Technology

How these 4 NYC Companies are Taking on Giants and Innovating eCommerce

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As Amazon continues to make its might felt in every area of eCommerce – and beyond – companies that choose to enter (and stay) in that space have to do better than build a better mousetrap.  That mousetrap has to be built in a more thoughtful and innovative way, and delivered in a way that builds a narrative of excitement for current clients, who can then blab to their friends and bring new clients.  In this article we’ll take a look at 4 NYC companies that haven’t been afraid to build an eCommerce platform in large and established legacy markets.

Primary

The children’s clothing market is currently estimated to be at $175B worldwide, with projections to top $300B in the next five years.  And while that does indeed look like opportunity, this market is by no means an easy one to navigate. That is, unless perhaps you were moms who had been experiencing frustration with buying said clothing for almost a dozen years.

That’s exactly the situation co-founders of Primary, Christina Carbonell and Galyn Bernard, found themselves in some years ago and decided to do something about it.  They couldn’t easily find basics, like white t-shirts.  They found themselves waiting for big sales in order to pay reasonable prices.  But worst of all, they didn’t enjoy the online shopping experiences that were on offer.

Simplicity is their watchword, not just in the buying experience, but in the clothes they manufacture.  Be it a cardigan, polo, or t-shirt, they focus on providing classic looks in solid colors that will be consistently available year after year, and they do it all with no minimums and free shipping.  The prices stay affordable because they are focused on direct-to-consumer shopping and fulfillment.

Harry’s

Just like children’s clothing, razors are a red ocean, with large established players.  Yet the founders of Harry’s not only took on these players, but used some of their venture backing to buy their own razor factory and be the masters of their own destiny in the supply chain.  But, just as they’ve become established enough in their direct-to-consumer subscription service for razors, and have even gotten them placed in Target stores, they’ve set their sights on new horizons.

Jeff Raider, one of the co-founders of the brand, noted, “We’ve built a lot of infrastructure at Harry’s that we think we can leverage into new categories.  It’s something that we’ve been excited about for a long time, and we’re now at a point in our business where we can act on it.”  They have started by acquiring a stake in Hims, a hair loss product company, and plan to acquire positions in other brands.

With these moves, Harry’s is taking on men’s grooming product behemoths like Proctor and Gamble, which is unsurprising given that rival Dollar Shave Club was acquired by Unilever two years ago.

Away

Luggage?  Did the world really need another luggage brand?  Steph Korey and Jen Rubio, founders of Away, thought so.  They wanted something iconic but accessible, and that would be built with travelers in mind.  They had both started the same day at another disruptive company, Warby Parker, and focused on two things as they built Away.

The first was being direct-to-consumer.  The luggage industry traditionally relies on an enormous network of resellers.  The second was by being plugged in to those consumers to keep innovating and developing products that people could get excited about – because who normally gets excited about luggage?

Indeed, the brand loyalty is so strong that they’ve waded into the publishing industry with a beautiful magazine, aptly called Here.  Despite it being only a few quarters old, the magazine is already getting 6 and 7 figure advertising offers.  Creating that kind of interest and brand loyalty about luggage?  That’s pretty special.

Zola

Two million couples get married every year, and Zola wants to take the stress and cost out of that experience, and they are doing so in two interesting and innovative ways.

The first is by serving as a traditional registry.  It has relationships with more than 500 vendors (including brands like Dyson and KitchenAid) which then drop ship directly to the the couples.  But the shipping itself isn’t the innovation.  It’s the fact that the couples can choose when to receive the shipments, and can digitally exchange any unwanted gifts in advance, avoiding the dreaded trips to the post office.  They also offer the ability to register your honeymoon.

The second is currently only available in NYC, but offers the option of registering your entire wedding: ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception.  At $27,500 for 60 guests it’s definitely a major savings against the going rate for ceremonies in the city.

All four of these companies were founded by two friends who were frustrated with a very established status quo and in the face of that barrier to entry set their fears aside and decided to build the products and services they wanted.  Even better?  As they’ve succeeded, they haven’t been complacent about their wins and continue to innovate, and that’s not just good for us, but for their competitors and the marketplace as well.  A rising tide lifts all boats.


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Stephen writes about startups, hiring and career issues for VocaWorks.