One Million Strong: At Warby Parker, CSR and the Bottom Line See Eye to Eye

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Warby Parker announced today that it has sold—and distributed—1 million pairs of glasses through its one-for-one model, a mode of conscious retail that has since spread like wildfire after startups like TOMS Shoes and Warby made it mainstream.  

But the brand’s CSR-driven business strategy is only one part of its extraordinary success in the retail eyewear market that’s dominated by large-scale, big name distributors. Warby instead redesigned the online retail experience to be a seamless bridge between in-store interaction and online convenience, allowing in-home try-ons free of charge and bargain prices for trendy frames. 

“It’s sort of those moments that we find just win people over and generate good will, so that they’re likely to tell their friends about us,” co-founder Neil Blumenthal told Fast Company. “… Our business model is designed to make people happy. Whether it’s selling a $500 product for $95 or having a human being answer the phone within six seconds when you call.”[more]

The brands social arm is carried out through its nonprofit partners like VisionSpring, whom Blumenthal previously worked for. Based on the number of glasses sold per month, Warby Parker tallies an equivalent monetary donation to give to partners like VisionSpring, who train locals on how to administer eye exams and sell ultra-low-cost eyewear to their community, creating not only better quality of life, but a sustainable local economy.

“The beauty of the VisionSpring model is by selling the glasses, they treat the people they’re trying to help as value-conscious customers rather than needy beneficiaries, so they actually offer good customer service and they design glasses according to the style for the community they are working,” Blumenthal told TechCrunch

Besides being the outfitter of choice for hipster specs, Warby Parker has gained serious notariety among the tech set. 

“Warby Parker has always been a favorite of the tech cognoscenti, but not because of any feat of technological engineering,” Wired said. “Warby is rather striving to become a case study in innovative business engineering—marketing, design, vertical integration, service, and delivery. It’s what Silicon Valley would consider the soft stuff, and what customers experience as the rare feat of not sucking. Warby Parker is making the bet that doing the right thing can underwrite a strong, sustainable business.” 

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