Running a Digitally Native Eyeglass Brand (with Ryan Fisher from Felix Gray)

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Episode #

Blue light filtering glasses are one of those long-term products that we don't usually think of in terms of retention. On this episode of Playing for Keeps, Ryan Fisher, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at Felix Gray, talks Kristen through the ways that the brand is working to build a base of lifelong customers.

Show Notes

  • How Felix Gray helps customers find the perfect fit by combining digital and in-store experiences
  • 3 factors to work through: style, price, and brand equity
  • Cross-selling for a product that generally lasts for years
  • How different SKUs face different kinds of competition
  • Building a website flow to help customers self-segment
  • Maintaining brand standard across a ton of different channels
  • Targeting paid ads when your product connects with a broad cross-section of consumers
  • How Felix Gray segments customers to better understand repeat purchase rates (and offer better education)
  • Establishing authority in a “post-trust” era
  • Using data to decide when to launch products


Kristen Lafrance: (00:40)
FelixGray is a leader in the digital eyeglass space and it's a brand that's actually really near and dear to me, which you'll hear more on that later. I talked to senior growth marketing manager, Ryan Fisher about navigating the DTC space in a market that seems so quintessentially brick and mortar. So what does repeat business look like for an eyeglasses brand? Let's get into it. Hey Ryan, welcome to Playing for Keeps. Thanks so much for being on. I am so excited to talk to you today.

Ryan Fisher: (01:08)
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Kristen Lafrance: (01:10)
Let's just jump right into it. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with FelixGray? And also I think most people who listen to this podcast know who you guys are, but they'd love to hear the brand story from your perspective.

Ryan Fisher: (01:22)
Yeah, sure it can do it. So it depends on how early you want to take it. But East Coast kid born and raised, started in video production. My first job was with The Startup, so pretty used to the space and then getting into performance marketing. I started with Leesa Sleep and was managing all of their media stuffs and two years later here I am with FelixGray in New York. Really born out of just like being a huge fan of the product honestly. So screen time I think is not unique to any of us especially in the DTC space. Tons of hours in front of the screen and during my time at least. So it's just noticing I had some symptoms of digital eye strain and bought a pair of glasses in 2017 and I've worn them every time I stepped in front of the screen since then.

Ryan Fisher: (02:10)
So just ended up creating a relationship with these guys. And it was something I wanted to be a part of. Yeah, so in terms of FelixGray as a brand, we're just super committed to making really high quality, great looking blue light glasses that are attractive for anyone who's spending a significant portion of their Monday through Friday staring at screens.

Kristen Lafrance: (02:30)
Yeah. I just want to touch on a little bit of an anecdotal piece as to why I'm so excited about talking to you and why I'm so connected to FelixGray as a brand and a product. I actually had, a lot of my followers know this, but I was a gymnast in college. I had over seven plus concussions in a matter of three years. And so a few years after graduation I actually struggled a ton with eyestrain and headaches a lot. That was because of, post traumatic brain injury. And the number one thing that I invested in, I did a lot of work with an eye doctor and every single time he was adding these to my prescription, it was always... I had gotten a pair of FelixGray's before and I just kept saying, "I need the blue light. It saves me from everything." And so I went through this year long process with a lot of different glasses, having blue light in every single one of them because I had tried FelixGray and I knew that it really worked.

Kristen Lafrance: (03:21)
Now today the only glasses that I need are FelixGray glasses. And just like you, every single time I am in front of a computer, I'm putting them on and it's come to the point where I get to the computer and if I don't have them on, I'm immediately feeling like naked and wrong and I get headaches really fast. It's really obvious. So I just wanted to share with you and the listeners why I have such a personal connection to the product. It really changed my life. And it continues to change my life and I'm a huge fan of the brand. So listeners, everything in this episode take with that grain of salt that I have a big personal stake in this.

Ryan Fisher: (04:01)
Yeah, those are my favorite customer stories. Digital eyestrain manifests itself at varying levels of severity for different types of people. There are some people that experience no symptoms, they're totally fine working in front of computers and they don't have any issues with it, to people like me who have some moderate symptoms, whether it's like blurry vision, which was my symptom. I was just noticing like I would take a break and things weren't clear. I've always had 2020 vision. And so that experience was very jarring for me to people like you who have series of concussions that ended up developing some light sensitivity. Those are my favorite reviews is like someone that doesn't have these really severe symptoms. Getting reviews and hearing customer testimonials from people that say, "These glasses have saved the way I work. They've saved my life. They've saved my job," is amazing.

