Anyone who wears glasses knows the pain points of buying a pair all too well. First, glasses are expensive. Breaking a pair is a big hit to the pocketbook, and many wearers stick with frames they don’t necessarily like anymore because they can’t justify a new pair every year or two as fashion changes.
Second, shopping for glasses is annoying. It requires an eye exam to be booked and a visit to the store, and only then can the sweating over which pair looks best even begin.
But does it have to be that way?
The founders of SATURDAYS, an Indonesian eyewear startup, don’t think so.
SATURDAYS is in the process of reshaping the way Southeast Asians shop for glasses by bringing a digital-first, direct-to-consumer experience to the SEA market.
At DSG Consumer Partners, we’ve recently made a significant investment in SATURDAYS, and we would like to take a little time to paint a picture of why we’re so enthusiastic about the brand and being a part of a near-frictionless new eyewear-shopping experience for Indonesians and all of Southeast Asia — a market that, as we’ll see, desperately needs it.
SATURDAYS was founded in Indonesia by Andrew Kandolha and Rama Suparta in 2016 as an online-first DTC eyewear brand, similar to Warby Parker in the U.S. and Lenskart in India. It also operates 15 brick-and-mortar locations — 8 of which were open in the last 3 months — in top-tier Indonesian malls, with more small-format stores on the way.
But, while an omni-channel model is great, it’s important to note that the physical locations are largely meant to bridge the gap in consumer preference while SATURDAYS gets the online side of its business up to speed. And the innovative nature of that online channel is set to change the way Indonesians and people across SEA buy glasses for good.
SATURDAYS online model is centered around the fact that modern digital consumers demand convenience and, especially in the wake of the global pandemic, a frictionless online shopping experience regardless of what they’re buying.
SATURDAYS already delivers an exceptional online experience through its website and mobile app, offering users a couple of unique solutions to the main problem with buying glasses online — their fit.
The SATURDAYS app offers virtual try-on, which uses augmented reality to let shoppers see exactly what they’d look like in a pair of SATURDAYS frames. It’s a shockingly accurate feature. But for those looking for a more personal touch, SATURDAYS also offers a home-try-on program that sends a qualified optician to the customer’s home along with the entire SATURDAYS collection.
Customers can find the best-looking and fitting frames for their faces and get their prescription locked in, all without ever leaving the comfort of their own homes.
But, as good as SATURDAYS’ digital channel already is, it’s about to get even better. SATURDAYS is in the process of building two new features that will push its online shopping experience to best-in-class.
In addition to a top-tier shopping experience, SATURDAYS’ DTC model offers customers in Southeast Asia a level of quality and style at a price point that can’t currently be matched in the region. With an average price point of Rp 1,295,000 or $90 US for both its optical and sunwear lines, SATURDAYS offers customers highly affordable designer glasses made with the highest-quality materials, including Italian acetate and Japanese titanium.
On top of a pair of premium quality glasses, the price also includes a hard case, a soft case, a tote bag, a cleaning cloth, and, in some cases, even a free coffee! But, maybe most impressive of all is the included one-year warranty, which far outclasses any competitors in the region and is a testament to both the company’s cost management and the quality of its products.
The money SATURDAYS saves by operating direct-to-consumer also enables them to do one other thing none of their competitors do — design frames specifically for the Asian customer. While most of its competitors use more generic off-the-shelf designs, which are often modeled for American or European customers, SATURDAYS designs all its own frames with the tastes, facial features, and face shapes of its Asian customers at top of mind.
That’s a very unique value proposition, and one customers in SEA can appreciate whether they’re opting for an understated, professional frame or the flashy new “The Captain” frame offered alongside Marvel and based on Captain America’s classic aviators (honestly, how cool is that?)
With so much convenience and such great value on offer, it’s no surprise that SATURDAYS is already making waves and creating organic brand evangelists. In one survey of 2,000 of its customers, SATURDAYS generated a net promoter score in line with some of the world’s top brands like Netflix, Amazon, and Starbucks. Now, it’s time for the company to launch its next stage of growth, and the timing couldn’t be much better.
On top of offering a best-in-class shopping experience and best-in-region pricing, SATURDAYS also finds itself getting ready to grow at a time when global market trends are moving significantly in its favor.
