Let’s Hear It For the Boys: E-Commerce Innovations for Millennial Guys

Mar 09 2015

Subscription models and high-end fashion rentals successfully captured the female Millennial market—and now the same e-commerce innovations that appealed to younger women are being tailored to capture their male counterparts. 

When it comes to e-commerce, Millennial men have generally gotten the short end of the stick. Back in 2013, we wrote that somewhere along the line the stereotype about men not caring about fashion developed, and retailers started to pay less acute attention to the young male consumer than they did their female counterparts. But in the last few years we’ve seen that stereotype seriously challenged, and retailers online and off have had to adjust to the fact that Millennial men are growing to be particular consumers. AdAge wrote that Millennial guys are brand conscious yet rebel against the mass culture they grew up with. Online shopping has been a major draw for them, and a recent report from IbisWorld found that sales of menswear between 2010 and 2015 grew more than any other category, including computers or beer. Clearly there is an opportunity to innovate the men’s e-commerce space in the same way that shopping has been reinvented for Millennial women.

Grooming subscription companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s were some of the first to realize the potential of innovating the men’s e-retail market, and they have reaped the benefits of giving young male consumers a brand new approach to a traditional product. Dollar Shave Club has seen such success that founder Michael Dubin tells Fortune they will soon be expanding into new categories, and that they see themselves as a ”giant killer.” Criticizing older brands who go after male consumers with more traditional tactics, Dolin quipped, “‘They’re generalizing, saying things like ‘Guys are Neanderthals’ and ‘They don’t care about the ingredients that go into these things.’ And that’s BS because guys do care if they achieve certain benefits.’” The idea that young male consumers do actually care about the things like quality, style, and curation is a driving force behind the startups tailoring e-commerce innovations for Millennial guys. Here are three to watch: 

High-End Rentals: The Black Tux

Rent the Runway successfully made high-end designers available to Millennial women at a fraction of the cost, and The Black Tux wants to use the same concept to turn the suit rental industry on its head. The startup’s founder was horrified by his tux rental experience, which yielded an ill fitting, cheap feeling, unattractive but still very expensive outfit. The Black Tux makes quality a priority, offering just five styles but partnering with “one of the world’s finest suit-makers to create “the greatest rental tux ever designed.” Users send in their measurements to the site and are sent the attire they want a week before their event to ensure a proper fit. Each suit is used just 15 times before being retired, so wear and tear on items is kept to a minimum. The site also offers Curated Looks, offering those suits shipped with all the accessory trappings—shoes, cufflinks, pocket squares—that are needed, with high quality again emphasized throughout. Prices start at $95, and shipping and returns are free, severely undercutting the prices of long-standing men’s rental companies, which exist mainly offline.    

Curated Commerce: Man Crates

Birchbox made curated subscriptions delivered to delighted users a successful model for targeting Millennial women, and many, many subscription services followed suit. But as we mentioned in our look at the evolution of subscriptions, the curated commerce experience is a major part of their appeal. Man Crates takes that curation approach to the extreme, specializing in boxed gifts for guys that are give their “high five guarantee.” The startup ships wooden crates of specially curated items in various categories: Jerky & Meat, Hot & Spicy, Sport & Hobby, and Zombie Preparedness. Yep, Zombie Preparedness. Each crate must be pried open with a crow bar (adding to the experience of receiving one) and contains a selection of carefully chosen items that fall under a certain theme. An outdoor survival crate holds everything from a cookset to an army field manual, while the sriracha box (of course there is a sriracha box) holds all manner of spicy treats. Personalized gifts, including etched bar glasses, and boxes that contain items sporting the recipients’ favorite team logos are available, making customization another part of their appeal. 

Personal E-Shopper: ÉCOLE

This men’s shopping startup calls themselves the “first online destination built exclusively for men to buy smart, stylish menswear essentials.” Their mission is to simplify men’s online shopping and provide the kind of personalized style suggestions that women are able to find much more easily. The site inadvertently hints at one of the big appeals of online shopping for male consumers, declaring, “We like dressing well; we hate shopping. And we know there are a lot of other men like us.” Eliminating too many choices and the potential of buying ill-matching items is École’s specialty. The site takes items from one of their six brand partners to create full looks based on the brands. Users can browse and shop any look, as well as mix and match items from the greater collection. Each time a change is made the site alerts whether it is “École recommended,” to ensure that no wrong fashion decisions are made.