Creating Loyal Customers and a Successful Business with Social Media – Warby Parker



Just five years ago, would anyone have believed that it would be possible — and smart! — to buy something as personal and vital to your everyday wellbeing as eyeglasses completely online?

The origin story of Warby Parker and how they defied conventional wisdom is well documented. They are a great case study of a startup disrupting an industry, and becoming a real player with revolutionary technology and a modern business plan.

But what’s interesting to me, is how they built their brand and created loyal customers through the power of earned social. Earned social is the most trusted form of marketing and the greatest driver of action — after all, it’s just digital word-of-mouth recommendations. In the middle of 2014, they surpassed the 1 million pairs of glasses sold mark. Earned social marketing converts.

So…How do they do generate so much earned social?

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Social Good

They started with a social purpose. By making ‘buy one, give one’ a core part of the business, they instantly made themselves very attractive to Millennials and their younger counterparts, Gen Z. These two generations are perhaps the most socially and globally conscious generations. Just look at this year’s Super Bowl commercials. Other than dogs and dads, one of the big themes this year was highlighting how the brand is making the world a better place.

Warby Parker Buy One Give One

Warby Parker’s social good makes the brand very shareable for Facebook users who want to project a socially-conscious lifestyle, while still participating in a consumer-centric society.

A Clear Culture

Everything that comes out of Warby Parker has the same vibe. It oozes brainy-cool. They know what they stand for, and if consumers stand for the same thing, it’s incredibly attractive.

When you’re part of a culture, you’re proud of it — you want to share it. You want to wear it as a badge and let people know. And social media is the perfect place to showcase that badge.

As a consumer, if you want to prove that you’re a part of this road-less-traveled, literature-loving culture, you wear Warby glasses.

Delightful Content

They write amazing blog content that’s tailor-made for social media. They understand that content doesn’t have to directly relate to product, especially for something as lifestyle as fashionable glasses. Think about it like this: if a brand has great taste in literature, music, food, design, and decor, do you think they have good taste in glasses? You bet they do. So the once-a-year or once-every-two-years when you’re shopping for glasses, you’ll think of the cool brand. The brand that understands you.

Warby Parker Pinterest Content

Warby Parker Barker

The medium of their content also shows that they get their target audience. Their website practically reads like an infographic. It’s fun, concise, and just quirky enough. That’s a recipe to get shared on social media.

Warby Parker Infographic

Somehow, they even make their annual reports fun and shareable!

Warby Parker Annual Report 2013Warby Parker Annual ReportWarby Parker Annual Report Share

Shareable Experiences

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

The keys to social success aren’t limited to what happens on social pages. Giving your customers great experiences plays a huge role in encouraging organic social sharing. Experiencing something — compared to just reading or watching something, as the Benjamin Franklin quote alludes, creates a much deeper and more meaningful connection, which is hugely vital in a brand’s ability to earn social sharing.

Back in 2012, Warby Parker started doing the “Class Trip”, taking their showroom on the road, in a beautifully designed yellow schoolbus. They partnered with trendy brands and local favorites to create a wonderful environment, where guests have a great, one-of-a-kind experience.

Warby Parker Class Trip

Even their brick and mortar stores feel like they are straight out of a Wes Anderson film. A literature lovers dream come true.

Warby Parker Store

And for Millennials, these experiences are great because they make for great stories to share on social media. In an age of FOMO and social currency, pop-up experiences with cool, hip brands are the pinnacle. They’re exclusive, temporal, and scream “insider”, if you get to experience it.

Try-On Experience

Shopping for glasses is a hugely personal experience. Because they sit right on your face, it’s important for people to be able to try them on, make sure they’re comfortable, and make sure they are, well, you.

Now because they are primarily ecommerce (they’ve slowly introduced showrooms in select cities), ensuring the glasses are the right ones are a major hurdle. So Warby summoned the power of technology and social media to ease the try-on problem.

If you don’t live near one of their 18 showrooms, there are two options to “try” the glasses. The first option is the virtual mirror. You upload a headshot and adjust the size and angle of the glasses to fit your face. It’s a pretty nifty experience.