Kristen Lafrance: (04:50)
Yeah, and that's absolutely my sentiment. I was at a point about a year and a half, two years ago where I was reading a blog post and all the words just jumbled on the screen. And it was one of those moments in life where you're just like, "Holy shit. Something is terribly wrong." And that's where I started investing in eyecare in FelixGray. And that's why to me it saved my work life, it saved my personal life all over. So really just that's my anecdotal as to why you guys are so special, but I'm excited to hear from you. What do you think really sets FelixGray apart as a brand when you've got the Warby Parker out there, you've got a bunch of Amazon replicates of blue light glasses, there's a lot of places you can go for this product. So what makes FelixGray so special?

Ryan Fisher: (05:39)
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think with our brand, what we're specifically trying to communicate is just some level of sophistication. The voice that we're trying to cultivate is really one of authority and thought leadership around digital wellness and blue light. The styles that we always try to offer are very timeless. Our design using, it's called Mazzucchelli Italian acetate, which is the stuff that Warby is made out of and all these really high end luxury designers make their glasses out of. They're super durable, very lightweight, and our lens technology is super unique as well. So we synthesize the naturally occurring ocular pigment that's produced in the eye and it's mixed directly into the lens. So most blue light technology is a coating on the lens, which makes it a little less durable and oftentimes not as effective. So we're really trying to walk the line of this luxury product that is super affordable, accessible to people while still trying to communicate that value of the price point.

Kristen Lafrance: (06:43)
Yeah. Another thing with cheaper blue light products that have that film. Another thing that I really see you have to deal with is then, if you're taking a picture of yourself with your glasses on, you get that total film over your eyes. It doesn't really look good from the outside. The FelixGray glasses you can actually wear them anywhere if you want to and not, it doesn't look like, "Oh, you're wearing blue light glasses just like that." I think that's really cool and I actually had no idea about the lens technology. That's such an interesting approach. So FelixGray is really based, as a DTC business. How do you think that that channel has really shaped you guys' approach to not only acquisition but also retention?

Ryan Fisher: (07:26)
That's a good question. Digitally native brands have to do things differently. I think with any glasses company and Warby Parker figured this out pretty quickly too is, there has to be onsite experiences that allow the customer to feel confident buying a product and have the insurances that they can try it on, make sure that they like it. We do something similar. A lot of companies do the get five frames to try, walk around see if you like them. We don't take that approach, but we do offer some pretty solid fit guide and resources. We have a great customer experience team so we can offer really personalized recommendations and we have a preemptive chat function on our site so people have questions in the checkout funnel at any point they can reach out to our team and we can assist.

Ryan Fisher: (08:21)
And then the other thing is we do have the in store experience here in the FelixGray office. So people can come in and try them on. I think there will never be anything that replaces people coming in and trying on a bunch of glasses and seeing how they look and feel on them. And so I think a big focus for us in 2020 is trying to think about how we can bring that experience to more people whether it's popups in different areas or whether it's taking our first step into retail.

Kristen Lafrance: (08:47)
Yeah, that's super exciting. Something I've actually been talking about a lot is sustainability in e-commerce. Actually I talked to Kerryn Watson not too long ago about this from BigCommerce and Val and I and the digest we did on that episode we were talking about how that's going to really pose a challenge for brands that have the order based business model of order five try them on and then you return them. There is this anti-sustainability part of that model. So it's really cool that you guys actually have differentiated from that and said, "Look, we don't really need to send you five to try. We can do all these things online." We have amazing fit guide resources you guys really do. That's how I chose my glasses, both two times that I've bought from you guys.

Kristen Lafrance: (09:33)
The personalized recommendations, you do a really good job at getting past that barrier of having someone to try it on without actually having to do it in person, which is such a big challenge for sure. Like you were saying and having the in store experience is really helpful. But I am curious to hear what you think has been the most influential tactic on helping people choose straight from the website, which pair of glasses to buy? Is it really the resources or do you think you have a lot of people coming into the chat and that's how they're determining?

Ryan Fisher: (10:05)
Look, it depends on what people prefer, right? If people are really concerned about it, they'll definitely reach out. The fit guide is pretty comprehensive, so it breaks people down by face shape and that seems to be a fairly good resource for people. I think one of the most I don't even know how to word this properly, but one of the easiest, I guess things to communicate to people is we have styles that are pretty timeless. They're not like really vampy or anything and they're not crazy shapes. So there isn't really, you see the shape of the frame and I think most of the time people get it and have a sense as to whether it's going to look good or not and so there is a little bit lower of a barrier there because we're not offering really wild shapes or anything like that. And then the other thing that we offer as well is a 30 day risk free money back guarantee. So if somebody buys the product and they want to do an exchange or they want to try something else or it simply isn't working for them, they can send it back within 30 days.

