Business with Conscience – Warby Parker

Tim AtenIt appears this blog is becoming a comment on for-profit organizations as vehicles for positive self-actualization and societal change. Here in Detroit we’re continually reminded by the failure of our publicly elected organization in the form of its bankruptcy. While there are large macrocosmic winds of change forces which led to our economic demise there were elected officials at the helm. The bringing to the table of the Detroit Institute of Arts collection as capital collateral has been a source of much debate and symbolism. It’s interesting large foundations backed by large corporate money are coming to this same table to protect these priceless treasures to the community and aspiring young artists. This goes to the core of The Desiderata which hung on my grandfather’s home office back in the day-

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Recently I’ve come across a company which has intrigued me on many levels which, taking from the Zappos playbook, is a prototype of a forward thinking company in the Aquarian age. Warby Parker. They sell glasses and sunglasses online.

Warby Parker Facebook

My intrigue began with how they astutely targeted me via my Facebook feed. They employed an elegant mix of 1) targeting via interests probably associated with my fashion likes and follows and 2) re-targeting in Facebook news streams after I’d been to the website. Their implementation was textbook – it was just enough to remind and keep me aware without being annoying. Zappos sometimes crosses this line. Seems like I’m always seeing ads for shoes.

The Warby Parker Facebook ads paired with a pixel on their site led to a conversion. For success in business-to-consumer models it’s crucial to employ retargeting and use social channels to identify potential customers. The days of buying blanketed spots are over, one must identify and target the audience. Buy the audience, not the spot. All marketers need to understand the pixel and how it works. Ghostery is a great tool for this and explored in my post Cookies, Ghostery and Online Privacy.

Their product appeased my post-modern vintage aesthetic which they were able to deduce from my interests on Facebook. Google is also not far behind with their KnowledgeGraph and Google+ being a force behind the scenes. The Warby Parker site is also well-designed and incorporates a clean User Experience. Immediately what caught my attention were

  • One can try on up to five glasses at a time, they ship, you try on, and then send back. Super convenient.
  • The name derives from the merging of characters from Jack Kerouac journals.
  • Virtual try-on.
  • A brilliant smittering of content. Enough to be technical and making the prospect feel well-informed without being boring. Their design page is a great model and example.

However it’s the page How We Do It which sold me. Taking a page out of the Costco playbook Warby Parker gives you a look behind the curtain how they save costs. This makes the prospect feel they’re “a part of the game” by taking out the middleman. Savings appear to come from a process going straight to the source. And I believe them. I ordered a pair of hight quality sunglasses for $120. I am very happy with them. I think of the $500+ price tag for fashion conscious eyewear. There’s the manufacturer, the distributor, the physician, the lens maker and on and on. Warby Parker’s site in a post-modern and transparent flair gives the consumer behind the scenes access to how they stay in business. Quality appears to not be sacrificed in the stripping down of unnecessary costs.

The Post Modern Marketer

The Post Modern Marketer

Finally is the socially conscious organization which is not entirely new or uncommon. Many companies give back to the community or impoverished areas much like a foundation helping out the artwork of the DIA. With a certain degree of seriousness I talk about the new business in this Aquarian age, it is expected to be socially conscious. My wife recently started talking about getting a new prescription and eye glasses and I recommended she check out Warby Parker. When she went online the first thing she said was, “Oh this is cool, for every pair of glasses they sell they give a pair to someone in need.” This was the story that drew her in. Great content.

All the elements have been put together well in Warby Parker’s online presence –

Great content, smart audience based targeting, a very public and post-modern deconstruction of its business model, and a socially conscious message.

Study and learn. Keep the UV out of your eyes.

Everything written here are the views of Tim Aten and Tim Aten only. They have no relation, nor are they the views of any of my employers past or present.


  1. I like where you’re going with this blog site.

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