With new series of funding announced in August 2020, it was reported that the eyewear e-commerce giant Warby Parker was valued at USD 3 billion. The brand has definitely disrupted the eyewear industry and inspired many other new players. It all started by the founders while they entered a university business case competition. With the rise of the digital economy, it is more affordable to reach out to your customers as well as suppliers. Here are some quick tips which you may consider if you are thinking to develop an eyewear brand.
You may be an experienced consumer of eyewear for years. But there are many fundamentals about the eyewear business which you would need to get familiarized with first. They span from the product design, market import restriction, to the logistics support in delivering the finished products to your point of sales or directly to your consumers. It is definitely worth researching more in the global eyewear exhibitions such as MIDO at Milan, SILMO at Paris as well as Hong Kong Optical Fair at Hong Kong. You will be surprised to see products that the common Opticians do not stock, plus the market insights that you would not be able to just google.
Next, whether you decide to adopt the brick-and-mortar, online or hybrid model, you need to understand the sales channels as they directly impact your sales which is everything you need to keep the ball rolling. Trust is perhaps the most common barrier for a consumer to complete a transaction online even he/she finds the product attractive. Segment your target market and find out if a physical store would help give your consumers more confidence about the products or provide the service they would need.
Assuming you are not an eyewear manufacturer, you would need to coordinate (a lot) among the different partners such as suppliers, logistics services providers, IT vendors involved and come up with a business model that helps you provide the goods and services to your target segments. In the Warby Parker example, the industry-disrupting idea originated from the wonder why the major eyewear companies could sell similar products at a much higher price, so do spend some time researching your (future) competitors.
2. Define and understand your audience
The second consideration is as important as the first! While you could reach more people in different locations/with different lifestyles more easily in digital channels, you would need to segment the audience, define your targets and come up with the right positioning for them. Many references could be drawn from the new wave of eyewear brands such as Gentle Monster, Linda Farrow and Izipizi, which have clear positioning about which market segment(s) they are targeting (edgy design, luxury, or ready-to-wear etc.). Same as the main function of the eyewear products, stay focused! It won’t be an overnight success and your audience segments would evolve too. Try to understand who they really are and how they respond to your products, brand, and a bunch of different things so that you provide the right products to them. For example, if your consumers could not easily find prescription service in their neighborhood, you may consider provide at least a directory with updated information about the prescription service available.
3. Be agile and visionary
After defining your business model and audience, do take advantage of digital and make the right decision. Imagine you want to know how many times a product is viewed in a physical store versus an online store, you will find that it is much easier to harvest the data collected from the digital channels. Collect the right information and integrate it into your business planning and decision-making. Think more long-term if you are not planning to run on a hit-and-run model. Even if consumers are presented with numerous choices every day, they would try to pick from a few options when it comes to a purchase decision. So try to be one of those few options and find out what it takes to get the final yes.
4. Use the right channel to engage with your consumers
It is not ONLY about posting product photos on Instagram! Your targeted consumers may also be interested in many different things. Try to tell your brand story through common connections. Tell a story about a great adventure in the wilderness if you are selling outdoor eyewear. People demand transparency in the digital age. Be prepared to disclose/be disclosed the information on how your products are made. Also, creating a human touch would never harm in making your brand/product more personable.
5. Team up with experienced suppliers
All the above sounds like a lot to do. Yes, it is! Part of the Warby Parker story had to do with reliable and quality suppliers, which produced for Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear company. The years’ experience of the suppliers would definitely help to shorten your product development cycle. Find the right partner so that you could focus on your core strength such as product design, marketing communications, or customer service. Team up with your suppliers could also mean more access to market trends and more stable supplies. E-commerce doesn’t stop after the consumers have completed the transaction. They go online on mobile to your e-commerce store for new products. They anticipate the delivery of the products ordered online. And they share on social media about the experience they enjoy such as the festive packaging of the products. You cannot do everything on your own, so find the right suppliers and manage the relationship so as to make your coming venture a success!