A few days ago, I happened to be scanning channels in the car and came across an interview with Jeffrey Raider, founder of Warby Parker on Business Radio powered by The Wharton School. This interview really got me thinking about the importance of identifying an unmet need in the marketplace and really focusing on that niche market. Raider and his business partners have done just that with their business Warby Parker, the wildly successful online prescription eyeglass company that's changing the way people buy and shop for prescription eyewear.
The idea for the business was born in 2010, while Raider was studying at The Wharton School. During the interview, he recalled his experience of not being able to find any glasses that fit his personal style or his budget. That frustration led to an idea that led to the formation of the company (along with three other classmates) that would provide quality, stylish eyeglasses at a fraction of the price of designer prescription glasses. They figured out a way to keep prices low by designing their own frames and selling online, cutting out the middle man altogether and refused to charge outrageous prices. This link explains exactly how they do it: http://www.warbyparker.com/how-we-do-it. They identified the unmet need in the marketplace and delivered in a big way. They've carved out that niche — and the target audience is quite specific: men and women ages 18 to 34 who like to buy designer eyewear, but not willing (or able) to shell out $500 for a pair. Warby Parker designer glasses typically cost about $100/pair, including the prescription lenses.
They win over customers by making the online ordering process simple and easy — with a focus on the customer and making sure the brand experience is all positive. For example, they’ll send five pair of glasses for you to try for five days, offer free return shipping on the ones you don’t want. On the website, you can try glasses on virtually to see what they look like on you. Oh yeah, and if that’s not enough, there’s a Buy A Pair, Give A Pair program. Warby Parker funds the production of a pair of eyeglasses to give away each time a pair is sold. To date, they’ve provided 500,000 pairs of glasses to people in need in developing countries. Certainly, a powerful social mission and a great way to make a difference.
The founders’ affinity for simple design as well as an appreciation of well-made objects is evident. Spend some time on the site, and you definitely get the sense that they are passionate about the products they create and truly care about making the world a better place. They've found their niche and have filled the need, and with the added component of social good — that's what I call a relevant and purposeful brand.
Note: Raider and another partner from Warby Parker started another company in 2013 called Harry’s— "Great Shave. Fair Price”. This time the products are shaving razors and blades. You guessed it — design conscious, quality, german-engineered blades and stylish razors at a very reasonable price. Check them out at www.harrys.com.