NR: Do you think the bricks-and-mortar shop still has a place in the future of retail?
NB: Bricks and mortar isn’t disappearing and it’s changing at different paces for different categories: fewer people are going to buy paper towels in store in the future than they do today. While other categories’ online penetration will be a little slower. Our point of view is that a core attribute of humanity is physical interaction, so there is always a place for physical experience, and we are just going to keep iterating on what kind of experience makes most sense for our customer.
NR: Who would you say is the average Warby Parker customer?
NB: Obviously, we’re known for sort of being one of the quintessential millennial brands, but we’ve found that the attributes of our brand appeal to a much broader part of the population. Our shopper is someone who appreciates beautiful design and details, doing good in the world, and values great quality at a reasonable price.
NR: Do you consider Warby Parker a fashion brand, or do you see the eyewear industry as a category of its own?
NB: We consider ourselves a lifestyle brand. I think we have a really strong point of view, that centres around fun, creativity and doing good. If this was two decades ago, everybody would have immediately expected us to go into watches, other accessories and then into apparel. But I think one of the things that has brought us success is being focused. And thinking about a holistic experience - from the moment someone hears about the brand, to their shopping experience, to the act of transacting and our engagement post-purchase. By being focused, we have been able to consistently improve that journey.
NR: Are you’re saying you won’t venture beyond eyewear?
NB: I wouldn’t commit to that. But I will commit to staying focused and creating awesome customer experiences. You know, I think the way that we define ourselves is that if you have a Venn-diagram; one circle is the fashion and design world, another is the tech start-up world, and the third is the social enterprise world - if those three were to overlap, Warby Parker would be smack in the middle.
NR: You recently launched an app called Prescription Check, can you tell me about it?
NB: It’s an iPhone app that allows people to take a simple vision test wherever they are and we are then able to issue them a prescription. Traditionally, no one would think a fashion company would have robust enough technology, skills or ethos to solve something like that. But by offering that we’re making the entirety of the experience better, and solving one of our customers’ problems as it’s inconvenient and expensive to get eye exams. So, we view ourselves as experience designers, and part of that experience is our product, our stores, the digital design of our sites and apps. But it’s really about connecting all of the dots.
NR: Ok, so we’re twenty years down the line: what impact do you hope Warby Parker would have made on the industry and more widely, on a social scale?
NB: I hope that Warby Parker will have inspired a lot of other entrepreneurs and executives to run their business in a way that has a positive impact on the world - that would be my dream.
Neil Blumenthal is a speaker at the BoF VOICES 2017 conference that QICGRE is a principal sponsor of.