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Posted on: Friday - Jun 12, 2015

Ever wonder why you love interacting with a certain brand? Or why you keep returning to a specific store? It’s probably all about the experience you have. And that experience is no accident. The “total user experience” is an idea Warby Parker and its team have been chasing—and continue to chase—since the company launched in 2010.

Warby Parker bills itself as a transformative lifestyle brand with a lofty goal: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses. Over the last five years, the company has developed a loyal following, quickly gobbling up space in the eyewear marketplace.

We got a chance to hear from Warby Parker’s Chief Technology Officer, Lon Binder, at Launch Tennessee’s annual tech, entrepreneurship and southern culture conference, 36|86, which took place in Nashville this week.

“There’s probably two different technology areas for the business to think about,” Binder told the audience, “So one is the product itself and it’s crucial we have a good product, otherwise the customers won’t keep coming back…The other half of it is the shopping experience and that’s one of the biggest drivers of word of mouth. Customers love the style of the frames, but they also like the shopping experience and just speaking to the engineering, we’ve spent many, many meetings, lots and lots of our time and people working on making that experience better.”

The proof is in the pudding. Search for #warbyparker on Instagram, for example, and you’ll see over 100,000 posts on any given day of customers proudly showing off their glasses, trumpeting Warby Parker’s brand and appeal around the world.

“The number one source of our growth has been word of mouth and we track this. It’s been incredible,” Binder added.

So how can you track something like word of mouth, which inherently seems difficult to nail down.  

Binder describes Warby Parker’s use of a Net Promotor Score (NPS).

“What that promoter score does is it tells you roughly how many of your customers are promoters, meaning that they’ll tell their friends about you, how many of your customers are detractors, meaning they’re going to tell friends but they’re going to say nasty things and then there’s some neutrals,” Binder said. “A little bit of math gives you a score. We’d look at this number constantly and talk about it and we found that when we opened our first retail store the NPS was a little bit lower in our store than it was on the web. So one of the things we really focused on was bringing those numbers to par and that’s been an interesting challenge for us and they’re much closer now.”

Being so heavily customer-driven has also helped Warby Parker develop a pickier mentality when it comes to scope and tackling change.

“One of the things we often say to our team and tell everybody is if you want to tackle a game changing problem, you want to tackle something very big, you have to do it one bite at a time,” Binder said. “This is the way we’ve taken on our business.”

And they’ve listened to their customers in deciding where to take the next bite. Warby Parker originally offered just a few glasses with limited options for prescriptions. They’ve since expanded to multiple collections featuring different materials and metal frames, sunglasses and now people with more complicated prescriptions can also shop at Warby Parker.

One step at a time, but always with the customer first. It’s a recipe for success that’s guiding Warby Parker to expand right here in Tennessee. The company opened a new office—it’s first outside New York City—in Nashville in 2014 and is in the process of hiring over 250 people to work there over the next five years.

To that we say, yes, we highly recommend.