Why Narrow Works: Warby Parker 

When four business students posed their idea for an online eyeglasses store to investors, the responses included a lot of scoffing and eye rolling. Eight year later, that idea is a company valued at $1.2 billion. 

We could attribute Warby Parker’s success to a host of factors, and in truth, the company is the product of a perfect storm: they released an affordable, stylish product to a market formerly monopolized and price-controlled by one big brand (Luxottica) at a time when e-commerce was set to catapult to new heights and was already gaining new levels of trust from a growing consumer base. Those are all factors in Warby Parker’s success, but the foundation for that success is much simpler: they created a single product and sold it well. 

Since it’s earliest stages, Warby Parker has prioritized the customer experience. That may seem counterintuitive—after all, it wasn’t until recently that the company began to interact face-to-face with its customers—but “customer experience” comprises far more than just the verbal exchange around a purchase. Customer experience includes the way product is marketed, packaged, presented, purchased, returned, and used. Across every interaction with the customer, Warby Parker is consistent in their prioritization of the buyer’s wants. 

Take the formation of the company itself. The founders recognized that customers wanted cheaper eyewear, and they found an easy solution to get them what they wanted: cut out the middleman retailer and sell direct through the internet. Of course, people want to try before they buy, but rather than surrender to a brick-and-mortar concept, they created a whole new model where customers could experience their product at home. The model provided not only a much lower overhead for the company, but more importantly, an intimately experiential engagement for the buyer: rather than choosing from thousands of pairs and quickly trying them on under fluorescent lights and in tiny mirrors, customers could actually experience a curated selection of frames in their daily lives before committing to the product.

Warby Parker quickly and methodically positioned itself as an affordable alternative to the traditional Luxottica brands and distributors. With simple, catchy marketing, they grasped the mindshare of glasses-wearers and proved themselves worthy of it with a great customer experience, earning legions of fans in no time. 

Over the past eight years, the company hasn’t changed much. Unlike other manufacturers, Warby Parker wasn’t wooed by the temptation of product multiplication. They’ve opened some brick and mortar locations (read more about those here), but their focus remains on eyewear delivered with an incredible customer experience. The company has grown, but the direction of that growth is depth—expanding availability and sheer numbers of product—rather than width—adding other product lines or models. 

Warby Parker stands testament to the value in putting all your retail eggs in one basket, prioritizing a solid product delivered with a great customer experience for unparalleled success. 

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