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Warby Parker and the Future of Retail

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When hip e-commerce glasses site Warby Parker launched three years ago is was said to represent the future of retail. Stores it was said would soon be a thing of the past. The glasses were inexpensive, stylish and could be purchased from the comfort of your laptop.

Well, the future of retail is beginning to look a little bit more like its past. Warby Parker now has 4 stores and 12 “store in stores” around which offer on-site eye exams and sell glasses. Last week, Neil Blumenthal, the co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker said last week that the future of retail is "omni-channel." That means the best way to distribute its products is to make them available everywhere.

I've never been a huge fan of buying exclusively online. Let's be honest, buying online can be a hassle. Warby Parker will send you five frames. That's a good start but many shoppers (like me) often try on many more. Then there's the hassle of returning them. Just this afternoon my wife was on the phone with another e-tailer trying to figure out what went wrong and arranging for a return.

Warby Parker has figured out that sometimes it's just easier to go to the store. Neil Blumenthal also said that research shows that buyers who make purchases across multiple channels are more valuable in the long run. They key is to lock them into the brand.

The logistics behind making good available across multiple channels can be complicated. No longer are wholesalers merely shipping products to retail outlets. Now, they're doing that in addition to making goods available on line. It could become a costly proposition, increasing prices ultimately for consumers. Let's hope that increasing volumes of sales make an "omni-channel" approach worthwhile.

Pando Daily's interview with Neil Blumenthal: