Posted by & filed under business models, Ecommerce, M-commerce, revenue model.

Description: Shopping skeptics said people would never buy certain things —shoes, diamond rings, cars — online because they needed to see the products in person. They were wrong. E-commerce companies have found success in all of those fields.

Source: NYT.com

Date: Jan 16 , 2011

But some purchases still happen mostly offline, including one of the most personal: prescription eyeglasses.

Warby Parker, a New York start-up, thinks it can persuade people to shop online for glasses, with a combination of fashion, low prices, technology and old-fashioned customer service. It seems to be working. In its first year of business, the company sold about 20,000 pairs of glasses; however, it would not disclose financial information.

It joins a new generation of e-commerce companies that is changing online shopping by taking a cue from Zappos.com, the online shoe retailer that emphasizes convenience and customer service, and which was bought by Amazon.com in 2009.   Read rest of story

Questions for discussion:

  • Do you feel selling glasses online has a good chance of success? Why or Why Not?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to success of this venture?
  • What products work best for e-commerc and are there any produts that just will not work in the on-line environement?

14 Responses to “Defying Conventional Wisdom to Sell Glasses Online”

  1. Bretton MacDonald

    As a frequent online shopper I would say that there is a good chance that this venture will work online. When online shopping came into play there were so many skeptics but as the years have passed you have seen many things selling on the internet that years ago you wouldnt believe. Things such as cars, prescription drugs and even food can be purchased online and that would have shocked people years ago. Selling glasses has a definite market on the internet, especially if there selling at a bargain price. Glasses are expensive and if this internet venture is as good as it sounds then this could be a huge market. The fact that they send many different sizes of glasses and you get to pick the right one for you. There are great risks for this business but beating other companies to the punch will get you marketpower and it could become a very sucessfull business.

  2. logan redman

    Online shopping for anything is easy, affordable, and more of all convenient; for the person doing the buying that is. What happens to the local economy when most of its consumers are wiring their money out of the community, province, or country? We are seeing a decline in face-to-face interaction due to online shopping; now all we need is to find the lowest price from what ever company supplies it, regardless of who runs the company and what they stand for. I argue that our mindsets are very individualistic when it comes to consuming (and life in general) and as long as we get the lowest price its all good, no matter if our neighbors are going out of business.

  3. Jenn Oloya

    I believe that selling glasses online has a good chance for success. I’ve brought a 2 pairs of glasses online and I loved it. It has a chance of succeeding because it tailors to the phenomena of the internet. You can buy anything online such as cloths and rent DVDs so I think that this trend will catch on. One thing that the websites could do is offer prescription contacts as well as glasses because it is more common for people to by contacts online the website can lure people in by the contacts and if the site marketing and advertising glasses it a good way it could get prospect buyers. The biggest obstacles for the success of this venture would be to have an operating system that is efficient and tailored to the company. If the company doesn’t have system that allows them to see which styles of glasses are selling the most, therefore almost out of stock so they don’t have the same problem that they did when they ran out of loaner frames and were almost out of glasses. I think that any tangible non-perishable product can work for e-commerce, just look at eBay, I think however consulting would be difficult because of the face to face interaction that most want when receiving those services but thanks to Skype and real time video system it could potentially work in the future.

  4. Jatinder Aulakh

    I think selling glasses online has a good chance of success, because it is more convenient, easier and cheaper to purchase online than to go and buy at an eye glass shop. People like to avoid line ups and long waits to get their glasses and its easier to sit at home and order everything you want online the way you want it. The biggest obstacles to success of this venture would be getting the right sizes and styles to the customers on time, because they are not trying them on before ordering online which makes it tough for customers to see if the glasses are fit for them or not. Customer satisfaction is a big key to success.

    I think products such as electronics work best for e-commerc because its easier for consumers to research their electronics online and purchase better deals online than in store. Products that would not work best on e-commerc would be groceries such as fruits and vegetables, because consumers like to examine what they buy and pick out the fruits and vegetables they think look good.

