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Monday, January 26, 2015

What Warby Parker's SoHo Store Taught Me About Product, Company Culture, And Scaling A Business

Monday, January 26, 2015 Posted by Chris Tung , , No comments
This past Sunday, my Walmart glasses that I bought four years ago before I moved to New York finally broke. Partially blind, devastated, and preparing for the upcoming blizzard that's supposed to hit Manhattan Monday evening, I found as many glasses stores that I could to replace my broken spectacles.

After walking into an insurance-covered optometrist's office in Midtown and debating whether I should pay about $150, I decided that I would put my potential lenses down and give Warby Parker a try.

I've always known of Warby Parker. One of the first vertically-integrated start-ups to reaching huge valuations on a business model that's actually generating a profit, Warby Parker is one of the greatest start-up success stories and was always a topic of conversation while I was working at Bonobos. So, it was finally time that I walked into their SoHo store to see what all the fuss was about.

Simply put, I was amazed and finally got it.

The Product - Ease of Access

The minute I walked in I was impressed with Warby Parker's presentation. The store is staged as a library for obvious reasons, and I was really impressed by their wall of glasses and the center tables. Unlike traditional stores, Warby opts to keep all of their product on the show floor. Carrying over their amazing "try before you buy" online experience, anyone can walk into the story, head to a wall of glasses they like from afar, take a pair off the shelf, and try them on. There are zero barriers to try their product which makes browsing and buying incredibly easy.

Once you're interested in purchasing, there isn't a line for you to get in. Leveraging the positive checkout experience that Apple has created, Warby allows interested customers to walk up to one of the employees on the showroom floor to buy. The employees fill out your information on their iPad, swipe your credit card, and your glasses will arrive in 7-10 business days. It's quick and painless, and most of all, because Warby is vertically integrated, their product is significantly cheaper than the other pair of glasses I was looking to purchase (Warby = $95 versus $150+).

Although the significantly lower price paired with the amazing store experience showed me why Warby is doing well, there was something beyond the Product and Presentation that really made me want to support the brand...

Company Culture - Celebrate Your Team & They'll Celebrate You 


Once I was interesting in buying a pair of glasses, I placed them on what I thought were ordinary library desks, but once I started scanning the content behind the glass I realized I was looking at an entire timeline of the company. Celebrating everything from their first booze cruise to their first store opening, these seemingly innocuous tables were actually just as important to the store as the glasses people were buying.

When people move away from the wall of product and place their eyes on the table, they see what they're really supporting. When you buy a pair of Warby Parker glasses, you're supporting a company that celebrates every single moment of success, big or small. You're supporting a company that values their employees. Most of all, you're supporting a company that does it's best to be ethical, fun, and good in a world where more companies are cutting wages, outsourcing, and increasing prices to give value back to the shareholders while shortchanging the employees their responsible for.

(See the rest of the timeline here)

How Warby's Company Culture Creates Huge Scale

With a small set of tables located in the center of their store, Warby is able to do something most companies fail at: share their core values to their consumers and transform them into brand advocates. In doing so, Warby is able to change someone's opinion of their company from a "glasses company" to an "ethical company", and as more companies are choosing to become less than ethical and seeing their share price fall, Warby's play to emphasize their "goodness" rather than their cheapness allows them to scale because if someone can buy a cheaper product from a company that gives consumers a positive emotional feeling when they walk out the door, then they're creating consumers that will come back to buy more and consumers who will share their positive experience with their friends and family, creating massive opportunity to grow.

So, in the end, I bought the pair of $95 glasses, and I'm pretty pumped. Not because I won't be blind, but because I contributed to the growth of a company that's doing something really great for people all over the world, and I feel pretty damn good for helping Warby out.



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