How to give your business 20-20 vision…

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CEO of US spectacle retailer Warby Parker, Neil Blumenthal, is quoted as saying: “The key to an ideal workplace, in one word, is this: self-awareness.”

At Fearlessly Frank, we think that’s two words. Either way, Blumenthal might be onto something. Because we also believe that self-awareness is the key, not just to an ideal workplace, but to a successful business.

We’re not talking about the self-awareness of individual employees here — whether someone at your office heats up mackerel salad in the microwave or refuses to hold the elevator doors probably won’t affect your listing on the stock exchange. But a business, just like an individual person, has a vision of itself — and the way a company sees itself is vital to its success. A company needs to know not just what it does, but why it does it, where it’s going, where it’s failing, what its place in the market is. In other words, it needs to take a long, hard look at itself from time to time.

Of course, all businesses try to do this. But not all businesses get it right. That’s partly because most trend reports and analyses designed to help achieve self-awareness focus on the now, or the very long-term – so the tools available for business self-awareness often don’t give a focussed view. Without being able to place your business within a five-to-ten year context, how can you be truly self-aware?

That was the germ of thinking behind Fearlessly Frank’s 20-20 tool. A tool to help you see your business more clearly.

What might that involve? Over the course of two weeks we analyse trends in order to create a model of what your company’s ‘perfect customer’ might look like in five to ten years time  – a sort of flipside to our Ultimate Nemesis tool. We then create the ideal proposition for that customer, and top it off with a round-table with a group of successful entrepreneurs who have thrived through innovation, to help add depth to your offering.

In fact, Warby Parker is a perfect example – $1.7 billion American prescription glasses business. What might the perfect Warby Parker customer look like in 2025?

Well, remember Google Glass? The wearable revolution never quite took off with Google Glass, partly due to the initial cost-of-entry, but also because of technical limitations and because the design was considered aesthetically unappealing. However, AR and VR technologies are still growing, especially in retail. Lacoste’s LCST Lacoste AR app allows customers to virtually try on shoes, while home goods retailer Magnolia Market partnered with Shopify a little while back to create an app that places virtual 3D products directly into a customer’s home. These technologies are likely to become commonplace over the next few years, given the enormous benefits they provide. VR, as it stands, is only just finding its feet.

A brand like Warby Parker has the opportunity, then, to do a similar partnership with a tech company like Apple, Microsoft or Google to co-create a range of AR glasses that fuse style with functionality — perhaps the aim will be to create an all-purpose AR pair of consumer glasses, or perhaps the lenses could be interchangeable for different functions — one set for watching movies with access to imdb trivia in realtime, another waterproof set for surfing complete with weather reports, another for shopping which allows users to inspects 3d renders of each item. Perhaps, as Warby Parker is known for its prescription lenses, the glasses could be used to test eyesight and inform the wearer when the visit an optometrist, and include eye exercises to help keep users focussed.

Or perhaps, as a retailer, Warby Parker wouldn’t even need to co-create the technology — by simply being market-leaders in selling and promoting AR glasses, retailers would have a comfortable platform to develop and market new products, while placing Warby Parker as a leading, modern company that keeps one foot in their traditional space while dipping a toe into the tech space. Physical pop-ups in the real world, digital campaigns celebrating AR glasses brands, partnership with small tech innovators, and of course the ability to inspect each model in 3D and try it on at the point of purchase.

It could even launch an innovative Netflix-style subscription model that allows users to “rent” pairs of expensive AR glasses on a monthly basis, through its online platform.

What this comes down to is ultimately an analysis of what an average customer might look like in five or ten years time — and, as tech continues to grow, what their needs might be. Most modern consumers are forward-thinking, tech-savvy customers – so how would Warby Parker appeal to their core needs by enhancing their everyday experiences, while also maintaining their reputation for affordable and stylish lenses and frames?

It might even be that a market analysis shows that the average customer in 2025 suffers from chronic eye-strain from the sheer number of screens we’re exposed to. This places WP in a perfect position to launch a set of eye-friendly AR lenses that allow customers to get a break from the LCD glare by interacting with AR interfaces instead.

The 20-20 process is designed to provide a lithograph of what the future might look like for a customer like Warby Parker – and, as it differs from business to business, might not include product at all. The important thing is that companies are able to understand their core offering and how it relates to their market – as well as how to move it forward. Without a deep analysis of their business, it’s impossible to say whether tech is even a concern for Warby Parker – perhaps their customer base skews older, and tends to prefer traditional retail; perhaps their average customer is extremely young, and is bored of being surrounded by screens. Either way, it comes down to constant, immersive self-awareness. And if nothing else, we can at least agree – Fearlessly Frank and Warby Parker alike – on the importance of 20-20 vision.