Innovation stories should be bedtime reading


warby parkerEvery year, for almost a decade, Retail Doctor Group helps collate and judge Ebeltoft’s Global Innovation best practice case studies as well as the Ebeltoft Innovation Award.

The results are published in the Retail Innovations 9 Study.  Now, before you say it, this is not an unashamed plug, this is a study by the industry, for the industry, and should be mandatory bedtime reading for every retailer out there.

Why? Because retailing across the globe is taking advantage of all the opportunities created by the shifts in consumer behaviour. As a result, the pace of innovation in retail is dramatically accelerating as leading ‘disruptors’ are adapting multiple innovation themes to propel retail forward.

There is great opportunity to read into these themes and innovation stories to see how you can become fitter for future business.

This year, one retailer stood out among the rest and took out the Ebeltoft Retail Innovation Award 2013, and that was US eyewear retailer, Warby Parker.

The company takes retail to the next level as a result of a seamless shopping experience first developed online with in-home trials, which over time has extended to bricks and mortar showrooms, stores within stores, and the mobile Warby Parker Class Trip (a school bus transformed into a showroom).

warby parker bus

Through its custom designs and engaging with its customers directly, Warby Parker circumvents the traditional eyeglass retail model and provides eyewear at much lower prices.

Citing an awareness for the society that we live in, the company´s mission is to “Do Good”; for every pair of glasses sold, they give a pair to someone in need.

Warby Parker is the perfect case study for one of the key identified global innovation trends: retailvention/verticality.

So what is retailvention? Let me start by asking you these questions: How do you think about an existing business in a completely different way, shattering the tried

and true methods of distribution and selling? How do you build and take a business directly to the customer, by passing traditional selling channels?

Cases in retailvention and verticality are not limited to the old ways of thinking but break new ground in creating new business models. In the case of Warby Parker, we can demonstrate two key areas:

1.      Retail mix

  • Warby Parker offers men’s and women’s glasses and sunglasses, exclusively available through the website and showrooms.
  • Frames are positioned like women’s fashion accessories, not just to be sold when a prescription runs out.

2.      Points of innovation

  • A customer centric strategy means the company engages with its customers directly, upending the traditional model of eyewear production and sales.
  • Partnerships with non-profits to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold at Warby Parker, a pair is distributed to someone in need, so the strong social cause plays a dominant role in the brand.
  • Free shipping, home try ons, and returns.
  • Training is provided to low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries to start their own business selling glasses.

Warby Parker directly sources its own materials, using the same production lines as many of its competitors and engages with customers directly, cutting out the middle man.  The company is therefore able to offer high quality, good looking prescription eyewear for a fraction of the price of dominant glasses makers.

Add to this a customer centric strategy, experiential showroom experience, innovative marketing, and a socially conscious business model – and you have innovation utopia.

We can all continually learn from these case studies. So, don’t put the book down. After all, you could be picking up the next bestselling idea to build a better and fitter business.

Happy fit retailing

Brian Walker

We look forward to sharing other cases from Retail Innovation 9 over the coming weeks and welcome you to contact us visit our website to download trends and cases and how you might put them into practise in your business.

warby parker





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