The Customer Confidential Podcast

Warby Parker: Seeing the Eyeglass Business through a New Set of Lenses

Dave Gilboa, cofounder of the eyewear company Warby Parker, discusses his mission to change the way consumers buy glasses, the decision to open physical stores and how the company uses Net Promoter® to maintain a strong customer experience.


Warby Parker: Seeing the Eyeglass Business through a New Set of Lenses

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Roughly half the adult population of the US wears eyeglasses. Until recently, I never did. But now that I’m getting a little older, I need corrective lenses to read anything closer than about a football field away from my face.

I’ve noticed several things about eyeglasses. First, the shape and design of a pair of glasses really impacts how you look. For me, there’s a big difference in how I look wearing round, oval or rectangular lenses. And the frames matter. They can be nearly invisible or quite prominent, metal or tortoiseshell, light or dark. Second, they cost a lot! Sure, you can pick up some cheap reading glasses at the drugstore for well under $20. But if you need prescription lenses and want them to look nice, get ready to spend a few hundred dollars. Finally, the custom ones can take a really long time to arrive from the eye doctor. Mine seem to take around a month every time I need a new pair.

Dave Gilboa and his cofounders at Warby Parker are trying to change all that. Five years ago, they started selling glasses over the Internet at $95 a pair, undercutting most opticians. Their goal is simple: They want to make glasses so affordable and easy to buy that you’ll want to own several pairs, even coordinating them with your mood, your clothing or the occasion. After all, you wear them on your face, and they’re one of the first things people notice about you.

It wasn’t an easy proposition. “People tend to be very deliberate and picky when they’re selecting glasses,” says Dave, who recently shared his experience on the Net Promoter System Podcast. And, of course, every pair of prescription glasses must be custom-made after someone places an order.

Dave also realized that the fledgling company had little that was proprietary—no intellectual property, no new cutting-edge technology. “It’s not rocket science to figure out how to source affordable products globally these days,” he says. “So we realized other people could copy that.”

Therefore, he and his partners concluded, fanatical attention to customer experience would be essential to Warby Parker’s success. They would have to build a brand and a reputation that created positive word of mouth. Before launch, the founders “camped out for hours in optical shops just to observe how people are shopping for glasses,” Dave says. They saw how important it was for consumers to try on different frames, get advice and make sure everything was just right before they ordered.

In response, the company initiated a unique “home try-on” service that allows customers to choose up to five frames on Warby Parker’s website to try on at home. The company pays all the shipping costs, so it’s not the cheapest service, but the conversion rate is high enough that the economics work out. And it’s a great marketing tool—the buyer’s friends and family members often learn about Warby Parker.

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Warby Parker’s approach is working. Its online sales have boomed. It has opened 12 physical stores in cities around the US, and they’re doing well. Recent speculation among investors gives the company a potential valuation of more than $1 billion. Fashion has also played a role in the company’s success, of course—Warby Parker’s elegant designs are wildly popular among young, hip shoppers.

The company has relied on Net Promoter® feedback to maintain and continue to improve its outstanding customer experience amid this growth. Dave says the Net Promoter Score® is “the leading indicator for the health of our brand and the best indicator of how good a job we’re doing serving our customers’ needs.” When the score recently dropped several points, the company looked closely at detractors’ comments. Increased shipping times—a result of rapid growth—were a particular sore point. So the team quickly developed an action plan to get orders out faster.

Dave talks about much more on the podcast, like the thinking behind Warby Parker’s decision to open physical stores and the critical importance of repeat and multiple purchases. You can listen to the discussion on iTunes or through the player above. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

 Net Promoter®, Net Promoter System®, Net Promoter Score® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.


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