Hello, darlings! Remember when I said I would update more often? That’s gone well, hasn’t it? So, seriously, resetting your life after being somewhere else for 13 years and change is a Big Deal(tm). We’re still getting used to everything. And unpacking. It’s a process.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today! We’re here to talk about Warby Parker! Why, you ask? Because I’m taking a Social Media Marketing class to fill an elective for my MFA, and they’ve decided we’re going to talk about Warby Parker this week. “Drea, this isn’t what we were anticipating when you said you’d try to update more often,” I hear you saying. It’s not what I envisioned either, but let’s try it out! The class is only for 10 weeks, and I believe I’m assigned a total of four of these case study blog posts. I’ll make a point of throwing in some posts about writing and my absurd life in between. It’ll be an adventure!
Okay, let’s focus! So, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was first introduced to Warby Parker when I was roaming around University Village in Seattle. They had their own building which cropped up in a corner of the parking lot back in 2016 (which was annoying, because it meant less parking lot), and honestly because they had a trendy new building in an expensive shopping center, I made a lot of immediate assumptions about the company and their prices. If you’ve ever been to University Village, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It turns out, however, that I was wrong (see, I admit it when it’s applicable).
Apparently, Warby Parker is the brainchild of Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, and Jeffrey Raider, who were classmates at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (it’s a business school, I had to look it up). These charming (benefit of the doubt) individuals decided that they would revolutionize the way prescription eyeglasses were bought and sold. The traditional way of buying glasses – making the appointment every time, heading into a show room, paying through the nose – didn’t work for everybody. Their solution was to create a business model that focused primarily on online sales, manufactured in house, and sold directly to the consumer.
Now, in 2022 there’s an excellent chance you’re going to shrug and say, “So?” because by this point ordering glasses online isn’t really a big deal. Who hasn’t, right? In 2010, however, when they launched this endeavor, it absolutely was. To ease the initial distrust that the average consumer might have over ordering glasses online, they started the Home Try-On Campaign, where they would actually mail up to five pairs of glasses to your house for you to try on, decide which you preferred, and return the rest. They also made a point of being particularly engaging on social media.
For Warby Parker, engagement looks like a lot of posts, frequent campaigns, and as much customer involvement as they can manage. Their Twitter bio lays it all out, “Glasses starting at US $95 (including Rx), sunglasses, contacts, and eye exams, too! Buy a Pair, Give a Pair. Questions? Let @WarbyParkerHelp know.” It’s effectively the same on Facebook and Instagram – who they are, what they offer, where to get help if you need it. They are good at balancing their content. What do I mean by that? Well, though they’re a company and clearly selling a product, they make a point of having content that isn’t just about selling more glasses. There are a lot of updates about their different brick and mortar stores that are opening across the US, which makes sense. They feature pictures from customers in their frames. They even have completely unrelated content, like libraries they would love to go explore.
Perhaps my favorite of their current social media campaigns is #WarbyBlue. Warby Parker’s primary color in their stores, their shipping materials, and so on, is blue. They partnered with Lichen on an eyewear tray, which is in a very bold blue, and is a funky looking thing inspired by egg crate to hold your glasses in place when you set them on tables, nightstands, and so on.
The #WarbyBlue hashtag has been partnered with everything from the new eyewear tray to a short video of bouncing blue gelatin. It’s fun, it’s playful, and if you followed Warby Parker it would add a pop of color to your feed that catches the eye and interest.
There’s one more thing all over their social media, and I like it even more than #WarbyBlue. It’s not just a campaign, and it’s definitely more important.
Buy a Pair, Give a Pair
For every pair of glasses that Warby Parker sells, they provide a pair of glasses for someone in need. Since the beginning, Warby Parker has partner with VisionSpring to provide glasses the people and communities across the world for whom corrective eyewear was very necessary but out of reach. It is easy not to think of it this way, but poor vision is a disability, and can negatively impact people’s lives if it is not treated. In 2015, Warby Parker began their own program called Pupils Project, which currently works primarily with the Department of Education in New York City and the Department of Health in Baltimore to provide screenings, eye exams, and glasses to school aged children. They also partner with a similar program in Mexico, run by Ver Bien, which provides glasses to elementary school children throughout the country.
According to the case study in my text book, Warby Parker has been able to provide over 500,000 pairs of glasses to people and children in need. However, my text book was published in 2016, which means the case study they’re citing was probably from 2014. That was a very long time ago in the world of social media, social change, and business. If you go to Warby Parker’s website right now, or any of their social media pages, you will find out that number is a little behind. So what are they at now?
10 million pairs of glasses.
10 million pairs of glasses to people who might otherwise never have been able to afford them. To people who might otherwise have never been able to see. That is powerful. That is a business who has used their platform for something meaningful. I’m not saying they’re not also making a ton of money – their brick and mortar stores indicate that they definitely are – but they’re also doing good.
Clearly Warby Parker is doing just fine. Their business continues to grow, their online store bolstered by the storefronts popping up all over the US and even moving into Canada. Their business model, and a steady social media presence and marketing plan, has more than paid off. So, as a person with impaired vision, will I be switching to Warby Parker?
Not because they’ve done anything wrong, but Warby Parker employs a classically fashionable approach to their designs and to be perfectly honest it’s just not for me. I get my glasses the frustratingly old fashioned way because I found a company whose styles I love and the frustratingly old fashioned way is the only way they sell their frames. That said, everyone in my household (with the exception of my daughter, but age will likely do her in as it did me) wears glasses. Given everything I’ve learned about Warby Parker in this assignment, and given how much I dislike our current eyecare place, when it’s time for my son to get new glasses I may just go see what Warby Parker has to offer.