Last updated on October 9th, 2020 at 12:07 am

The Best Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) Eye Care Startups

Even if you’re blessed with 20/20 vision and have no need for glasses, you may have heard of Warby Parker, a giant in the direct-to-consumer eye care world that has raised almost $300M in VC backing. It’s easy to see (pun intended) that these guys may be on to something – and they’re not the only ones. In the last decade or so, many other D2C eye care startups have revolutionized the way we shop and save on vision correction and optical health.

 

Let’s meet some of the leading eye care startups who offer ophthalmologist-approved treatments with more convenience and less hassle.

What are the best vision care and optometry startups?

Best D2C Eye Care StartupsOverviewFunding($) & HQ locationRelated Reviews
HubbleHubble is a contact lenses maker and retailer.$73.7M
New York, NY
Hubble vs Scout by Warby Parker vs Waldo

Hubble vs Dailies

Hubble vs Acuvue vs Aveo

Hubble vs Waldo

Review: Scout Contacts by Warby Parker
ContactsCartContactsCart is a discounted contact lenses retailer (Hubble's third-party marketplace).$73.7M
New York, NY
ContactsCart vs 1-800 Contacts
Warby ParkerWarby Parker is a lifestyle brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price operating as a socially conscious business.$290.5M
New York, NY
Felix Gray vs Warby Parker vs Blokz

Hubble vs Scout by Warby Parker vs Waldo

Review: Scout Contacts by Warby Parker

Pair Eyewear – Customizable Glasses for Kids

Fast Growth D2C Brands
WaldoWaldoaims to deliver high quality daily contact lenses without the hassle or price tag.$6.8M
London, England
Hubble vs Scout by Warby Parker vs Waldo

Waldo vs 1-800 Contacts vs Sightbox

Hubble vs Waldo

Review: Scout Contacts by Warby Parker

Review: Hubble vs Dailies

Review: Fast Growth D2C Brands

Best Direct-to-Consumer Brands of 2020
ambrAmbr offers eyeglasses for the digital generation.Dublin, Ireland
ZenniZenni is a leader in online prescription eyewear.Novato, CAFelix Gray vs Warby Parker vs Blokz

Review: Fast Growth D2C Brands
PairPair is an eyewear brand designed and made specifically for children.$1M
New York, NY
Pair Eyewear – Customizable Glasses for Kids
Felix GrayFelix Gray provides eyewear protecting against digital eye strain.$6.1M
New York, NY
Felix Gray vs Warby Parker vs Blokz
ScoutScout is a contact lenses maker and retailer.$290.5M
New York, NY
Hubble vs Scout by Warby Parker vs Waldo

Review: Scout Contacts by Warby Parker

Waldo vs 1-800 Contacts vs Sightbox

Review: Hubble vs Dailies

Review: Fast Growth D2C Brands
Fitz FramesFitz Frames provides 3D printed custom light-weight, durable eyeglasses for kids.$2.5M
Los Angeles, CA
Quarterly D2C VC Funding
JinsJins is an affordable eyewear maker.public, IPO'd in 2013, market cap 182.25B JPY, Tokyo, Japan Review: Fast Growth D2C Brands
Aveo VisionAveo Vision provides advanced, affordable, all‑day‑comfortable daily contacts.San Francisco, CAHubble vs Acuvue vs Aveo
Review: Fast Growth D2C Brands

What aspects of optometry are being disrupted most by D2C vision care startups? (And which are still relatively untouched?)

Browse, try on, and shop online 

 

The disrupters in this industry now allow you to browse, try on, and shop online an enormous variety of frames and lenses from the comfort of your own home. Rather than making the drive down to your local eyewear retailer, you can simply peruse the web for a new pair of specs that match your prescription and style. If Warby Parker doesn’t have what you’re looking for, Jins, a popular Japanese brand valued at over $1.7 billion, is another great option. Searching for the perfect blue-light filtering specs?

 

Felix Gray, Ambr, and Blokz can help protect your eyes from digital strain. For the younger members of the family who are perhaps in need of something more fun and durable, D2C startups such as Pair Eyewear and Fitz Frames specialize in making custom eyewear for kids. 

 

Enjoying the convenience of online shopping, but not sure which shape or color suits you best? Before making a decision, Warby Parker’s “Home Try On” program will send to your doorstep five pairs of frames of your choice to try on free of charge. You’ll, of course, have to return the ones you don’t like via mail. This was the first of its kind, which really blew the e-commerce door wide open for Warby. Other companies, such as Zenni Optical, allow you to virtually ‘try on’ any of their frames using webcams and imaging software before adding them to your cart. Either way, you’ll never have to leave the house. 

 

 

Cutting out the middleman

 

In addition, D2C startups offer eyewear and contacts at a significantly more attractive price than Luxottica brands (i.e., Ray-Ban, Oakley, Persol, LensCrafters) and Acuvue and Alcon. Luxottica Group was acquired by Essilor for $24 billion in 2017 and is by far the world’s largest eyewear retailer. As such, they’ve been able to control industry pricing and demand hundreds of dollars for a single pair of glasses, prescription and non-prescription alike. I don’t wear contacts, but my understanding is that a month’s worth of retail brand contact lenses can cost just as much. 

 

D2C eyewear brands are very much aware of these big price tags and are working to make them a thing of the past. You can find prescription eyeglasses for as low as $6.95 (!!) on Zenni Optical’s website or get a 3-month subscription of Scout by Warby Parker contact lenses (both eyes) for only $110. Hubble, another low-cost contact lenses manufacturer, will send you your first box of contacts for just $1. That’s fantastic news for your budget.