The genius of the virtual mirror is that they encourage you to share your mirror with your friends on Facebook and Twitter for feedback. But it’s not just about peer feedback, it’s free marketing for Warby. By sharing your virtual mirror, you’re 1) increasing Warby Parker awareness, and 2) educating your peers about the virtual try-on capability. That’s two big steps in the customer journey taken care of.

Warby Parker Virtual Mirror

The other option is the home try-on, where you select five frames, and Warby Parker will send them right to your house. You then have five days to try them, show your family and friends, and then send them back. It’s all free, postage included. But, being the social media thinkers that they are, they encourage you, again, to share on your social channels, even offering expert feedback if you post your pictures to their Facebook page. For the consumers, it’s about getting feedback, but for Warby, it’s more free marketing. Genius.

Warby Parker Try-On Card

For Warby, social media is much more than getting likes and follows. When your marketing and business plan, depend on social marketing, it must deliver business results.

How much of their sales they attribute to social marketing, we’re not sure. But one thing is for certain: the powerful brand they built using social media and the vocal consumers they’ve converted, make for a ton of organic earned social sharing. At Inside Social, we’ve seen that earned social is the most powerful social influencer, and it makes for an incredibly efficient conversion-driving marketing machine.

(Image credit: Warby Parker, NYC Recessionista)

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We’ve always been fans of Warby Parker, a transformative eyewear brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses. For every pair sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. We recently had the chance to catch up with co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal. Neil loves helping people see, he’s named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, became a member of the United Nations’ Global Entrepreneurs Council and was named one of Crain’s “40 Under Forty”. Neil previously led VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own business selling affordable glasses to rural communities in South Asia, Africa and Latin America.

We are huge fans of the brand ethos. How did the social entrepreneurial element come about? It came about organically. Jeff, Andy, Dave and I were all deeply involved in nonprofit work. I (Neil) previously worked as director of an organisation called VisionSpring, which is one of our primary partners today. VisionSpring’s mission is to train entrepreneurs in low-income areas to perform eye exams and sell glasses to their communities at affordable prices. Not only does the process help restore good vision to those who need it for their livelihoods, but it supports local economies in a thoughtful, lasting way. Warby Parker’s social innovation efforts grew directly from our collective experiences.


How much of your early-stage growth was word-of-mouth versus online marketing such as social media? None of our early growth resulted from paid online marketing, although a good deal of early growth resulted from organic social media interactions. Almost immediately after launching, we were responding to Tweets and Facebook posts, inviting bloggers into our office, and encouraging customers to upload pictures from their Home Try-On programmes to our Facebook and Twitter channels for feedback. Even today, over half of our traffic and sales is driven by word-of-mouth.

How important is social media to your overall marketing strategy and which platforms does the brand focus on? We go wherever our customers want us to be, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, or whatever the future brings. Buying glasses is an intimate process but it’s also a social process, and mediums like Facebook or Instagram are great ways to get and give feedback.

We think of social media as more of a customer service gateway than a marketing tool. From our perspective, the question is always, “How can we make the process of buying glasses as easy and fun as possible?”


How do you want customers to feel when they buy a pair of Warby Parker glasses? We want customers to fall in love not only with the product, but also with the experience of buying, wearing, and owning Warby Parker glasses. We want every moment of a person’s interaction with the brand to be remarkable, from the moment she first hears about us to the first time she gets a compliment on her new frames. That’s the reasoning behind every decision we make, from our free shipping to the photobooths and custom library-ladders in our retail stores to our holiday gift cards (this year’s version came with a bonus Make-a-Snowman Kit).

Each customer will have his own personal wants and needs from a pair of glasses, but all customers have two things in common: they want glasses that work well and look good. We started from that premise and worked to create an experience that was delightful and seamlessly easy.

Do you have any favourite books that you think entrepreneurs should read? A recent favourite is Adam Grant’s “Give and Take”. We’re also fans of Juan Enríquez ‘s “As the Future Catches You” and the novels of Jack Kerouac, whose adventurousness and iconoclasm inspired us to take a less-travelled path.

BOE Magazine