Going the conventional route in business works at times, but it’s important to identify when traditional processes are preventing your company from reaching new heights.
Three years ago, when we at ClearlyContacts.ca decided to expand our offering to include eyeglasses as well as contact lenses, we had two choices. One was to send our orders to India or China to have them manufactured like many discounted online optical stores. The other was double the size of our warehouse here in Canada and build one of the largest eyeglass manufacturing facilities in the world.
It was not an easy decision. The cost of building a world-class lab came with a significant investment: $15 million. However, we knew that in order to remain competitive as an etailer in a market that is traditionally serviced offline, we had to beat our customers’ expectations for speed, quality and service. And it would be extremely difficult to do that with production half a world away.
So, we decided to build one of the world’s most advanced eyeglass labs right in our backyard of Vancouver. In doing so, we’ve allowed ourselves to control the customer experience from start to finish.
Related: ClearlyContacts.ca’s Turning Point
We’re confident this was the right call—despite the expense. Why? Because domestic manufacturing gives us the following advantages:
- Speed. Speed is one of the most important factors in ecommerce, In fact, online shoppers often associate how quickly they receive their products to how good a company’s service is. By creating our own lab, we were able to speed up the average delivery time to 48 hours.
- Quality. We also wanted to guarantee the quality of our eyeglasses. By investing in the highest caliber of machines, materials and coatings we were able to control this on every order.
- Competitive differentiation. Investing in our own lab also allowed us to manufacture in-house labels, something our competitors in bricks-and-mortar retail have not been able to do.
- Cost savings. Yes, choosing to manufacture domestically meant a heavier upfront capital outlay. But we’re not paying any middlemen—and that’s worth a lot.
- Job creation. Lastly—and this is something I’m personally passionate about—we’ve been able to create jobs in the Canadian economy.
In the end, the opportunity to defy conventions and deliver a new standard of customer service far outweighed the hefty upfront cost of manufacturing our own eyewear. While I don’t recommend throwing tried and tested business tactics out the window entirely, it is healthy to question them every once in a while. You never know what solutions may propel your business to the next level.
Roger Hardy is the founder and CEO of ClearlyContacts.ca, Canada’s largest online retailer of contact lenses and eyeglasses.
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Do you think the benefits of domestic manufacturing outweigh the drawbacks? Would a similar approach work in your business? Share your thoughts by commenting below.