Kristen Lafrance: (11:04)
Yeah. That return policy is a huge piece, I think of brand trust, especially heading into 2020. So this is really interesting to me. You and I have talked about this before, back and forth on Slack, but glasses aren't really something that we think about in terms of repeat businesses. I think what you gave me was that most people on prescription specifically replace something like every five years or so, their glasses and then even just, blue light glasses without prescription, excuse me, it's not something that a customer really thinks about replacing in any sort of quick timeline. So I'm curious to what you guys' playbook is on customer retention and extending LTVs when you have this built in battle against it.

Ryan Fisher: (11:50)
Yeah. It's a challenge, it's an ongoing challenge for sure. I think start by breaking people out into two different categories, which is are they buying prescription? Are they buying the non-prescription? Because those are fundamentally most often very different buyers. And just for instance, our COO when he started hasn't replaced his prescription glasses for six years. I think that's a lot of what the normality is. Is people holding onto a pair of glasses that they've broken in that they're very comfortable with and they don't replace them for a long period of time because it's really expensive to buy new glasses. A lot of those ad-ons and features tend to add up and so you're dropping a huge amount of money on a new pair of glasses. You're not super compelled just to try new style or switch it up too frequently unless you need a new prescription.

Ryan Fisher: (12:39)
So when you look at those prescription buyers, I don't know that there's a ton that we can do to change that buying behavior then. But what we can offer both prescription and non-prescription users is, if they buy the optical lenses, which are the clear lenses, we can always say, "Hey, do you want a pair for work, a pair for home?" Type of messaging where we say, "The clear glasses are really a daytime lens for the office. Do you want something for home that filters a little bit more blue light which would be our sleep options." So there's the opportunity to cross sell, which is interesting.

Ryan Fisher: (13:15)
The one thing that we see pretty frequently with non-prescription buyers is the propensity to buy new styles that are limited edition or new colors that are in their preference, their preferred frame. So there's some of that repeat purchase happening, and just to give you a metric on any given month, 80 to 85% of our purchases are typically new customer acquisitions. So there's still some level of repeat purchase activity happening, but it's not probably anywhere near the level that a company that focuses hugely on retention would experience.

Kristen Lafrance: (13:58)
Yeah, definitely. It's cool to know that still, even with such a high percentage of new customers, you're still having 15, 20% of people come and repeat buying that. But obviously it feels and I can hear it from you, there's an opportunity there to do more. I mean other than the obvious reasons we talked about people don't want to change their prescription unless they have to, glasses are expensive. Style seems to be consistent for a lot of people in glasses. Other than that, what are really what you're seeing your customers main objections for repeat purchase is?

Ryan Fisher: (14:29)
That's a great question. I think there are pretty much three factors that we have to overcome whenever people are buying. It's probably style, price and a combination of like brand equity, which is often I think tied to the quality of the product. I don't think that there is much concern around brand equity and lens technology or frame quality as there is the price and then also the style. So we offer pretty consistent range of styles. We're always trying to add new things. We do sell out of like the limited edition stuff fairly quickly. So that does a really good job to stimulate repeat purchase activity specifically and that's something that we try to focus on. When we experience some seasonality is how do we launch things that are interesting and exciting and feel exclusive to purchasers to try to stimulate that repeat purchase activity.

Ryan Fisher: (15:22)
But then it's also the price. Again, I think that comes down to what type of buyer you are. If you're an RX buyer, $95 for a pair of prescription glasses is really reasonable compared to optical lab stuff. You're not going to spend $600, you feel much more comfortable spending that $95. So that's a different range. But then when you look at the way that the blue light glasses space has grown, the easiest fast follower mentality was to launch glasses that were much cheaper with high margins. So we're in the non RX space, the non-prescription space playing against a totally different price point objection where people that haven't had the experience of buying glasses don't really understand. They think sometimes the value that they could be getting out of this type of product. And in that case we are on the higher price point tier compared to some of the larger competitors in the blue light space.

Kristen Lafrance: (16:24)
Yeah, definitely. I'm curious if your communication between those two segments of customers changes. As someone comes on as a customer or a lead, is there a way that you guys are determining what someone is looking for and then are you communicating and educating in a different way based on RX users versus non-RX users?

Ryan Fisher: (16:44)
We are in the purchase funnel, so really it's the guided experience through the website is picking the lens type that you want and then the frame that you want and then it's really like, "Do you want prescription or nonprescription?" I think there is definitely an opportunity for us to maybe call that out sooner and it's something that we've talked about for sure. At this point and to give you even more context, FelixGray launched initially as a non-prescription blue light glasses company. And so RX has been something that is fairly new for us and we're always thinking about how do we expand the offering there. When you get deeper into RX, and as you target a more mainstream customer, their demands are much higher. And so we're starting to feel it. A lot of inquiries about, "Can you fill this pretty aggressive, pretty strong prescription?'

