June 06, 2014

Hipster Glasses

Hipster Glasses Credit: Kervrn / Flickr Creative Commons

Guest:

The technology behind eyeglasses has existed for about 800 years. And the components are pretty simple: lenses and something to hold them to your face.

But anyone who’s ever purchased a pair knows that the price can be overwhelming.

Why? Especially when so many cutting-edge gadgets - from iPhones to Fitbits - are relatively cheap.

It's a question that bothered the founders of Warby Parker - so much so that they decided to turn the glasses industry upside down.

"There are a small number of multi-national companies that really control the industry," says co-CEO Dave Gilboa, "and so we said, well this doesn’t make a lot of sense and has really been stifling innovation in the industry.”

Warby Parker started as an online-only retailer and then, in the tradition of other startups, like ice cream giants Ben & Jerry, they bought a yellow school bus and turned it into a mobile store.

As the business grew, they started opening brick & mortar stores, a move which has garnered some criticism.

Gilboa argues that they’re not trying to become like their competition (think LensCrafters). Instead, Warby Parker is focused on a completely different experience – one that involves in-store photo booths and full-length mirrors. The most important ingredient is to “be obsessively focused on the customer experience.”

Opening the stores also helps prevent complacency.

According to Gilboa, you can’t be afraid to shake things up. He uses Netflix’s Reid Hastings as an example. “They had a very profitable cash flowing business shipping out DVDs…but recognizing that’s going to be a dying business, and they could either milk it for cash flows or they could be the ones to disrupt their own business and offer the best streaming experience.”

Want to hear more about Warby Parker’s unique approach?  Listen to our full interview, above.

Business, Culture, glasses, Warby Parker, online retail

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