The optical retail industry is exploding right now. Thanks in part to millennial celebrity fashionistas like Taylor Swift, Hunter Parrish, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, glasses are in. Big time. Cat eye, keyhole, aviators, butterfly, flat-tops, wayfarers. Glasses are the new shoes- form over function, self-expression accessory, style storyteller (Milnes, 2015). Millennials looking to express themselves have four sources for purchasing eyewear.
Independent Eye Care Professional
Millennials may have gone with Mom or Dad to the local optometrist in town. Because of familiarity and a relationship of trust, he/she may continue this tradition of seeing the same independent optometrist. Buying eyewear here is convenient, though typically the most expensive.
Millennials are familiar with walk-in optical retailer like Pearle Vision, LensCrafters or Visionworks. Having a solid presence across the U.S., it is not hard to find a walk-in retailer. Though this option is very convenient (you don’t even have to have an appointment), prices are high. The walk-in retail business is dominated by Luxottica, an Italian eyewear manufacturer which manufactures over 80% of all eyeglass frames in the world (“Luxottica”, n.d.). Because it owns retailers like Pearle Vision. LensCrafters, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut and many others, the prices at these outlets are through the roof. The average cost of eyeglasses (after insurance!) is about $244 (“Eyeglass store buying guide”, 2015).
In their search for more reasonably-priced eyewear, millennials might turn to a big-box retailer like Costco or Walmart. This is convenient and relatively affordable. But then, they would have to wear glasses from Costco or Walmart. (Insert millennial walking through campus. Sees a friend. “Hey, cool specs. Where’d you get them?” “Walmart.”)
Lastly, millennials might explore a discount online optical retailer. This style of shopping fits millennials and the price is spot on. You might be surprised at how many online retailers exist. And their prices! Who knew that you could buy a pair of glasses for $39… and sometimes even get a second pair free. While this type of shopping may not appeal to Babyboomers, it is right up millenials’ ally. Glasses.com, Coastal.com, 39dollarglasses.com, goggles4u.com and GlassesUSA.com are some of the cheapest places on earth to buy glasses.
And then Zenni Optical walked in the room in 2003. Putting the others to extreme shame, Zenni is the most affordable source for buying eyewear. Bar none. Glasses start at $6.95, shipping is $4.95, and all glasses have (free) anti-scratch coating, UV protection, and come with a hard case. There are options for all the fancy coatings you could get at a traditional optometrist’s office, but even these are affordable. For instance, anti-reflective coating is only $4.95. Take a look at a pair of frames and lenses that (out the door) would cost $11.90 to ship to my home. I tried an online purchasing experiment myself to see if it was legit and… it is legit…totally legit.
Zenni would have been just fine and dandy if it had been left alone to do its own thing. But free enterprise being what it is, an outfitter called Warby Parker emerged in 2010 and millennials went nuts. A socially-conscious and affordable online/brick-and-mortar shop that caters specifically to millennials has turned the industry upside down. Warby Parker offers glasses made in-house for $95. Though eyewear costs more here than at Zenni, it is considered a steal compared to conventional stores. The retailer donates a pair of glasses for every pair that is ordered. It will send a customer 5 pairs of glasses to try-on at home for free before committing to purchase. And it is opening independent retail locations to compliment its online stores; it currently has 25 retail locations across across 16 states. Though its advertising is limited, content is clearly developed with millennials in mind and has the cool factor that Zenni is lacking.
The problem and solution
The problem for Zenni Optical is that it does not have a cohesive or creative marketing plan directed at engaging millennials. Though its price point and ease of online purchase would be attractive to this group, its online content is utilitarian, uncompelling and stagnant. For instance, the following is the homepage that greets you from zennioptical.com:
Zenni must develop strategies for appealing to millennials. It must maintain its unique selling proposition (most economical optical retailer) while developing a point-of-parity with Warby Parker (the cool factor). I believe this can be achieved through creative strategy and execution.
Collage of celebrity photos. (n.d.). [Online images]. Retrieved January 14, 2016 from google.com image search “millennial”, “celebrity” and “glasses”
Eyeglass store buying guide. (2015, February). Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/eyeglassstores/buyingguide.htm
Luxottica – An eyeglass manufacturing monopoly in everything but name. (n.d.). [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://gipsy.ninja/luxottica-an-eye-glass-manufacturing-monopoly-in-everything-but-name/
Luxottica Umbrella. [Online image]. (2015, February 24). Retrieved January 14, 2016 from http://www.gurufocus.com/news/318329/is-competition-in-the-eyewear-segment-preying-over-luxotticas-bottom-line
Milnes, H. (2015, March 24). How Glasses.com is framing its brand renaissance. Retrieved from http://digiday.com/brands/glasses-com-framing-brand-renaissance/
Warby Parker. (n.d.). [Online images]. Retrieved January 15, 2016 from http://www.insidebusinessnyc.com/warby-parker-meatpacking-nyc/
Warby Parker logo. (n.d.). [Online image]. Retrieved January 15, 2016 from https://www.warbyparker.com
Zenni screenshot from homepage. (n.d). [Online image]. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://www.zennioptical.com