An e-commerce eyewear company with such innovation that their name has become a way to describe how other e-commerce businesses operate.
Lots of businesses (especially in the tech world) talk about the memorability of a name – ideally, whether or not their brand’s name can be used as a verb. When this name goes from only being used to describe that particular company to being used as a verb or a universal comparison, you’ve done something right. For example, we now “Google” answers to questions or “Facebook” people to stay in touch. So, what does it mean when someone says they are the Warby Parker of sneakers or of perfume or of spatulas (ok, spatulas might be a stretch)?
Warby Parker got started as an e-commerce eyewear company, disrupting an industry that usually has customers paying hundreds of dollars for frames and choosing from hundreds of different options. Instead, the people at Warby Parker let their customers try five frames for five days without any obligation to buy them, believing that their product was good enough that if someone tried their glasses, they would like them enough to buy them.
Starting online removes traditional barriers
Since the success of this format, Warby Parker has set up shop in the real world – which is pretty much the opposite of what we were used to seeing as a starting point before the age of e-commerce. We used to wonder when a brand would be offered online and now companies like Warby Parkers start there (Exhibit B: Etsy success stories).
As Drake Baer from Fast Company writes, “Back in the day, if you wanted to start a retail brand, you’d have to invest in a physical space before knowing whether or not you’ve got customers–and be limited to those in your surrounding area. However, companies like Flint and Tinder and Everlane had outsized signups before they even launched–such is the product-market fit magic of Kickstarter, social media, and increasingly badass analytics. Companies can get at more customers for less money than ever before… All this growth has an counterintuitive consequence: As the brands get big online, they go offline.”
So, lets go back to “The Warby Parker of…” If you hear someone saying this, they are usually trying to explain one core message about their brand:
They have decided to cut out the middle man between the creators of the product and the buyer (ie. the physical store) to save their customers some money.
If this were all that Warby Parker did then sure, this makes sense as a way to clarify a business model – but it isn’t.
“Warby Parker isn’t just a company; it’s a category. As the eyewear maker opened four more physical stores, closed a $41.5 million round of funding, collaborated with the likes of the musician Beck, and expanded its staff to 300, it set the standard for merging online and real-world commerce while maximizing its cool.” – Jason Feifer