In the wake of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, thousands of brands quickly flooded the online advertising market, immediately driving up high ad costs on Instagram and social platforms. This trend has been apparent for the past handful of years, and in quick succession, eCom marketplaces have sprung to solve this customer acquisition issue, among other problems plaguing the traditional direct-to-consumer mold.
In this report, we’ll focus specifically on three distinct types of marketplaces: apparel & home goods, health & wellness, and vertical agnostic solutions that have exploded in popularity over the past couple of years.
Among the range of eCom marketplace solutions that have launched over the past decade, the two recurring themes of successful platforms are robust editorial content, along the lines of Highsnobiety and Goop, and membership-driven subscription models, on display at Italic, Public Goods, and Thrive Market. Critically, editorial and memberships, when applied correctly, drive customer lifetime value while reducing churn along the way, a sweet spot for venture investors.
Apparel & Home
Highsnobiety began as a sneaker passion blog in 2005 now attracts upwards of 9 million visitors monthly to its site containing news and analysis of high fashion, streetwear, and culture. Over the past few years, the brand maintained its editorial prowess while launching an e-commerce marketplace in tandem. Fueling that push, Highsnobiety secured $8.5 million in funding back in 2018 led by the UK-based VC Felix Capital.
Huckberry is an independent online retailer focused on men who love adventure, and has been bootstrapped and profitable since launch. Over a million young, active professionals trust Huckberry as their leading resource and retailer for emerging brands, gear, and home goods.
Uncrate is the leading buyer’s guide for men. With over 9,000 items covered and more than 1.5 million monthly readers, Uncrate is widely known for digging up the best of the best men’s products. With new gear posted every weekday, Uncrate has quickly become one of the largest men’s publications, both online and in print, with over 10mm pageviews per month. Its eCom marketplace, Uncrate Supply, quickly swelled in interest over the past handful of years.
Health & Wellness
Public Goods is a CPG marketplace that strips out retail markups to sell products at cost. Driven by a discounted membership model, its multi-category product range spans oral care, haircare, food & beverage, and toilet paper, primarily clustered around the health and wellness space. Earlier this year, the company closed in on $7 million in funding from investors including Yes VC, Listen Ventures, Day One Ventures, Joe Montana, and Skip Battle.
Thrive Market is a mission-driven online marketplace delivering high-quality, healthy products at member-only prices, initially founded in 2014. Two years after launching to the public, the marketplace took off and raised a significant $111 million Series B funding round, led by Invus. Put simply, the membership-driven marketplace cuts out the middleman and buys from brands directly, which is why the company is able to offer items that are at a lower price point than a Whole Foods, for example.
Goop is a lifestyle brand providing digital content and commerce, originally launched back in 2008 as a simple editorial and video platform. Back in 2018, Goop announced a $50 million Series C round from NEA, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Felix Capital, which brings the company’s total outside investment to $82 million. The company’s marketplace, in addition to its editorial platforms, focuses on “contextual commerce” spanning categories like apparel, skincare, vitamins, and bath products.
Italic is a marketplace for affordable luxury goods that connects customers directly with manufacturers around the globe, without the third party markup. The platform essentially removes brands from the equation by handling the consumer-facing side of the business, like product design and marketing, without actually purchasing anything. Launched back in 2018, the company raised $13 million in funding from Comcast Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Index Ventures, Ludlow Ventures, Kindred Ventures, and others.
Thingtesting is an editorial platform with a vision to become the ultimate review platform for D2C products. While Thingtesting doesn’t currently facilitate transactions on its owned site, the platform has been able to successfully aggregate reviews and new content creation thus far. Late last year, the company raised a $300,000 pre-seed investment from angel investor and Homebrew co-founder Hunter Walk, early Spotify investor Shakil Khan, and more.
The Verticale is a recently launched online marketplace of 50 digitally native brands spanning beauty, personal care, fashion, and home. Using a drop-ship model, the new platform focuses specifically on discovery and the value of consumers browsing for multiple brands in one place.
At Conduit, we connect the world’s best operator-investors and founders building the next generation of startups around the world.
As we scale our platform, understanding key market shifts across verticals will become increasingly vital. Our team will be digging deeper into emerging trends and first movers in the coming weeks, which you can find here.