From changes in consumer behaviors driven by the global pandemic, to a favorable global eyewear market, to unique opportunities presented by the eye health of Southeast Asians, SATURDAYS is in a position to introduce a new digital-first sales channel to Indonesia and SEA at the exact time consumers most want it and the market is most ready to support it.
Global internet adoption and ecommerce were both growing consistently prior to the global pandemic. In Indonesia alone, internet penetration grew from 64% in 2018 to almost 70% in 2020. But lockdowns in the wake of COVID-19 forced people online in record numbers and significantly accelerated the trend. In the areas hardest hit by lockdowns, internet usage spiked by as much as 70%.
By Q4 2021, Southeast Asia alone had added 60 million new digital consumers. And according to McKinsey, 92% of first-time online shoppers indicated that they were permanent converts, meaning the new shopping habits learned by Southeast Asians during the pandemic are here to stay. Simply put, the pandemic accelerated digital channel growth, and, like a ratchet, there is no going back.
But the pandemic didn’t just change where people shop. It also changed what they buy. McKinsey identified that of the 75% of consumers that changed their shopping behavior during the pandemic, 39% left their most trusted brands to engage with new ones, led — unsurprisingly — by millennials and GenZ. That represents a huge opportunity for a brand like SATURDAYS looking to disrupt the eyewear space and speak directly to those very millennial and GenZ consumers.
At the same time consumer shopping habits are opening up opportunities for digital-first and DTC brands, the global eyewear market is also undergoing a period of very healthy growth. The market is expected to hit almost $200 billion by 2027, with a CAGR as high as 8.5% over the same period. At the same time, the market is trending away from high-end luxury brands, driven in no small part by the fast-fashion demands of millennial and GenZ customers.
With luxury purchases representing only 16% of global eyewear sales in 2022, the opportunity is ripe for a brand like SATURDAYS to offer fashionable yet affordable and highly accessible glasses to a market increasingly demanding that exact recipe.
There’s more. While the eyewear market is growing steadily around the globe, Southeast Asia actually represents a unique opportunity in the space due to the unfortunate fact the region is a global leader in myopia — with prevalence rates in young adults reaching 80%+ and the Singapore Ministry of Health predicting that up to 90% of Singaporeans could be myopic by 2050.
While there is debate as to the cause of such extreme rates, the reality is that Southeast Asia is one of the regions of the world most in need of affordable, accessible eyeglasses. In Indonesia alone, as many as 90 million people have an unmet need for vision correction.
With a fast, easy online purchasing experience already in place and online exams around the corner, SATURDAYS represents an ideal solution to the region’s unique needs and could be a difference-maker for tens of millions of people in Indonesia and beyond.
SATURDAYS also strives to make the offline experience joyful, efficient, and memorable. SATURDAYS offline stores are also highly reviewed with an average Google rating of 5.0 across all stores with 726 reviews. Each store focuses on customer experience — with comfortable high top seats, mirrors, displays and amenities like coffee or tea, that add to the overall shopping experience. With respect to operational set up — SATURDAYS also employs a highly efficient in-store process. While most optical stores take a few hours to fix prescription glasses, SATURDAYS takes 20 minutes for lens cutting and fitting in most stores and integrates their online customer data efficiently into their offline experience.
There is a clear opportunity in building a new age offline eye-wear brand. The majority of the eye-wear market is owned by incumbent, family run businesses who have just stopped innovating. SATURDAYS is on its 15th store and is aiming to open 1 store every week over the next year with the aim to keep providing the best offline experience for the future Indonesian customer.
At DSG, we couldn’t be happier to be partnering with SATURDAYS for the next phase of its growth. Between the value it offers through its product lines, to the quality of its distribution and end-consumer experience, to the unique benefits it offers to an Indonesian and Southeast Asian market that desperately needs it, the decision to invest in SATURDAYS was not difficult.
We can’t wait to see what Andrew and Rama can do with the brand in 2022 and beyond, and everyone at DSG is confident that SATURDAYS will soon take its place alongside Warby Parker and Lenskart as a global leader in direct-to-consumer eyewear.