Ryan Fisher: (17:31)
So we launched with limited ranges and that's something that we have to figure out if we want to accommodate in the future or offering progressive lenses or bifocals and trifocals and different strength to readers and things like that. So it's a very different category for us to figure out and learn. Currently the majority of our purchases are coming from non-RX. So I think that there's a huge opportunity for us to take a step into the RX space. It's very interesting and this space is becoming so blended now that people that were fast followers in the blue light space that latched onto the idea of launching a lower cost blue light option have now taken a step in into prescription and vice versa. People like Warby Parker now have it as an additive option when you go into purchase in stores. And so I think we have to get better at communicating the value of the quality of the glasses to people that are looking for non-RX but then also really try to figure out how do we become better at RX as well because there's obviously a huge opportunity there.

Kristen Lafrance: (18:35)
Yeah, definitely. Something I think that goes along with driving repeat purchase of a product that's not really a natural repeat purchase for customers is going to be building really close relationships with customers. For me as a fan of the brand, if I decide that I want new glasses or if something happens to my glasses, like my last pair got chewed by my lovely dog Toby. It was not a question as to where I was going to go. I pretty immediately just went straight to FelixGray, got a new style because I wanted something different. But there was so much brand affinity built up. How are you guys actually building these relationships with customers to build that natural repeat purchase when it's necessary?

Ryan Fisher: (19:20)
Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, in terms of building the relationship, my opinion on that is just every interaction that you have with the customer is helping to build and reinforce that relationship. And so from an online perspective, what we're trying to make sure is that every touch point is consistently messaging the same brand values that we want to consistently communicate. And if we can make the messaging as integrated as possible by campaign, by value prop that we're trying to communicate, that's a huge win for us. And I think what we try to do... there's obviously a million touch points throughout the funnel from acquisition to how their checkout experience is, to something that we have an increased focus on right now specifically is how do we increase the value of our package tracking page.

Ryan Fisher: (20:06)
So we have a tool that is a specific sort of dashboard that shows people shipping updates for their package. One of the questions that I've tried to continue to ask is how do we make every touch point valuable, when we're thinking about valuable, it's delivering the right information at the right time. And so trying to think about what questions could people be searching for at this moment that will be value for them, that will be valuable for us to answer for them. And I think if we can do that really efficiently, we can get better at that. It's only going to improve the relationships over time.

Kristen Lafrance: (20:41)
Yeah, I love that and you're basically repeating my motto that I say nonstop which is a retention comes down to the customer experience and every single touch point being value, adding in a really good experience for the customer and that's really hard to do. Like you said, over a million channels. How do you maintain that brand standard across so many different channels and different people writing emails and stuff? How do you make sure that every single message that's going out really hits on the brand standard?

Ryan Fisher: (21:11)
Yeah, first of all, it's a pretty small team here. So we all interact with each other on a daily basis and try to make sure that we're pulling in the same direction. Everything that we're doing, we try to make sure it just feels like it's written by people. And when the preemptive chat launches onsite, those people are being connected with our CX team, which is, sitting three tables away from us. So all those interactions are happening with real people and the stuff that is automated, it's an acquisition, like growth marketing mentality towards trying to optimize, what people are finding valuable and if something isn't getting clicks or if we don't think that intuitively it feels like it's the right place to offer that information. It's changing. It was something else that we could feel can be more valuable and then measuring the results.

Kristen Lafrance: (21:58)
Yeah, it sounds like what you guys measure is a lot more than just clicks, but actually engagement on each of those things. Can you talk a little bit on how you guys determine really what things are working and what not? What metrics are you looking at? Is it more towards the engagement side of things? Like really what signals are you looking for from customers to say, "Okay, we're hitting on a good message here. Let's keep going."

Ryan Fisher: (22:21)
Oh, I can talk about attribution forever. We have a really robust measuring sort of combination. We have a daily sheet that tracks all the performance of all of our channels. We have weekly check-ins and then we have monthly check-ins. And at each stage it's a very different way to measure. So at the most granular level, we're looking at the performance of our acquisition based on what happened on the day and making adjustments accordingly to meet like a CPA goal. And then we look at the week, we're using a position based acquisition model, which is just something fairly simple that is NGA and saying like, "What channels seem to be working for us?" But really the most valuable tool that we have is just finding a really mathematical way to utilize a post-purchase survey. So at the end of the purchase cycle we ask a survey question which is, "How did you hear about us?"

