It's not the first time a company has been called the Netflix of their niche industry. ManPacks is the Netflix of underwear, but ever since Warby Parker graced the pages of GQ being labeled "the Netflix of eyewear" earlier this year, the eyewear brand has exploded.
How aren't they 'just another eyewear provider'?
Well, they set out to shake up the industry by introducing high-quality glasses (prescription lenses included!) at their standard price of $95 a pair (without sacrificing quality or pushing big upsells). "Designer labels" with their high mark-ups because of their lofty brand association, and the additional costs of third-party vendors like LensCrafters make buying glasses (especially replacing them) a royal pain since you're paying out a few hundred dollars each time that insurance might not even cover.
In addition to fighting higher prices, Warby Parker is taking a new approach to online retail with their super cool virtual try-on system that allows you to try on any pair of glasses, so you don't have to worry much about dealing with messy back-and-forth with your purchase because what it looked like in person didn't live up to what you imagine it would have looked like when you were buying the glasses online. This is an exciting example of technology changing the way we shop, similar to Ray Ban's fun virtual mirror. It's making online shopping more real, which eliminates the need for you to ever have to leave your home, and cuts out the increased costs of managing brick-and-mortar locations which add to the cost of your product when you are helping to pay for the location's employee, lease and overhead costs.
What's also cool about the way they are doing e-commerce is that they send you up to 5 pairs of glasses (shipping both ways covered, courtesy of Warby Parker) for you to try on at home for 5 days just so you can give them a true 'test run' which is a helluva lot better than 5 minutes of checking out the frames at any store, plus you don't have to travel back and forth between the store! P.S. no hard feelings if you end up empty-handed. It's like a better version of 'try before you buy' because you never have to buy!
The company is also quite admirable. Through their inspiration from Tom's Shoes, Warby Parker has added a philanthropic element to their general business practices by donating one pair of glasses for each pair you buy to organizations like RestoringVision to give to needy individuals who can't afford glasses themselves.
While I am a bit of a web geek, I think I'll defer on the virtual try-on and the home try-on offers and anxiously wait to go to one of their physical locations to try on the goods since I'm probably currently outside of their normal shipping area, plus I like the personal attention of a salesperson who's helpful, and hopefully not too pushy.
But there is this massive trend in the way the web is moving and how the online consumer shopping experience is changing to replicate that of the in-store shopping experience. Of course, this isn't to say that brick-and-mortar will die and ecommerce will replace brick-and-mortar, but that ecommerce is constantly innovating to make your overall shopping experience more exciting.
Danny Wong is the co-founder of the Blank Label Group, which runs Blank Label, Thread Tradition and RE:custom, and is always excited about new developments in ecommerce, especially when ecommerce begins to offer lower prices and more engaging user experiences.
Follow Danny Wong on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dannywong1190