Remember when e-commerce was an unpolished experience that most consumers were wary of at best and completely unwilling to do at worst? Well, those days are long gone. Online shopping improved drastically thanks to Web 2.0, proving that if you were a retailer and you weren’t online, you were losing money and customers, and now with Web 3.0, it’s not just the big brands who have an online presence, it’s anyone with an idea, a great product, a little bit of motivation, and the willingness to take a risk. Now consumers can buy whatever they want from wherever and whomever they want.
With more choices than ever though, brands need a distinct point of view and need to understand great content and the social Web in order to attract—and keep—customers. Here are just a few commerce sites we think do that exceptionally well:
New York-based Fab.com calls themselves “The World’s Design Store.” Fab.com’s daily deals allow customers to discover new design products and easily share what they’re buying and favoriting on their Facebook timeline. What separates Fab from other brands, however, is their aspiration to “develop deep emotional relationships with their customers.” It might sound lofty, but they’re well on their way.
This clothing site (and now shop) based in San Francisco is known for its quirky offerings like the Reversible Disco Hoodie, Cordarounds, and Reversible Smoking Jacket. Originally favored by the Burning Man type, Betabrand is known for its limited quantity styles, “entertaining and endlessly informative newsletter” (that has a 40% open rate), and their desire to be funny and original. They’ve also fostered a great sense of community through their Model Citizen program where customers send in pictures of themselves in Betabrand clothing to become and “international supermodel” and get 20% off their next order.
Birchbox is all about helping men and women discover beauty, grooming, and lifestyle products that they may not otherwise try. The subscription service delivers a box full of cool samples every month. Subscribers don’t know what they’re getting until their box arrives as “the surprise is part of the fun.” If a customer likes a sample, she can easily buy the full-sized product on their site and earn points while doing so. And in order to keep customers engaged, Birchbox puts out a monthly magazine with tons of articles and videos that include must-haves and how-tos. You won’t go on any beauty site without reading about this brand (and its competitors).
ModCloth is the perfect online shop for anyone who loves vintage-style and unique clothing, but what sets them apart from other online shops is how much power they give the customer. “Be the Buyer” lets users vote on potential designs, their Style Gallery is a Pinterest-inspired board that lets users add and admire photos, and their “Make the Cut” contests let users submit their designs with the winning design being produced for purchase.
Nasty Gal’s style is a lot like ModCloth’s, but with a sexier edge. It started as an eBay store that sold vintage clothing, but has since grown into something much bigger, making $100 million in revenue last year. Though they don’t have a marketing team, Nasty Gal has more than half a million fans on Facebook and over 600,000 followers on Instagram. By creating and engaging in conversation with fans, like asking them to help name products and giving away gift cards, Nasty Gal has a loyal following. The top 10% of their customers visit more than 100 times a month. Enough said.
In a world where every brand wants their wears to be pinned to Pinterest, it would seem that those in the office supply arena were doomed to be left out of the party. Enter: Poppin, an office supply and furniture store that believes people should always be surrounded by objects of beauty…even when they’re working. They’re attention to fashion AND function sets them apart from the competition. To top it off, every purchase helps them meet their quarterly donation commitment—they just built a school in Guatemala. Great design and a philanthropic mission? That’s exactly what today’s consumers want.
Conceived by four friends who felt prescription eyewear was way overpriced, Warby Parker has become known for their real-world social media strategy, enthusiastic engagement with potential customers, and, oh: their stylish glasses that anyone can try on at home for free. They also give a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair they sell. And thanks to success with pop-up shops around the country, Warby Parker just opened a flagship brick and mortar store in SoHo.
Perhaps best known for it’s viral video where the Dollar Shave Club founder announces “Our blades are f**cking great,” this company has taken off because it delivers what it promises—great razors and low prices—while maintaining an irreverent attitude that appeals to consumers who are fed up with mass marketing and big brand names.
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One of the keys to a successful “3.0” business model is skipping the middleman. Everlane builds customer loyalty by being completely transparent about true costs and markup. In addition, moves like going black (shutting down the site) on Black Friday to protest excessive consumerism give them an edge that younger consumers respect.
Gilt Groupe is one of the largest flash sale sites, selling high-end brands at steep discounts. The thrill of not wanting to miss out on an amazing deal (it’s first come-first served), the ten minute time limit on items in one’s shopping basket, and a great mobile app are just a few reasons shoppers spent over $600 million from the company last year.
And a few others we just couldn’t leave off the list:
The future of bra shopping is here. True&Co helps women find their bra size with an online quiz and then sends them bras to try on at home before they buy. Shipping both ways is, of course, free.
Simliar to Birchbox, but with more flexibility, Julep is all about shared discovery and stepping out of your style comfort zone. Customers take a quiz to discover their style profile and get a monthly box full of cutting-edge beauty products.
From one of the founders of Warby Parker, Harry’s is another shaving site “built out of respect for guys who know they shouldn’t have to overpay for a great shave.” They also have a philanthropic mission, helping everyone look and feel great, “including those that might need a hand.”
StyleMint was launched in 2011 in partnership with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Members are sent limited-edition styles curated just for them each month. Much like the other sites (BeautyMint, ShoeMint, HomeMint, JewelMint, and IntiMint), StyleMint’s celebrity influencers and feeling of exclusivity have made the entire brand a hit for younger shoppers.
This one’s for the kids. Little Passports is a monthly subscription activity kit that takes kids around the world (without having to go further than the mailbox). Kids get a package every month full of goodies and maps that help their imagination travel to countries far and near. There’s also an online component where kids can play games and activities while they’re waiting for their next package to arrive.
Did we miss one? Leave it the comments.