Zenni Optical’s vision for change

Buying something like prescription eyeglasses online might have seemed unimaginable a few years ago. Today, companies like Zenni Optical are creating an entirely new way to think about seeing better. Since the company was founded in 2003, Zenni has sold over 20 million pairs, and its new factory, when at full capacity, will produce over 30 million pairs in a single year.

On this episode of Retail Gets Real, we speak with Bai Gan, chief product officer for the business, about Zenni’s mission and the retail approach that's allowed for such rapid growth.

Ninety million pairs of prescription glasses were sold in the United States in 2017, with an average of 1.2 pairs per person. Zenni’s average customer owns five to six pairs. Most customers buy their first pair in a store using insurance, and go to Zenni for sunglasses, blue blocker glasses and different colors for special occasions. “We're not replacing the demand,” Gan says. “We're creating new demand.”

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An entirely vertically integrated business without middlemen and retail-space overhead, Zenni creates prescription glasses and then ships them directly to the purchaser — for one-tenth the price consumers normally have to pay.

The affordability doesn’t just make it easier to match a pair of glasses to a pair of shoes — it’s also a critical component of fighting a global health crisis. The New York Times describes access to prescription eyewear as the “biggest health crisis you’ve never heard of,” with an estimated 2 billion people lacking access to prescription eyewear.

“This is not an optional item. This is something you rely on for the most basic functions in life: Driving your kids to school, work,” Gan says. “The biggest challenge is price.”

To learn more about Zenni’s mission to create affordable and accessible prescription eyewear and the company’s ambitious plans for growth in 2019, listen to the full episode.

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