Ryan Fisher: (23:23)
And then there's a followup question to drill down into why or specifically they heard about us. So podcast is a good example. I think people tend to have a really difficult time trying to track that offline media. And so this is where that offline media really comes to life. And this is something that I've always had a challenge with, especially managing a lot of the media, at least asleep. We had a percentage based, "How did you hear about us?" Or post-purchase survey, which was only directional. This is much more granular so we can actually apply a halo based on the response rate of a given week and the amount of purchasers that actually purchased them that week. So we can really quantify what channels we think are working for us and then figure out some more specifically what shows or actually who did they hear about us from?

Kristen Lafrance: (24:12)
Yeah. I mean diving into like the podcast specific attribution like you're saying, figuring out which shows even which people are driving the most customers. That is not just knowing, attribution wise, which channel is performing really well. I feel like that also gives you a lot of deeper qualitative insight into your customers and what matters to them and who they're connecting with and what personality they connect with. And I'm guessing that goes back into all your marketing and messaging and stuff when you're saying, "Okay, if you're coming from, Armchair Expert, we can assume you're probably feeling this way versus if you're coming from How I Built This, you probably have this skew towards the education. Is that something you guys see that based on who and where they come from, you're better understanding your customers?

Ryan Fisher: (25:00)
Yes and no. I mean, you can take it back to year one. I think a lot of the audience insights really came from Facebook. It was a super powerful tool and we just was like guess and check mentality. I think it's really easy to become super lazy with something like this. Everybody's staring at in front of the screen so you could technically target everybody and they theoretically could be experiencing those symptoms. So I think the early insights on the early adopters came from the programmatic stuff and the data that Facebook and Google gives us about, what type of customer segments they could be. I think we saw a lot of the same type of thing people in finance. I think that was just because the two co-founders are from finance.

Ryan Fisher: (25:49)
I think they did a really good job of speaking that language. And I think it's definitely evolved over time. We see some gamers picking up on it, GUNNAR was obviously in the space with their yellow lens. And so it's a natural progression that people that work in front of screens and then go home and look at more screens and more competitive way and are really putting strain on their eyes would be a good target. And the thing that we find that's really interesting with the offline media is that, and this comes back to being potentially lazy about targeting, is it really comes down to the quality of the host and the loyalty of the audience that they've built. So there's really no hacky way to figure out what vertical we should be targeting.

Ryan Fisher: (26:37)
It's not as simple as saying like, do people that like NBA, should we just sponsor every NBA show or do a bunch of targeting in that vertical. It's really like, "We have a great show [inaudible]. It's really the quality of his audience." So people love his show and are avid listeners and the same thing for we have some fitness podcasts that are about the same. [inaudible] has been a great partner for us and when we see those responses, they're very emphatic people with exclamation points and it actually makes it hard to track because we try to put, VLOOKUPs with pretty wide range of responses. And there's always one that's like, this one has 13 exclamation points and this on has five.

Kristen Lafrance: (27:22)
Yeah. It really, it all comes down to trust really. What you're saying is not just trust from Felix Grey's a brand, but who you guys are partnering with for advertising and loyalty building comes down to what we're seeing a lot. And I think DTC in general, which is just the audience and trust building is where you really start building loyalty with customers.

Ryan Fisher: (27:42)
Exactly. Yeah. A couple of years ago I remember marketers talking about this being like the post trust era where people are less keen to trust brands, which I think is 100% true. And so we're not shy that there is some mixed data at points about blue light glasses and the effectiveness of them for your time in front of screens. But I think the thing that we always argue is like if people are having these symptoms and there's a huge data pool, just in reviews that we have that show, these lasses are really helping people. So we can feel confident in that. But if you were to just say like, "Do blue light glasses work?"

Ryan Fisher: (28:22)
You would be probably not sold because if you looked at a lot of the articles on page one of Google, it wouldn't really be that compelling probably. So really what we've found that's been effective for us is leveraging the authority of some top endorsers who have tried and believe in our product as well to help tell that story. And so beyond just being our own brand, utilizing those other powerful voices to validate those claims has been huge for us.

Kristen Lafrance: (28:51)
Yeah, and that makes a lot of sense. What I'm hearing from you is that word of mouth is a huge factor for you guys. And not only acquisition, but retention is really people talking about the glasses. Things like me posting on Twitter saying like, "These glasses changed my life." Those things in an industry where trust is hard to build. Like you said, there's not a huge amount of data saying like, absolutely these are going to work for you, go get them now. There's a lot of trust that you have to build up and a lot of objections in people's heads that you have to build up. Is that word of mouth really a large sector of you guys' attribution and if so, what are you guys doing with that information?

Ryan Fisher: (29:34)
There's a huge pool of people that say they heard about us from referrals. Currently it's obviously like pretty low hanging fruit for us to go after. We've tried to refer from program in the past and it just didn't have the impact that we were looking for. But we also didn't do a ton to try to optimize the offer, so we incentivized referrals with in-store credit. And so it just never seemed to have the impact that we were hoping it would. I think what we need is really just the bandwidth and the time to spin up one of those programs again and try to figure out exactly what is impactful for customers to keep them referring and to keep them excited about talking about the brand.

