• Samantha Simard

The Strange Case of Warby Parker: How Social Media Aided Alternative Shopping

If you’ve ever found yourself in need of prescription eyeglasses, you know exactly how daunting finding the right pair can be. That’s why four classmates at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania decided to found Warby Parker, with the intention of the company being a disruptor in the market. But how does Warby Parker work and why has its alternative shopping model been so successful? Let’s see if we can answer that question.


What is Warby Parker?


Warby Parker is not your average eyeglass retailer. There are no brick and mortar Warby Parker stores, and you won’t find any of the glasses they sell at other retailers. Why? For one thing, Warby Parker is a 100% direct to consumer business, which means there’s no outside manufacturer merchandise involved. Additionally, all of their glasses are designed in-house and sold online, which drastically lowers the cost burden put on their customer base.


You might be thinking that when Warby Parker first launched, its business model was new to the marketplace and therefore potential customers didn’t have a lot of faith in it. You’d be right: people were afraid to buy glasses online because it was such an important purchase, or they couldn’t believe the prices could be so low while maintaining quality. So, how did Warby Parker manage to control the narrative and capture the loyalty of thousands of consumers?


Two words: social media.


How Did Warby Parker Use Social Media as an Effective Marketing Tool?


The biggest way Warby Parker used social media to their advantage was by engaging their customers and creating a more personalized experience than what their competitors could offer. They came into being at exactly the right time, when social media was just beginning to boom, and utilized smart tactics.


Specifically, they used a marketing tactic called transactional communication, which boils down to consistently communicating with their customers through comments on their social media platforms. This is done in a number of ways, from asking their customers to post pictures of themselves wearing their new glasses on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to offering expert advice via their YouTube channel.


This kind of dissonance reduction ultimately leads to brand loyalty, and Warby Parker built off of it by incorporating social good into their business strategy. For every pair of glasses they sell, Warby Parker donates a pair of eyeglasses to a person in need through a partnership with a company called VisionSpring. As a result, not only do customers feel like they’re getting a great deal on glasses from a company who cares about them as an individual, but they’re also helping someone else in the process.


This is just one example of how social media can be used in marketing to control a business’s narrative, even if the consumer is skeptical because the modality of the business is new and unfamiliar. Hearing positive things about a business through word of mouth is much more convincing than a brand talking itself up. Disruption of the traditional marketplace is a fascinating topic, and one we’ll continue to explore throughout this series of blog posts.


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