 

 

Eye Examinations remain IRL

 

There is one major optometry service, however, that has yet to transition entirely online: comprehensive eye examinations. Many healthcare professionals will still encourage you to visit your optometrist in person for eye exams, especially if you are of a certain age or if you suffer from chronic eye disease such as glaucoma or other conditions that might impair your vision. 

 

Due to the fact that the seamlessness of the online D2C eye care experience heavily relies on you having a valid vision prescription that can be quickly uploaded at checkout to complete your purchase, you may have an issue if you’re overdue for an exam.  Luckily, if you need to renew but don’t have the time (or if you’re weary of sitting in a waiting room amongst other patients or customers), the Prescription Check app, Warby’s telehealth partner, may be able to help. Using the app, a virtual eye exam, you can renew your prescription for $15. Unfortunately, these types of virtual eye exams are only recommended for those between the ages of 18 and 50 and can only be used to renew distance prescriptions for glasses. 

 

But, do not despair! “Tele-optometry” will soon be the new norm, according to Texas State Optical president John Marvin. It’s only a matter of time and technology before online refraction is taken seriously and adopted by optometric practices.

Why are D2C vision care startups growing so fast right now?

With global powerhouse companies such as Essilor Luxottica having such a big share of the vision care market, you might be wondering how direct-to-customer startups in this space ever got their feet in the door. Sure, convenience and low pricing are great reasons to seek out D2C brands, but how they were able to initially stake their claim and make their presence known in an already-established industry is worth a second glance.

 

Ability to identify customers 

 

First and foremost, there’s been a big shift in patient/customer expectations. Previously, most of those in need of eye care were more than happy to take the time to visit their local optometrist or eye wear retailer, where they can easily ask questions, develop a personal relationship with the vendor, and have a professional guide them through their eye exam and purchase. Perhaps not as comfortable with technology, people like my parents probably have no interest or trust in managing any aspect of their health through an app or website. 

 

Millennials who now make up a much larger segment of this customer base, however, are not as willing to carve out time to go to the doctor. Furthermore, they are much more budget-conscious and tech savvy than older generations. Companies like Fitz Frames, which we mentioned earlier, are even working to sway younger, eco-conscious parents with an initiative to reduce waste in manufacturing and eliminate unnecessary plastic wrap from their shipments. D2C companies have successfully pin-pointed these differences, and are effectively using them to appeal to the mass market.

 

 

Innovative marketing strategy

 

The primary messaging of many D2C startups is that you shouldn’t have to trade affordability for quality and convenience. This is how D2C vision care sets itself apart from Essilor Luxottica which many would argue has monopolized the eyeware industry and is therefore able to keep prices high for its own gain. No longer do you have to compromise on what’s best for your eyes for what’s best for your wallet, and visa versa. 

 

D2C eye care startups have also tapped into how to most effectively spread this messaging to their customer base. Flashy, eye-catching advertisements for Warby Parker and Hubble can be seen on Instagram, Facebook, billboards, public transportation, and even in the commercial breaks during your favorite Hulu or Amazon Prime show. The ads are also sure to highlight heavily discounted offers, such as Scout’s $5 6-day trial. The hope is that low cost and low obligation might encourage more people to try a new product, hopefully resulting in more repeat business and long-time customers. 

 

D2C eye care startups have also started to identify sponsorships and partnerships as valuable marketing opportunities. Zenni Optical, even with over 26 million pairs sold, has been relatively anonymous until recently. In the past few years, they have established partnerships with 2 major sport franchises, the Chicago Bulls and the San Francisco 49ers. Marketing efforts ranging from brand patches on the Bulls players’ jerseys to renaming a portion of Levi Stadium to the “Zenni Zone” seek to spread the Zenni brand name amongst the teams’ nationwide fan base, and beyond.

How big of an impact have direct-to-consumer startups had on traditional optometrists?

So, with all the convenience and savings and spiffy marketing, just how much exactly are D2C eye care startups eating into the traditional optometrist’s business? 

 

Despite their current limitations, virtual eye exams like Warby Parker’s Prescription Check app (which we mentioned earlier) are threatening to disrupt the $5 billion eye exam market. Instead of 110 million Americans paying about $50 per test each year, they can now take an eye exam at home for $15. Even if your age, health conditions, or vision prescription require you to make a visit to Warby Parker’s in-house optometrist, the eye exams are comped with a purchase of eye glasses or contacts.

 

As more and more people opt for affordable eye care from D2C startups, optometrists will no doubt notice a decrease in sales of Luxottica-made frames, from which they currently make about 59% of their total revenue. In 2017, Warby Parker raked in between $320 million and $340 million in revenue, with the ambitious goal of growing 40% in 2018. For the sake of comparison, that same year Luxottica reported a loss of 1.6% in revenue, €2.99 billion down from €3.05 billion in 2017. 

 

Does this mean D2C eye care is slowly, but surely, taking over the global eye care market? In an industry projected to reach a value of approximately $210 billion by 2025, there is PLENTY of room to grow and thrive. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Compare more eye care startups head-to-head

Review: Scout Contacts by Warby Parker

Last updated on October 25th, 2020 at 06:17 am Home › Wellness Reviews › Scout Contacts by Warby Parker Review BIG NEWS: the leader in online glasses, Warby Parker, just…

Discover the latest

D2C wellness products

And get exclusive discounts!
wating
×

Table of Contents

Discover the latest
D2C wellness products

And get exclusive discounts!