Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa: “Warby’s next step could be telemedicine, and we want to be a pioneer.”

NEW YORK — The standards of modern luxury have application across multiple sectors, even beyond companies operating in the luxury goods and services space. Medicine, for one, is an industry that would certainly be receptive, and if you look at categories like vitamins/supplements and contacts, you’re already starting to see that wave taking form.

Having already conquered branding, retail, and product, Warby Parker is eyeing new frontiers as it gears up for international expansion and an inevitable IPO. One big opportunity for growth: telemedicine.

For Warby, that’s taken initial form in its Prescription Check app which launched this spring. Rather than scheduling an appointment with their optometrist, shoppers are able to take an eye test through the app, and receive an updated prescription within 24 hours. It’s currently on trial in only a few states, but early results are promising and there are plans to expand it.

As recent guests on Inc. magazine’s Inc. Uncensored podcast, co-founders Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal argued that Prescription Check is the perfect opportunity to establish Warby as a new pioneer in telemedicine.

Why they did it. According to Gilboa, they created Prescription Check based on a longtime complaint from customers about how cumbersome, annoying, and expensive it can be to get new prescriptions. He said they realized the doctor’s office visit “could be replicated using technology, and we could use telemedicine where people could use a digital screen and we could have a digital test that a licensed eye doctor could then review the results remotely and then write a prescription.” Thus the app.

They’re extremely bullish on telemedicine going forward. Here’s Blumenthal:

“We think it’s a competitive advantage, because we do have some patents here. We think there’s going to be mass adoption of telemedicine across the board, not just in eyecare, but in primary healthcare and in other categories as well. We’ll be a pioneer here. But at the end of the day why Warby Parker’s been so successful is that we’re so focused on the customer experience, and we view this as part of the holistic customer experience. Our desire to build this app to allow people to test their vision from their homes came from listening to our customers. . . . For us this is the top of the funnel. We’re able to get customers, provide them prescriptions they need, and then hopefully provide glasses in a seamless and easy way.”

Gilboa further hammers this home. “We’re big believers that telemedicine is the future. I think we can help create that in eyecare. Over the next few weeks and months you’ll start to see us dramatically expand the population that’s eligible for prescription check.” The plan is to open it up to more states and age ranges (currently it’s limited to those between the ages of 18 and 40).

Could we see Warby Parker doctors? As Inc.’s hosts astutely pointed out, there’s an opportunity to go beyond the app, and build out a physical service (with a doctor in office), a one-stop-shop, if you will inside Warby Parker stores. Blumenthal admitted that while it’s not legal for Warby to actually hire optometrists, they are looking into bringing the digital service to its stores. “What you’re seeing is a decomposition of eye exams in a way that makes them affordable, more convenient, and easier for the public.”

Our thoughts: They could be onto something big here with this telemedicine focus. We’ve noticed, too, that this new direction originates from two classic Warby starting points: 1. solving clear marketplace problems, and 2. listening intently to customers. No matter what folks have to say about Warby, there’s no disputing that they’re market leaders at listening to their customers and adjusting accordingly. They are the definition of what it means to operate as a brand in today’s new consumer-centric economy.

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