Warby Parker aimed to address a simple problem: Glasses are too expensive. They boldly shined a light on incumbents, claiming that the eyewear industry is monopolized by a single company that keeps prices high for its own gain. Like many direct to consumer (DTC) brands, they told consumers that they shouldn’t have to make trade-offs where quality, convenience, and affordability are concerned. Warby Parker’s marketing strategy would go on to disrupt a $140 billion industry.

Beyond its narrative, Warby Parker’s value proposition is what really hooked consumers’ attention. In fact, Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker attributes the brand’s success to its “highly delineated offering.” He notes the company’s Home Try-on program, which was the first of its kind in any category, unlocked the eCommerce channel fully for them. This model also made it possible to sell quality frames for just $95 — a much smaller price than those offered by traditional retailers.

Without a doubt, Warby Parker’s Robin Hood–esque mission makes for a good story. But what else is behind the Warby Parker marketing strategy? Let’s take a closer look.

Powerful Press

At the outset, Warby Parker spent money solely on its initial inventory, its website, and a PR firm. That last piece may seem counter-intuitive, but it laid the foundation for the word-of-mouth buzz that would propel them through their first year. The company successfully launched with features in Vogue and GQ magazine. As a result of this press traction, Warby Parker hit its first-year sales target in three weeks and generated a waitlist of 20,000 customers.

Co-founder Dave Gilboa acknowledges that good press doesn’t always generate this level of impact. However, Warby Parker’s differentiated offering and socially conscious mission propelled it into the spotlight. In Gilboa’s words, “what [we] were doing was unique — that is what got editors excited and got readers excited.”

Today, Warby Parker relies more on word-of-mouth then press. They still find new small ways to keep consumers talking, including their recent April Fool’s Day spoof, Warby Barker. The prank website features a full line of doggie eyewear, including a “dog-ocle,” a monocle for your dog.

A Social Mission

Since its inception, Warby Parker has remained committed to its Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. The brand works with a handful of global partners to ensure that with every consumer purchase, a pair of glasses are distributed to people in need. Today, they’ve donated over 5 million pairs to vision-impaired people in over 50 countries. Later, in 2015, Warby Parker created the Pupils Project. According to the CDC, vision disability is the most prevalent disabling condition among school children in the US. The company seeks to alleviate this problem by working with organizations and government agencies to provide free prescription glasses to children in need.

While these initiatives lie outside of the sphere of traditional marketing, Warby Parker often promotes them through marketing channels. For example, on the company blog, consumers can review the progress of the Pupil’s project. Similarly, the brand leverages social media channels to keep its philanthropy top-of-mind. Warby Parker recently tweeted an image of an article from the New York times which notes that vision impairment health crisis only costs $1.50 per person to correct. In the tweet, the brand then explains how its Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program is combatting this health crisis by donating millions of glasses to people in need.

Consumer-Centric Dialogue

For many direct to consumer brands, the key to success is maintaining a consumer-centric dialogue. This means that brands must always be ready and willing to engage in conversation with consumers, whether through content, social media, or other channels.

Warby Parker created an incredibly powerful dialogue with its “Wearing Warby” series. This series, which features Warby Parker customers, consists of video interviews paired with blog posts. These interviews are hardly celebrity testimonials. Instead, the company chose to highlight individuals with unique and inspiring stories. As a result, consumers may feel that they, or their aspirations, are represented.

The best DTC brands foster a dialogue that flows both ways, and Warby Parker has cracked the code to user-generated content (UGC). Its Home Try-on packaging includes a clever call-to-action, which invites consumers to share pictures of their new glasses across social media. Warby Parker itself will also weigh in on social media to help consumers make a selection if they use the #warbyhometryon hashtag. This tactic led to the creation of more than 56,000 user-generated videos. What’s more, Warby Parker found that those who shared content were 50% more likely to actually make a purchase.

Vision For A Mobile Future

In reviewing the Warby Parker marketing strategy, it’s clear that this brand believes that the future is mobile. In fact, Warby Parker has two cutting-edge apps in addition to its website, which is expertly optimized for mobile eCommerce.

The Warby Parker app is the most compelling piece of the brand’s mobile strategy — it allows users to virtually try on frames using AR (augmented reality). The app has over 55,000 five-star reviews, and it even won a Webby award. It includes an Apply Pay integration and text updates regarding package delivery. The brand’s Prescription Check app also removes a major purchasing roadblock — it enables consumers to update their prescriptions using mobile vision assessment technology.

DTC brands like Warby Parker are building mobile-first for a reason — the next generation of consumers relies on their mobile devices for purchasing 70% of the time. A strong mobile presence lays the foundation for an impactful mobile marketing strategy. Direct to consumer brands already leverage social media heavily, but opportunities in the broader mobile ecosystem remain largely untapped. On mobile, DTC brands can create personalized experiences, such as mini-games, quizzes, and more. These brands are also ideal candidates for mobile rewarded video, which is the optimum advertising experience amongst consumers.

Putting The Warby Parker Marketing Strategy Into Action

Direct to consumer brands have carved territory for themselves in the retail market, and they’re not ceding ground any time soon. Warby Parker is leading the pack, chipping away at the eyewear monopoly with its simple story and compelling marketing. The brand made a name for itself using PR, UGC, and mobile. If your brand has a great story, you can do the same.

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