Yesterday we delved into some of the big movements that could potentially change the e-commerce game. The online marketplace is an evolving landscape, with new models constantly being experimented with. Today, we’ll continue our e-commerce series by highlighting some of the players in the world of cutting out the middle-man, storefront-free etailers. These vertically integrated online-only destinations are disrupting the status quo by skipping all the steps between production and consumer purchase. Though the chosen etailers all sell different items, we begin to see some similarities emerge in their messaging and ethos. High quality is their obsession, design is of utmost importance, and making both of those things affordable to consumers is their mission.
Warby Parker was at the forefront of the “cutting out the middle-man” retail model, becoming an online and entrepreneur superstar by disrupting the monopoly held by Luxxotica in the eyewear market. Now, founders Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield are hoping to replicate their previous success with Harry’s, a direct-to-consumer shaving supply line that makes design-driven shaving kits at an affordable price. Like Warby Parker, Harry’s is a lifestyle brand, highlighting quality and style. But maybe more importantly the idea of being the consumer’s hero, the alternate to a monopoly of overpriced and low-quality goods, is front and center in their message. The site also replicates the buy-one-give-one model so popular on Warby: for every pack of Harry’s blades purchased, they donate one blade or its dollar value to an organization “that supports [their] mission of helping people to look and feel great.” The company fills a gap in the market, not as cheap but much more luxury than wholesale style distributer like Dollar Shave Club, and far more affordable than high-end priced Art of Shaving. With the success of Warby Parker as their foundation, they are certainly one to watch.
You might look at Everlane as the anti-fast fashion establishment. The goal of the site is to create only a select number of basic items at designer quality for less cost and products that last. Not outsourcing or overproducing is a key part of their plan to making simply but painstakingly designed wardrobe essentials like tees and scarves available at a fraction of traditional luxury prices. Everlane has made the ethos of vertical integration a key piece of their brand personality. The site declares that they are “a new way” and calls their prices “disruptive.” They are the retail rebels. This past Thanksgiving holiday, the site went black in protest of Black Friday, which they declared a “focus on quantity over quality” that went against their anti-excess mindset. Meanwhile, the company itself is ready to grow, recently launching a crowdsourcing campaign to test the concept of an Everlane Canada offshoot. The campaign raised $32K in the first nine hours and is currently $18K above their original goal, making it clear that the demand for the brand to make its offerings available elsewhere is alive and well.
Like the other retailers listed, American Giant has a focused product line: currently only four categories (sweatshirts, tees, polos, and sweatpants). At $80 for a hoodie, the cost of American Giant goods is on the higher end when you consider that they are sweats, but founder Bayard Winthrop says they are made to last a lifetime. They call their hoodie, “the last sweat shirt you will ever buy – unless you want another color.” Making all of their clothes in California keeps the supply chain short and the prices for the first-class quality down. For American Giant, being made in the USA is a key selling point. Their site declares, “what we make and sell is the product of an old American work ethic and a new American way of doing business.” A Slate article this past December called it the “best sweatshirt ever made” and earned the brand so much attention that they sold out of almost all their stock and were backordered for months. While American Giant is still catching up on orders, their overnight success revealed a real craving for quality that could sustain them despite the temporary hiccup.