Kristen Lafrance: (30:16)
Definitely. So the customers that refer people, I think a lot of brands consider them their top customers. This is something you mentioned to me before that you guys are working to segment out the best customers and figure out how to engage with them more, learn from them more. So how are you guys actually defining really who the best top customers are and then from there, how are you planning how to build out those deeper connections with them?

Ryan Fisher: (30:42)
Definitely a huge challenge. It's something that we're trying to get a lot better at. The repeat activity just hasn't been a huge focus for us. It's been more of just trying to accelerate through customer acquisition. I think the most consistent form of segmentation that we use is really around product category, which really lends itself to its own series of questions. Because if we were to go purely off of, highest value from a revenue basis, it would get a little bit cluttered because it would be harder to distinguish if you purchased two pairs of non-prescription glasses or if you purchased a pair of sleep glasses or RX. It has to come back to pulling those people apart and trying to understand what their purchase activity is. What's interesting is that if someone buys non-prescription we can up sell them with prescription, but it doesn't work the opposite way in all cases.

Ryan Fisher: (31:53)
So it's a little bit harder for us to look at the highest value on a blended basis. So I think what we need to do a lot better job of is just trying to figure out the purchase cycle of different types of customers. When we think about highest value, I think we have to think about the highest value in each bucket and then try to build the best experience for them by just recommending the most relevant thing.

Kristen Lafrance: (32:26)
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So you guys really have now three distinct product lines. You've got the optical, sleep and then sunglasses plus tons of color and style in each of those options. So obviously based, the skew that somebody comes in on is going to really tailor the experience they have after that. How do you guys determine really what you drop when, when you have these different product lines? Is there a strategic way you guys are saying, okay, we need to drop a new color in the sleep glasses or we need to drop a new style for sunglasses. How do you guys manage all that with such a small team and figuring how to manage the product or projects and really do it in an efficient way for the team?

Ryan Fisher: (33:10)
Yeah, I mean we've been fortunate to have a lot of very analytical people on the team. It just so happens that quite a few people come from investment banking and finance. And so they're masters of managing huge amounts of data. And so part of it is like trying to make sure we're not over ordering items that are going to sit. We really don't have a ton of room to discount really. And so that's a huge consideration for us is just trying to make sure that we're ordering what we think we can actually move and what's going to be interesting for people. So part of it is really, we have a couple, I don't want to say design team, it's really a person that manages our actual inventory and then is very in touch with our suppliers and some of the industry trends.

Ryan Fisher: (34:00)
So one of the first steps is looking at for the new year, what trends are people seeing? What are we recommending in terms of just new frame shapes or colors. Like I said, Mazzucchelli acetate, there is like a million different colors that we can pick from. We have all these colored ships in the office and it's actually overwhelming to like sit through and look at all of them because they're in every shade in tortoise that you can imagine.

Kristen Lafrance: (34:31)
How many tortoise shades are there out there?

Ryan Fisher: (34:34)
Like infinity? Just so many. So part of it is pulling from trends, part of it is looking at what we have launched in the past and what went well in terms of sell through rates. Yeah, I mean the timing is always like, we see time and time again that launching new frames and new colors stimulates repeat purchase activity. And so a lot of times we see some amount of slowdown in the summer and so we try to bunch a bunch of new launches in that summer period to see if we can get people more excited about different colors. And really when we launch different colors, it's launching just the frame itself, because we can put whatever lens we want into it. So it's really just getting the style right and then it's up to the customer to pick the lens type that they're looking for.

Kristen Lafrance: (35:25)
Yeah, it seems like there's almost a shift happening in the eyeglasses industry as a whole that with more availability to buy glasses at a lower price point like you're saying $95 seems a little bit luxury for somebody who's not on prescription but also at the same time it's really when you expect to buy glasses, it doesn't feel like a ridiculous price or anything. And so I think that shift is happening where I'm feeling it in myself, where it feels like as my style changes, my eyeglass choice is part of that personal style. And that really gives you guys an opportunity to play in that new color and new frame space to say, "Yes, you like our glasses, try out a different style." Like adjust your daily stylist as you see fit. It seems like a really good place to connect on a deeper level with customers. I'm curious if you found that to be true.

Ryan Fisher: (36:15)
I would say that exactly what you're describing is actually fairly unique to non-prescription customers. I think they're more willing to be more adventurous with their styles, which is interesting. Some influencers that we worked with, we recommended some smaller styles for them that we thought would be great for their face shape and they actually picked our largest style, which is more often purchased what we felt by men. But when we actually look at the data, it's very evenly split between male and female. So I think people that are buying non-RX are looking for more style focused trend forward types of frames, which at this point is I think just pushing a little bit larger in general with a little bit more noticeable colors.