  5. Brenda Bicharr

    These three men have found a niche market that everyone probably thought o9f but noone actually pu it to the test. Thier low cost and fashion forward strategy towards the market only makes the glasses more accesible and affordable. The best part of the system i find is the visual software which lets you upload pictures of yourself and try the glasses on. This takes away a huge chunck of the grey area to the consumer, if it dont look good i wont buy it.Whether this company would grow in the long run is a question i ask but at the same time thier process of avoiding cost such as brand fees and shelf space should put them in a position of not too much losss; should theey fail!! power to online shopping

  6. Simar Duggal

    Being a person that buys glasses I feel that I need to know what type of glasses look good one me, or even the old fashion way of adventuring to a new style buying online and with this company it states “ Web site uses facial recognition technology so shoppers can upload a photo of themselves and try on virtual glasses. For those who are still doubtful, the company will mail five loaner frames “ which allow to do both of these things. This will be a very successful business because it caters to the new tech that consumers are now using, internet . I suspect that this is the few of many things that will become an online purchase that hasn’t been in the past.
    The biggest obstacle would be brands that they sell opening an option to buy the prescription glasses on their websites shopping page. For example if they are selling brand glsases of channel and channel decides to sell the precription products on their on websites then it could threaten the business of this website business.
    The product that works best on e-commerce are retail things that people want to be easier to purchase ex. clothes. Things that wouldn’t work online would be food items, I’m very sure that things like fresh fruits and grocery store products are going to be very hard to get on the internet, even though there might be specialty foods on the e-commerce already.

  7. Derek Wilson

    As a frequent online shopper myself, I am still having a very hard time wrapping my head around shopping for glasses online. But after reading this article on how they run this kind of business, it seems like a very viable way of running things. I would have no problem buying glasses from a website like this especially if they offer the five trial pairs. I still feel that I would have to try them on and this is the perfect solution for me. They have a great plan and they seem to have a perfect way around every problem that someone like me would have. I am very impressed!!

  8. Taofikat Awopeju

    i think selling glasses online has a good chance for success, because its more convenient to purchase online line and prices are considerate. more so, not every body has time to go into store and queue for their turns to be attended to and also some people try to avoid the some cranky customer service.
    the biggest obstacle for this is your glasses not getting to you on time and also not getting the right size you need.

  9. Momah Moseri

    We live in a technological era today. Computers and internet are setting new standards for everything these days. Selling a product over the internet could be very successful depending on what it is. Selling glasses online has a good chance of being successful because most people have access to internet and it’s very convenient for them to buy their glasses online instead of having to drive to the store. Internet prices are most time cheaper than what the store sells it for, so it saves money buying online. In my opinion, the biggest obstacle in the business will be getting the right size and style for the customer. I have seen this happen few times, where someone orders a pair of glasses believing that it’s the right size and style but realizes that it’s too small when the glasses get to them. Doing business online is like doing business in the store; the only difference is that you don’t see the other person at the other end of the computer. There are many products that can work online and become extremely successful. Take a look at eBay today and Netflix. This company’s works online and today there are one of the biggest companies in the world.

  10. Clayton Varjassy

    I think almost any product would work in the on-line environment. We will probably even be able to buy all of our groceries online and have them delivered the same or next day in the future. The key, as Warby Parker has clearly defined, is making the shopping experience as convenient and risk-free as possible. The biggest obstacles in this venture are time, returns, and developing a reputable name. If people have to wait 2-3 days for their loaner frames, then decide which they like most, then wait another 2-3 days to receive their own pair, this could be a deal breaker for some. Also, if returning frames is cumbersome, people will hear this threw word of mouth, and will opt to shop in with their local optometrist. This ties hand and hand with them developing a reputable name for themselves. The reason people buy Gucci, Burberry, Versace, etc.. frames is because they are a reputable brand. If Warby Parker is able to provide designer-like frames at half the price with a great/efficient return policy, both for loaner and actual frames, they may be able to take a nice share of the market. However, there will always be the people that want the designer frames, simply because they are designer, so I don’t think they will steal much business from those companies. Their business model is catered more toward people that love the designer quality/style, but are not willing to pay such a premium for them. One thing they might want to watch out for though is competition. If they’re able to give away a set of glasses for every set sold and still have prices under $100, their cost on each pair of glasses is most likely minimal, so there wouldn’t be much of a barrier to entry for a new start up, which is why they need to focus on really developing a name for themselves.

  11. whyte

    I think that people will shop online if their needs can’t be met locally, or if they cant be met locally at a reasonable price. Buying a new pair of glasses can be a major purchase for many people. At a retail store the price of a pair of glasses is far more than they are worth because there are various costs that need to be covered and markups on brand name frames and lenses. This is why i believe that it is a great idea to sell glasses online. The high prices drive consumers to search for an affordable alternative, and many people have stumbled across sites like Warby Parker and had success.
    When buying glasses at a retail store people feel comfortable with the purchase and trust that they will receive a quality product. For some people it is hard to feel this same level of comfort and trust when shopping online, so they will continue to purchase their goods from traditional sources. However, there are other more adventurous people do look online for better deals and are perfectly fine with the process. The biggest problem that Warby Parker faces is getting more people to adopt to the new way of shopping (for goods such as glasses) online. I think will simply be a matter of time. ATMs are a similar example of how people adapted to a new way of doing business. When they were first introduced it took a while before people trusted them, and for some elderly people they still do don’t feel comfortable, but now they are by far the norm for daily banking transactions. Just like with ATMs the method of purchasing just needs to be proven and then the next generation will adopt it.

  12. Ashleigh

    As a person who wears glasses, I would not buy them online because I want to know what they look on me rather than just liking the frames. However I do believe it will be successful. It provides a lot of convenience to people who cannot get to a store and they offer many high scaled brands. The mailing of the sample frames to test them up is a great opportunity to increase their markets and put to ease those people who like to see what the glasses look like before they purchase them. However in doing so, the company may never get those glasses back and if there is a time delay in mailing them or if they run out of loaner frames, it could turn the customers away and they will just go into a physical store to receive their glasses sooner. Also, if the glasses the customer purchases is not the right size, prescription or style they ordered, this could create problems and lower the chances of success but as long as they offer lower prices for these brand name glasses and are consistent with their supply of glasses and loaner glasses, selling glasses online I think will be successful.

  13. Chelsa

    Before I read the article I did not think that selling glasses online would be successful. But as I read the article I changed my mind. At first I was surprised that the company is as successful as they are. Then I began to think about how cutting out the middle man and decreasing the price of the product would appeal to consumers. As more and more people become aware of the ability to purchase glasses online I think they will do so. So yes, I do believe that selling glasses online will have a chance for success.

    The biggest obstacles to success would be the consumers hesitation to purchase glasses online. I personally would not purchase glasses online because I am weary about whether the materials are actually coming from where I’m being told they are and if my prescription would be accurate or not. Another obstacle could be how can the glasses be fixed or straightened if they get bent? I know that at Lensecrafters if your glasses are showing wear and tear someone will fix or adjust your glasses for you. Who will do that if you purchase them online? Another obstacle is getting all consumer groups on board with shopping online. I believe that there are certain groups that my never be comfortable with shopping online.

  14. Abiola Ogunyemi

    Online shopping has made acquiring stuff simple and convenient, on the part of the website providing goods and services for sale; creativity is the order of the day. Keeping the website simple and user friendly is paramount to encourage sales. Events have proven that you can purchase whatever you want online as long as it is offered. Selling Glasses online has been proven to be a success by the team from Warby Parker, they have achieve this with the combination of fashion, low prices, technology and old fashioned customer service. The company designs its own glasses and gives customers the opportunity to upload a photo of themselves and try on virtual glasses for those who are still in doubt… How more user friendly can you get?

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