 new sales per month from what initially came in as a simple repair or adjustment need. 

To me, it feels far better to say "Welcome!" than waiting to whither. What say you?