Ryan Fisher: (37:01)
They're looking for it to be an accessory but also be really functional for them. Whereas prescription wears I think are probably less adventurous looking for more timeless styles that go with everything. Think of glasses where you just want something that is going to be comfortable to sit on your face all day and then you want to make sure that it actually matches any outfit. So whatever environment you're in, most often it has to translate well between those scenarios.

Kristen Lafrance: (37:27)
Yeah, it's so interesting to me. Kind of feels like a divide between RX and non-RX customers you guys have. Their buying purchases are so different and really the things they value in the way they're feeling about the product are so different. So you're trying to drive this community in customer loyalty, which is clearly a big challenge for FelixGray. So what channels are you guys really honing in on, on this loyalty and deeper messaging that you're trying to share with customers?

Ryan Fisher: (37:57)
Acquisition channels specifically?

Kristen Lafrance: (37:59)

Ryan Fisher: (38:00)
We're looking at really the broad range of influencer marketing. I know, [inaudible] uses the same framework, but podcasts have been really successful for us over the past year. And so staying consistent with those core shows and then trying to bring on new shows that we think will have similar level of performance and building out, true influencer marketing specifically on YouTube has been a huge focus for us. We recently launched paid acquisition on YouTube, which has been its own challenge to track because it just functions very differently from what we would expect from a Facebook or a Google where the tracking lives very closely in a dashboard. It's very click based or view through based. And YouTube just is a very different format.

Ryan Fisher: (38:51)
One thing that intuitively we try to think about is just with our customers, who we think they are, where are they consuming that content and who are they taking recommendations from? And so the next step beyond that for us is really trying to double down on affiliate and NPR and utilizing some reputable publishers to give them our glasses, right? Really high quality reviews and their experiences and know this time of year, all those roundups are coming out that people love so much. So it's going to be, best blue light glasses, best online prescription glasses are 2020. So we're trying to make sure that we're in those conversations wherever it makes sense, and we're really confident in the quality of our products. I think the prescription and non-prescription divide and that distinction is really just unique based on their set of experiences.

Ryan Fisher: (39:38)
So if you're somebody that has worn glasses your whole life, I think you're pretty well aware that that bill can run itself up really quickly. So $95 feels pretty fair and then if you're someone that hasn't had to buy glasses, you're not sure really what the difference between the $20 Amazon pair is versus a $95 pair of FelixGray's. And so utilizing those authorities to help explain the differences is the focus.

Kristen Lafrance: (40:06)
Yeah, for the listeners, I want to really just highlight the biggest thing I've heard coming out of Ryan and this whole episode is really when you know your value, when you know that the products you're creating a really valuable and really helpful and making a difference for people, you can start to focus on building trust rather than trying to discount your product, trying to just get people to try it. And I think that it's so valuable for you guys as a brand. What you're saying is, we know the quality is good, so we know that we can find the people who their audience really trust the recommendations and we can send this to them knowing that most likely they're going to have a really good experience with the product and they're going to say really good things about it.

Kristen Lafrance: (40:46)
And that's a really, really important point in DTC as a whole, but especially retention. Even if you have a product that's not a naturally repeat purchase thing, if you know that the value is there, you can really start to build out trust and build out that longterm brand affinity, which then eventually is going to drive that repeat purchase like you're talking about with styles and drops and new products and all that stuff. And I think that's really the biggest takeaway from this episode is how much trust it goes into products like this and especially things that have a lot of objections from customers. So just to wrap up, I've got three questions for you. First, one of my favorite questions to ask most people on a brand side, especially marketers seem to have really good answers to this. Do you have a favorite customer story you've got from building and growing at FelixGray?

Ryan Fisher: (41:37)
I have to say that I don't have anyone specific, so probably a little disappointing. But maybe just your customer stories, that's my favorite type. I get a daily injection of Yotpo reviews directly into my inbox and I read all of them, or most of them anyway. The stories that people explain that they have this sensitivity or people that have really bad problems sleeping or people that experience really severe migraines that wear the glasses and think that it's saved their job or saved their life. There's some really powerful language that people use to explain the impact that FelixGray glasses have had on their lives and having that positive impact is my favorite story to tell.

Kristen Lafrance: (42:26)
Yeah, it really makes you, I think, feel the power of everything you're doing and really inspires you to keep chasing to be better and create those better customer experiences you were talking about. What's something that's really surprised you from the marketing standpoint as you've grown?

