5 Digital Commerce Startups to Watch
E-commerce helped get us through the pandemic, but many commentators have been wondering how companies in this space will fare now that lockdowns are (largely) a thing of the past.
It’s beyond question that our unprecedented dependence on delivered goods served as a massive e-commerce accelerator during the pandemic. Indeed, much of the grocery delivery sector alone enjoyed around five years’ worth of growth in five months.
While many consumers have undoubtedly returned to pre-pandemic shopping habits, leading to recent sales dips in some e-commerce subsectors, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Buying goods online is now permanently integral to many people’s everyday lives, with forecasts pointing to even greater take-up in the years to come. For example, a recent survey of grocery industry CEOs and high-level execs has revealed that they expect e-commerce penetration to more than double over the next three to five years.
We’re also seeing many exciting e-commerce startups gaining attention and investment. Our latest sector report looked at some notable names which have enjoyed lucrative funding rounds and big-money takeovers, but here are five others that promise to shake things up in the increasingly digitalised marketplace.
Grocery delivery firms Gorillas and Getir have become well-known to European consumers, ushering in new era of ultra-convenient shopping solutions. Over in Indonesia, one of their up-and-coming equivalents is Astro, which closed a $60 million Series B funding round in May. That’s particularly impressive when you consider the grocery delivery company was founded just last year.
A fleet of around 1,000 delivery drivers cater to the Greater Jakarta region, with the company seeing swift growth since the first groceries were sent out. There are some prominent rivals to deal with, most notably the country’s first such delivery service, HappyFresh. But there’s certainly plenty of growth potential for these rivals, with a 2020 study showing minimal penetration of a grocery market worth $350 billion.
Luxury, artisanal products at highly affordable prices. That’s the elevator pitch for Quince, a San Francisco-based startup that – in the words of its founder – aims to “challenge the existing idea that nice things should cost a lot.” The company keeps costs down by working directly with factories (which pay their employees fairly and produce items sustainably), keeping packaging to the minimum, and simplifying the entire supply chain.
As a result, customers can take advantage of low prices for top-end products like Mongolian cashmere sweaters, bamboo viscose duvet covers and hand-knotted wool rugs. Just as importantly, Quince provides a stylish online shop window for these products, meaning they won’t be lost in the shuffle at sites like Amazon. Its $50 million Series A funding in 2021 is a testament to soaring revenues and an appetite among Millennials and Gen Z consumers for ethically sourced materials.
Think “teleshopping” and tacky TV infomercials selling dodgy exercise equipment will probably leap to mind. But this mode of commerce has been given a hip makeover by Popshop Live, which closed a $20 million Series A round in 2021, with investors including Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber. The platform lets vendors big up their wares through web streams, while customers can interact with the vendors and each other through a live chat window.
The site can be thought of as QVC for a new generation, and it’s been generating plenty of hype. An early hire was the founder of Uber Eats, who declared it “magical” and a “totally new take on content and retail”. Of course, this hyperbole. Live-streamed digital commerce is a huge phenomenon in China, for example, while Amazon Live is another space where influencers can sell products. That said, Popshop Live is shaping up to be a major force in this burgeoning subsector
The size of the furniture rental market is set to reach almost $140 billion by 2029, according to a new report by Fortune Business Insights. This is in part down to concerns about sustainability, but there’s also the fact that so many Millennials and Gen Zers are renting rather than buying properties, and would rather not have to lug their own furniture around if they can help it.
Operating in a number of major urban centres in the US, Feather is making waves as a furniture rental startup. Its mission is to provide convenience to its target demographic of highly mobile city dwellers, and to constitute a greener antidote to “fast furniture” (think fast fashion, but chairs and beds). Having raised $30 million in Series B in 2020, and partnering with workspace company WeWork in 2021, it’s a company that, like its core demographic, is going places.
Billing itself as “not your normal grocery store”, New Jersey-based Misfits Market has enjoyed huge growth by selling grocery items that don’t pass the uniformity test of mainstream, legacy retailers. These include fruit and vegetables that are too wonky for supermarkets, or even bottles of olive oil where the “labelling was just angled the wrong way”, to quote the CEO.
Customers shopping at the Misfits Market site can get as much as 40% off the regular price of such items, and also feel good about “rescuing” foods that may have ended up in a landfill. The company’s success has attracted big investment, with
$200 million in Series C funding closed last year. The cash injection has allowed the company to scale its fulfilment centres and continue its trailblazing expansion across the United States.