The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

Photo by Scott Van Daalen on Unsplash
Photo by Scott Van Daalen on Unsplash

To better understand the finer points of social media marketing, I’m taking a class to learn how to optimize my writing business. Our first assignment is to read and discuss a case study involving the online prescription eyeglass company Warby Parker.

How did a group of classmates change the entire way consumers came to purchase eyeglasses?

For the large majority of us prescription eyeglass wearers, the annual (or semi-annual) trek to the eye doctor consisted of the dreaded puff of air to detect glaucoma. Sitting behind the monstrous dials trying to figure out which lens is better. “Number one? Number two? Number two? Number three?” and so on until none of them were clear and it seemed you were better just hazarding a guess.

Once you passed through the puffs and the dials, you picked out new frames with fuzzy, unaided eyes. With countless choices ranging from $29 - $399 (without the lenses), it was one of the most difficult things to do, especially since you didn’t have lenses to help you see if the frames were green or blue. (Been there, done that, got the wrong color!)

There had to be a better way to shop for frames, right?

Let’s head back almost a decade to 2010 when four classmates from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania thought the same thing. Unhappy with the way consumers purchased prescription glasses, not to mention high prices, they set out to bring prescription eyewear to consumers in a most unconventional way.

In 2015, with an investment of $2500, they forever changed the way consumers purchased prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses and opened Warby Parker—an online distribution eyewear business.

But wait, what about walking into a showroom and trying on glasses? How would a person know what to order, much less be able to return them if they didn’t fit or feel right?

Warby Parker had that figured out. They developed a “Home Try-On Campaign” where a person could look through their online store and choose five pairs of glasses—at no charge! Then once the consumer received them, they have five days to try them out to see which ones were the best fit (pun intended!)

Imagine not having to squint in a showroom hoping the frames you’ve tried on for a nano-second fit well enough to last you for another year or two. Instead, you’ve got one full day per pair to try out your frames with your wardrobe and take selfies so you can put on your old glasses and see how awesome you look.

And to make those selfies more worthwhile, Warby Parker encourages customers wearing their “Try-On Campaign” frames to post images on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, along with any of their own social networks. Now instead of the old dreaded eye-wear shopping, customers are part of a fun experience and enjoy a sense of community.

To help further engage with their customers, Warby Parker posts YouTube videos (both from the company and customers) on eyeglasses. Some contain advice, others show the frustration consumers face when shopping traditionally for glasses.

And, to be socially conscious, Warby Parker has teamed up with the company VisionSpring for a “Buy-a-Pair, Give-a-Pair” campaign. For every pair purchased, they give another pair away to someone who cannot afford glasses. To date, they have given away over 500,000 glasses to children and adults in 50+ countries. Plus, they have provided free eye exams, vision screenings, and glasses to school-age children (source: VisionSpring).

Photo by Saketh Garuda on Unsplash
Photo by Saketh Garuda on Unsplash

So, recapping this successful business model:

  • Four students decided there had to be a better way to purchase prescription eyewear.
  • They understood their business was different and offered free shipping and time to decide on the “Home Try-On Campaign.”
  • They won customers’ trust by involving them in the Warby Parker community through shared photos and videos.
  • They implemented a buy one-give, one social campaign, along with free screenings and eye exams.

Customers now have choices for new prescription glasses and sunglasses. Plus, along with getting glasses for yourself, you’re helping someone else see better.

Where do you purchase your prescription glasses? Tell me about it in the comments!



Mahoney, L. Meghan, and Tang Tang. Strategic Social Media: From Marketing to Social Change. John Wiley & Sons, 2017, pp. 18-19. Print.


4 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It

  1. Sounds like a dandy model. I’d never heard of this company, and I wonder how affordable their glasses are. The last several pair I’ve bought have been from Costco. They fill the prescription I received from my regular local optometrist.

  2. Hi Joan,

    I’ve actually never thought about the fact that trying on frames at home is a much better way to buy glasses. It is true that when you’re in a show room trying on glasses, you have about five minutes to decide, where as in the comfort of your home you could wear the glasses for a couple of days. Wearing the glasses for an extended period of time is a much better way to purchase because you are able to get a true feel for the product. Warby Parker is a very smart business indeed.

  3. Hello, Joan! Thanks for the great post, I love the Buy a Pair, Give a Pair Campaign! You gave great examples of how Warby Parker utilized social media to build and maintain customers; Through encouraging existing customers to post selfies of the glasses they received to try on at home and the company using YouTube to upload helpful tips to potential customers. According to the book, Strategic Social Media, a company should prompt dialogue between peers on platforms to encourage questions about the brand, create community and gain trust (Mahoney, L. 2017). Joan explained that concept with the description of Warby Parker’s “Home Try-on Campaign” which included a customer being able to choose 5 frames to try on, at home before they buy (and at no charge). The second strategy, uploading videos on YouTube for customers is a useful tool for companies to get brand information out to users, but build trust, audience participation and customized experiences for the viewer (Mahoney, 2017). One more strategy you mentioned that stood out to me (again) was the companies focus on being socially conscious- the “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” campaign is a way to bring an audience to your brand as well. Social awareness and action is a great way to attract customers, maintain a customer base and also bring awareness to the cause a company supports. Your “Recap” at the end of the blog post was a great idea, as it helped me take away more information, as it is easy to recall the short statements of information. Thank you, Joan!

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