Ryan Fisher: (42:41)
Yeah, it's a good question. I think with every startup I've been a part of it, it's the shift between early adopters and the mainstream buyers. Their needs are very different. The way that you have to communicate with them is very different and it requires you in a matter of a year or even less to get really, really good at what you're doing really quickly. Because I think that's the trouble that a lot of startups have is taking that initial iteration of their product, putting it out into the market. Everyone pretty much at this point can run a Facebook ad, but how do you really take that and hit the accelerator and push it to the next level and taking it mainstream and using a wider ray of products that can fulfill a more mainstream audiences need.

Ryan Fisher: (43:32)
I think that's been the most interesting challenge. I think you get to a place where it feels less like a true marketing challenge and more like a product marketing challenge. It's making sure that you have the offerings that new audience is looking for and that you can distill it down to something that's really easily adjustable and do it in a way that is compelling and makes them want to buy it and they trust you.

Kristen Lafrance: (44:01)
Yeah, I really love that answer. Going from your first evangelical customers who are going to tell you everything they love and taking that information and being able to then adjust it and work it for the mainstream and find your specific place in a bigger audience is a big challenge. And something that I think you guys do really well. So I want to congratulate you guys on that for sure. Last question, we've touched on the future of FelixGray a little bit, but really where do you see yourself as brand in say three to five years? What's really exciting for you guys?

Ryan Fisher: (44:34)
Yeah, I think about this all the time. One thing I want to stay on the previous point just really quickly is those same Yotpo reviews that are so positive, I think looking at them, taking those stuff and holding it in the same regard is super important to that iterative process. But yeah, five years, I think it's going to come with a fair amount of self reflection. The blue light space is expanding, so you really never know where are we going to be when you look back in five years. So I think when we look at 2018 and 2019, there was a lot of fuss followers that popped up that were doing the same thing and running the same copy and running. Really like people just stole our creative.

Ryan Fisher: (45:14)
So it became a very cluttered space and it was really hard to distinguish what was real and who you could trust. And I think at a holistic level that really it diminishes the trust around blue light, which I think was already like on the fence. There's a lot of brands that I think are potentially giving customers a bad experience or making people think that the glasses don't work for them when in reality it may just not have been the right glasses. And even for us, right? Like we have a pair of sleep glasses that are technically and more efficient at filtering blue light and they're clinically proven. They're clinically proven to increase melatonin secretion if you wear them before bedtime. And so I don't know that there are companies that have a lower price point than us that have put the same rigor around delivering on that quality, which I think is detrimental to blue light as a whole.

Ryan Fisher: (46:12)
And so I think there's really three questions that we can ask ourselves. It's, are we a blue light company? Are we a productivity company or are we a glasses company? I think all three of those things present different opportunities for expansion. For a blue light company, we're going to need to roll out screen protectors and everything else that helps people manage their blue light consumption and manage really like the lighting in their world to make them work more productively, which is a very viable option. Are we a glasses company? I think if we're a glasses company, it requires we look at retail a little bit more closely. It requires that we get really good at selling RX and make sure that we have all of the standard offerings that a normal glasses company would have.

Ryan Fisher: (46:59)
Then the other option is, it seems like there's a lot of retail interest and it could just be, staying the course and continuing to be ourselves in the way that we've always done things and helping or actually I shouldn't say no using retailers like Target over Black Friday. Just fun little marketing fact was bidding hugely on blue light glasses over Black Friday. And so there's clearly interest on larger brands like that. And so if they're playing in the space, how do we leverage those big corporate retail partners and say like, "Hey, what if we were in your stores?" I know Target specifically has a growing affinity for D2C, digitally native brands. So maybe that's an avenue.

Kristen Lafrance: (47:52)
Yeah, it's so cool to hear you break that down to questions that you can formulate about the company on a larger scale. Like what do we want to be in five years? Do we want to be the blue light company or do we want to be a glasses company? Do we want to be a productivity company? I think those are really cool ways that you've really shown our listeners. Different ways you can frame your questions for the future and how that can inform how you grow. That's super excited. I would love to see you guys in Target. That'd be amazing to see. I can totally see that being an awesome place. Well, thank you so much for being on. This was such an amazing episode. It's so interesting to hear this other side of retention talking about how to do retention for a product that doesn't have it really built in.

Kristen Lafrance: (48:34)
We have a lot of guests come on who are replenishment subscriptions or skincare, beauty products, things that make a lot of sense for repeat purchases and I just want to thank you so much for coming on and really diving into this. It's a difficult topic for you guys for sure and have you come on and really share your thought process, I think it's really helpful for a lot of people. So thank you so much for being on today.

Ryan Fisher: (48:56)
Yeah, thanks for having me. And if you have any suggestions for inspiring repeat purchase activity beyond what we chatted about, feel free to let me know.

Kristen Lafrance: (49:03)
Definitely will.