Andreas Samuelsson paints with primary colors and open spaces, leaving it to viewers to interpret the unspoken. "It contains no text and some empty space," says the artist, who has created artwork for The New York Times, Nike, and Unicef. "You're free to fill in the rest based on your imagination."
In an unlikely partnership, Samuelsson is lending his imaginative spirit to Warby Parker, the $1.2 billion online eyeglass retailer that's now expanding to dozens of brick-and-mortar locations.
Dave Gilboa, Warby Parker's co-founder and co-CEO, was born in Uppsala, a city just outside of the Swedish capital of Stockholm, where Samuelson currently resides. That's partly how he was introduced to Samuelsson's work. "He tends to use a lot of fun, whimsical imagery and characters that come to life," say Gilboa.
It didn't take long until the two decided to collaborate. This year, Warby Parker has commissioned Sameulsson to help design the company's holiday packaging and artwork-inspired gifts, like canvas totes and lens cloths. Gilboa explains that this is all part of the company's larger holiday marketing strategy--one that is punningly called "Eye Candy."
"We certainly see an uptick in shopping activity and sales around the holidays," Gilboa says, though he indicates that that, unlike many e-commerce retailers, the sales are generally less than 80 percent of annual revenue. As part of this year's campaign, Warby Parker will be offering six non-eyewear related items, as well as e-gift cards and physical gift cards, which come with an actual deck of cards that feature Samuelsson's art.
While the holidays play a large role in Warby Parker's sales, the New Year is arguably more important. Customers who participate in their employer's HSA (health savings account) or FSA (flexible spending account) plans often scramble to use their remaining vision benefits (FSA funds can't be rolled over into the following year) on a pair of eyeglasses, the company says. "Most retailers see a big rush up until Christmas Eve, and then it's a slowdown," Gilboa explains. "For us, we see continued escalation through Christmas up until midnight on New Year's Eve."
In addition to the collaboration with Samuelsson, Warby Parker is also planning to debut a winter-inspired line of eyeglasses pegged to gemstones (cue the rock puns). New styles are slated to include "Marbled Walnut" and "Striped Granite" frames, as well as the more overtly jewel-inspired items, like "Rose Crystal" and "Jet Black Fade." The glasses will retail starting at $95, as per the standard, beginning on November 7.
Whatever the marketing strategy companies have coming up for the holidays, it's almost certainly worth the spend. U.S. online holiday sales will increase 12.2 percent this season to $129 billion from $115 billion in 2016, according to a forecast from the research firm Forrester.
To be sure, Warby Parker isn't the only startup looking to boost sales come December-- and unlike some competitors, it isn't offering any sales or discounts. Last year, lodgings service HotelTonight offered $500 worth of credits through a Facebook contest that asked viewers to comment with their craziest holiday family story. Meanwhile, Dollar Shave Club unveiled its own "Holiday Shave Set," which it socialized alongside an envious, snowman-emblazoned Christmas sweater, and the co-working giant WeWork created gift guides featuring products made by its own members. Coastal, a competing online glasses retailer, also highlighted its most popular frames ahead of the holiday season in a recent blog post.