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The Problem With "Warby Parker for X" (jamiequint.com)
26 points by jamiequint on Mar 5, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments

There is a bigger trend that the article omits: the internet has become mainstream enough for "anyone" to open an online store, and best thing is, this is great for consumers.

Not every internet business needs to have an "innovative business model", but these businesses can still be highly profitable just by selling a product/service that people want.

Take German bicycle manufacturer Canyon (www.canyon.com). They are a direct-to-consumer business, they sell bicycles which have been around for over 100 years, and they are wildly profitable. Still, their business model is not innovative.

This article comes across as very negative towards people who want to start an online business, but the reality is that the internet is what electricity was to the second industrial revolution.

Author here, the article is not meant to come out against starting a business. The point is that the for physical products (at least apparel) there is not much leverage to be gained from being online rather than offline so your differentiator has to be something other than "its X but online!"

There were a number of online eyewear stores that sold online only direct-to-consumer glasses before Warby Parker in the “upscale” price range of $100 GlassesUSA.com (2007), ~ 45% of SKUs are private label Glassesshop.com (2004), ~ 90% SKUs are private label

and many more online stores that sold even cheaper private label RX eyewear: zennioptical.com (2007), 100% SKUs PL, price range $6-45 Eyebuydirect.com (2005), 90% SKUs PL, price range $6-45 39dollarglasses.com (2000), 100% SKUs PL, price $39-109

So, at least part of your argument is unjustified. The guys at Warby Parker created a very unique product perceived at the edge of cool/”retro-intellectual” / boutique-quality / affordable / with a noble mission. That was unique.

For ecommerce, you can't just create a product that solves a problem (Low cost glasses), you also have to create a successful brand. Stand for something more than just a product (or what you're selling). That's why Warby Parker is so successful, because they carefully cultivated a brand while solving a huge problem in a market. That brand affinity is a piece of what they are selling you and what consumers are latching on to (in addition to the fact that they are saving you hundreds of dollars on your eye glass purchases).

Product alone isn't sustainable for the future of ecommerce. This is why I don't think niche ecommerce businesses like Dollar Shave Club / Harry's (shaving) and HelloFlo (Tampons) are sustainable and scalable in the long run. Is it really that big of a problem they are solving and can you really build a brand around it?

Interesting article, but tangentially (heh) ... if anyone wants to get into the "DollarSockClub" business with me, I'm so effing tired of buying packs of expensive socks.

Is it really that hard to source and deliver quality socks at a reasonable price?

Maybe it is.

Why do you need so many socks that a sock delivery service is necessary?

I imagine I buy socks about once a year (max).

{A wild potential partner appears} :)

My good sir, you know that retailers strive to maximize dollar-per-square-foot. As such, the inventory changes to squeeze more money from folks like me who come back a year later and can't figure out why the hell the Puritan socks they had last year are no longer on the shelf.

I just want someone to offer me a product that I like and deliver that same great product to me for 20 years. Won't someone take my money?

If you're returning for the same socks year after year, why not simply buy 20 years worth of socks?

Cash poor, cash-flow rich.

Edit: Strictly speaking, I have a liquidity preference. I tend to think that others do too.

http://www.manpacks.com/ was around before Dollar Shave Club.

I still don't understand why people needs underwear, tshirts and socks delivered on a schedule. Personally I buy these items maybe once a year or every other year because they just last.

Maybe they use them harder than you do. Maybe they own fewer pairs of socks so they rotate more often and wear out quickly. Maybe they are picker about the condition of their clothes than you are. Anyway the "manpacks" are on a 3-month schedule, so just divide your annual needs by 4 and sign up :)

For what degree of quality, and what price?

Also, do you really need that many socks?

All negotiable within reason.

Do you not know the joy of changing socks mid-day? Boom! I just changed your life :).

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