What We Can All Learn from Warby Parker

January 25, 2017

Just a couple days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about what makes a brand stand apart.

“You have to go down a path far enough that the competition can’t—or won’t—follow,” he said.

There are just three ways a brand can truly differentiate, as he described it. You have to be the leader in operational excellence, service or product leadership, or customer experience.

And you can’t spread yourself too thin in an attempt to be the best at everything, because your efforts will fall flat.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about which brands truly stand apart—and how they stand apart. Which ones leave the others in their tracks, where they don’t stand a chance.

I think about Warby Parker.

If you haven’t been to a Warby Parker, do yourself a favor and go—even if you don’t need glasses. It will be quickly apparent once you step inside their doors why they are the leader in customer experience.

Besides the fact that they are just cool glasses, they’ve thought about everything that would make the customer experience better. Not sure if your glasses will look as great on you as they do on the Warby Parker website? They’ll mail them to you (plus four other pairs) so that you can try ‘em out for five days for free. Keep the pair you love and return the rest—again, for free.

The other thing they do better than others? They’re 100 percent about glasses. Nothing else.

I thought of Warby Parker (and the notion of not spreading oneself too thin) when I read the unfortunate news of the closings of 68 Macy’s stores across the country. I thought about the way Warby Parker does one thing and does it really well—with a constant focus on the customer experience. They know what makes the customer experience exceptional (convenience, for example) and invests resources in those things that will make the most impact.

It’s a model that has been so successful for Warby Parker, in fact, that they plan on opening 25 new stores by the end of the year.

“I don’t think retail is dead,” Warby Parker’s CEO Neil Blumenthal said in a Wall Street Journal interview earlier this week. “Mediocre retail experiences are dead.”

Any kind of mediocre experience is dead. Great experience is the currency of market share.