With Katrina Kaif as brand ambassador, will Lenskart be able to steer customers away from local opticians and keep them loyal?
Signing up a Bollywood star as brand ambassador is usually the fastest route to the Indian heartland.
Ask the Chinese smartphone companies doing it today or, the numerous FMCG, apparel, electronics and other brands that have walked down the path before.
Now Lenskart is doing the same.
But the eyewear retail brand that started life seven years ago purely as an online marketplace is perhaps hoping to score two goals with one shot: craft its identity as a mass market brand and reposition spectacles as a fashion accessory and not just prescription wear.
“We have built the brand primarily around how spectacles can actually not be a bad thing.
"People feel that they have to wear it out of compulsion, but glasses enhance the look of a person in a big way,” said Peyush Bansal, founder and CEO, Lenskart.com.
By positioning spectacles as fashion accessories, the objective would be to increase the number of occasions of purchase and the per person consumption rate of the product.
Since fashion is a cause best served by Bollywood, the company has signed on Katrina Kaif as brand endorser.
“It (the campaign) is about looking good, having fun, and understanding the impact of different pairs of glasses on a person’s face,” Bansal said.
Using Kaif also helps create recall for the brand.
The company has also launched a slew of new features to increase online and offline engagement with customers.
Lenskart’s all-out thrust for a larger slice of the branded eyewear segment, say experts, is an indication of the challenges that the sector presents.
While the size of the market is close to Rs 18,000-20,000 crore, organised players account for barely Rs 2,000 crore of the market (9-10 per cent), said Bansal.
The challenge is to steer customers away from local opticians and keep them loyal, while also encouraging them to look at spectacles as more than a one-time buy.
Lenskart says that it is present in the top 15 cities now, of which a lot of focus is on top seven metros.
It wants to go deeper into these towns before it can go wider into the country.
And for that said Harish Bijoor, CEO Harish Bijoor Consults, “Lenskart.com needs to stand apart from the rest. The competition is both within the physical and virtual space.”
Today the brand competes with Titan Eye Plus as well as the vast bouquet of low-priced products available off the street and online.
It also competes with the likes of Amazon and Flipkart.
Hence Bijoor said, “The play for Lenskart is not only brand centric, but also strategic. They should be focusing on the future of competition, rather than the present competition.”
Bansal feels that the brand has evolved, earlier it was associated with variety, but today it is seen as variety plus technologically savvy.
And the company is differentiating itself with innovations such as the 3D try, reading glasses that do not fall off the nose, among others.
Look good, feel good
Lenskart says that from the very beginning the brand has aimed to project eyewear as a category that makes consumers look good.
There was an emphasis on style and colour over and above the doctor’s prescription at the online marketplace.
Its advertising has also been around the same theme and its discount policy aimed to encourage people to buy more than one frame.
Now Lenskart wants to take this up a notch.
At its physical experience-cum-sales stores at various malls, the sales persons are being trained to let customers try a number of frames without first asking for their medical prescription.
“People enter the stores only if they really want to buy a pair.
"We wanted to change that and build a little bit of humour and fun into it,” Bansal said.
Lenskart currently has around 365 outlets, which it targets to expand to 400 by end of this month and to 800 by 2020.
Making spectacles a fun accessory was the first step in the brand’s journey and the next one is to make the product a fashion acquisition.
Roping in Katrina Kaif is an attempt to bring about this shift. The campaign is also focusing on women’s eyewear because the company believes that concern about looks and wearing glasses is more among this category.
Lenskart said that it was determined to not look at the entire eyewear segment the way its competitors did earlier.
Other players talked about eye check-ups, the right fit, testing equipment and so on.
“But for Lenskart, we wanted to convey that selecting a pair of glasses is no different from choosing a pair of shoes or apparel,” said Bansal.
Focusing on experience
Having started life as an online retailer, the company is familiar with the patterns of customer behaviour and their expectations.
It is also aware of the shortcomings of the digital universe, customers’ inability to touch, feel and try out their spectacles, for instance.
The company says it has used technology to tackle the problems and enhance customer experience.
It is currently offering a 3D tryout facility, through which consumers can use the camera on their phones or laptops and try out the entire range of frames online.
In this way the company says the purchase process is being made easier and more engaging.
The next step, Bansal says, technologies enabling the customers to share their framed faces with friends and family and initiate a conversation around their choice.
This will not just make for a more interactive shopping experience but it will also chip away at the perception of the product being a necessity rather than an indulgence.
Lenskart currently sells about 300,000 units per month and the company claims that it has been growing around 100 per cent a year.
At present Lenkart sales revenue is Rs 600 crore, which the company said it wants to increase to Rs 1,000 crore in two years.
And then the company has plans to go public.
Photograph: Courtesy Lenskart on Twitter.
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