Warby Parker announced today that it has given away 1 million pairs of glasses to people in need, meaning it has sold more than 1 million pairs of glasses. (There's a few-month lag between sales and donations for its buy one, give one program.) That's double the 500,000 figure Warby announced last July. In four years of operation, it has more than doubled sales every single year.
"I don't think we can sustain that rate forever because it gets harder to grow from a bigger base," cofounder Neil Blumenthal tells Fast Company. "But we think we're at the first inning and if there are 700 million people that need glasses that don't have access to them, 1 million is a big milestone for a young company. But it's still a small step and we're still a long way from solving this problem once and for all."
One big factor in Warby's success, according to Blumenthal, is having created good customer experiences from the beginning. From the try-at-home option, to free shipping, to the relatively cheap price, to free returns—the entire buying experience makes shopping for eyewear pleasant. "It's sort of those moments that we find just win people over and generate good will, so that they're likely to tell their friends about us," Blumenthal adds. Over 50% of the company's traffic and sales are driven by word of mouth. "A lot of that is due to the fact that our business model is designed to make people happy," says Blumenthal. "Whether it's selling a $500 product for $95 or having a human being answer the phone within six seconds when you call."
That strong brand has also created loyal customers. People are buying more glasses from Warby on a more frequent basis than all other eyewear companies combined. That's partly because brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley farm a lot of the design and manufacturing out via Luxottica, which owns the bulk of the glasses market.
Warby hasn't tweaked the Do Good program much since opening, either. "Just because I spent 5 years working at Vision Spring and distributing eyeglasses to people living on less than $4 a day, we've known how to do it in a responsible manner," says Blumenthal. "And the way to do it in a responsible manner is to work with experts who are on the ground that know how to do it."
[Image: Flickr user Scott Akerman]