Daily Dose of iQ: Nearly Straight A's for Warby Parker's Fun 'Classroom' Store in Dallas

Jul 09, 2014 — Alen Puaca

Last week (July 3), Chain Store Age reported on a new "classroom-styled" Warby Parker store in Dallas (pictured above).

We’ve blogged about Warby Parker and its innovative strategies in going from online-only to a combination of online/offline. This new store sounds like a really fun brick-and-mortar brand experience.

On the company blog, Warby Parker describes the store as follows: "Inside you’ll find everything you loved about school—independent books, freshly-sharpened pencils, globes, chalkboards, apples—and none of the things you despised: pop quizzes, weird substitute teachers, spitballs." Sounds interesting, even if you're not in the market for new glasses.

This is not an accidental or one-off store, but a local application of a carefully crafted, genuine brand.

This is not an accidental or one-off store, but a local application of a carefully crafted, genuine brand.

Warby Parker makes quality eyewear and sells it at relatively affordable prices (especially when compared to the traditional frames sold by mainstream retailers). They started online but since opening a first store in NYC in April 2013, they have expanded to 15 locations nationwide.

This new classrom-styled store appeals both on an product-educational level and on an entertainment one. Based on a previous article I've written about "5 Checkpoints for Next-Gen Retail Places," it seems appropriate to grade Warby Parker on each of these checkpoints.

It seems appropriate to grade Warby Parker on 5 Checkpoints of Next-Gen Retail Places

  1. Online In-Store (Grade: A)
    Warby Parker is a champion in merging online with in-store. What’s important with this store is the consistency of all its product info, pricing, etc. Whatever is posted online applies here and vice versa.
  2. Checkout Anywhere (Grade: A)
    While the store footprint is small and doesn't necessarily require a mobile POS, I like that customers are encouraged to purchase from home whatever they tried or learned about in-store, under the same conditions and at the same price.
  3. Relationship (Grade: A)
    Warby Parker was created to solve eyeglass customers' 2 biggest pain points: 1) quality product at low price, 2) the ability to try it out. To reinforce these solutions in their stores, they hire "brand ambassadors" called Warby Parker Advisers, people with the same problem their customers have. This personal touch, coupled with this particular store/showroom design, is conducive to customer-relationship-building.
  4. In-Store Edutainment (Grade: A)
    This "classroom" store embodies "edutainment." Warby Parker associates itself with good books. New staff get particular books as part of the onboarding process. In their stores, they carry a selection of new books from their favorite small publishers. It's clever because even years later, when customers put on their glasses to read a good book, they will (un)consciously think of the Warby Parker brand.
  5. Social Hub (Grade: B)
    Just so this report card isn't straight A's. To be fair, I've never set foot in this store, so I'm only grading it on what I've read online. For this category, I'm looking for an opportunity for a group of their customers to come in for a reason. That reason might be a reading club, a philanthropic action or maybe user testing of new product concepts. The last one would actually create even stronger customer relationships, as customers can "take ownership" of new designs and products.

When customers put on their glasses to read a good book, they will (un)consciously think of the Warby Parker brand.

Take-home message for all retailers: What is your overarching brand story?

What is your store mission in terms of solving real problems? What is the purpose? What is the culture?

When those high level concepts are clear enough, it's easy to apply it to all parts of the organization, whether it through visuals for your website, staff behavior, or the look and feel of your stores. It could take time to formulate and realize these concepts.

Retailers must ask themselves: What is our overarching brand story?

Warby Parker started lean and mean with online retail, cutting business costs to a minimum. Now that they've proven out their overarching story, they are covering other touchpoints. No matter if you are buying online or in-store, the consistency of the brand blended with specifics of the local environment and social awareness, create a perception of an organization with which you can have honest, mutually beneficial relationship.

That is a pure purpose of a business that wants to be around for a long time. "Freshly-sharpened pencils, globes, chalkboards are apples” are just on the surface.

Topics: Workplace Culture, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, e-Commerce, Retail Marketing

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