Eyecare Business April

APR 2017

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T H E W I L D , W I L D W E B 42 E y e c a r e B u s i n e s s . c o m April 2017 THE NARRATIVE Balter says that everyone has "the best" customer service and that is crucial…but today it isn't enough when it comes to competing with online. "In opti- cal, the 'Warby Parker effect' has definitely changed things for local shops," explains Balter. "It's not just about selling cheap glasses or selling them online," he says. "The 'Warby effect' is the false narrative/fake news that they have put out there that there is no real difference in quality between $99 glasses and higher-quality, higher- priced glasses." THE CAMPAIGN "To compete," says Balter, "we held a promotional event outside the Warby Parker shop in downtown Philly on their opening day. We got the proper permits and promoted our Philly EyeWorks brand outside of their shop. We carried 'Shop Local' signs and handed out discount cards in front of their store—an idea we actually got from Warby." THE BACKSTORY Balter explains, "A few years ago, Warby Parker had a marketing bus that went around the country and often parked in front of or near independent optical shops. Two Saturdays in a row, they parked right out front of our shop. As much as we disliked it happening to us, we thought it was a great idea, so we borrowed it and promoted ourselves outside of theirs." How's that for underscoring the importance of both brick-and- mortar and small business? THE FEEDBACK "It went really well," says Balter. "The day before our promotion out- side their shop, articles [about the effort] ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer and on philly.com. We immediately received an outpouring of positive feedback. It's only been a couple of months, but sales of Philly EyeWorks glasses have more than tripled over the same period last year." Accord- ing to Balter, those are dollars that came at the expense of Warby and other online retailers. THE PHILOSOPHY "Small business is a huge passion of mine," explains Balter, "because I think it's the most important social issue facing our country. The idea of shopping small and shopping local feels like it should be a political statement, but it really is some- thing that resonates with almost everyone, regard- less of political affiliation, age, race, gender, etc." Balter says he has found that whether it's a discussion of online or big-boy brick-and-mortar competition, "almost everyone can appreciate that very small businesses represent an important part of our communities." How can brick-and-mortar compete with online? "When it comes to eyeglasses," explains Balter, "it is still very possible to shop small because of the relationship aspect. Having a long-term relationship with an optician is a great way for a consumer to ensure they get a great pair of glasses for them- selves—time after time." Online cannot compete with that relationship, or with the value of shopping local. "As the cam- paign unfolded," recalls Balter, "I really was surprised to see how central optical shops are to the 'shop small' movement." —Stephanie K. De Long We carried 'Shop Local' signs and handed out discount cards in front of their store—an idea we actually got from Warby.

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