The past few years have been nothing short of historic for e-commerce. While online shopping was already breaking records pre-pandemic, COVID has forced even the most non-tech-savvy customers online for everything from groceries to furniture, electronics, and healthcare. Legacy brick-and-mortar brands that were already struggling with disruptions from Amazon, DTC, and marketplaces like Chewy.com, were left to adapt to a new digital world during lockdown or get left behind. As a result, the pandemic accelerated ecommerce growth by over $200 billion. Now, US ecommerce sales are projected to continue on this trajectory in the post-pandemic world and cross $1 trillion in annual sales for the first time ever in 2022. An excerpt from our 2020 COVID-19 Consumer Behavior Study elucidates this transition (below).
Investing in Ecommerce
Why We’re Getting Involved
As ecommerce takes hold as the dominant retail channel in the US, newcomers selling online face a fiercely competitive environment. Consumers have a seemingly endless selection of brands and marketplaces to choose from for every purchase and one-stop-shop Amazon seemingly can’t be beaten if you’re looking for the perfect mix of selection, price, and convenience. Since our investment in Chewy.com and debut into the ecommerce world in 2013 though, we’ve watched closely as brands find triumph or failure going up against Amazon and learned that the giant certainly can be beaten. More specifically, beaten by businesses who are laser-focused on winning their specific target customer and make sure they do it better than anyone else by curating the perfect mix of price, service, and quality for their particular offering. Watch Founding Partner Larry Cheng speak more on how to compete with Amazon and win in ecommerce below.
What We Believe
To unlock success in online retail, brands must convince customers to pick them over industry incumbents. We believe you do this by delivering on a value proposition Amazon can’t compete with while also executing a sustainable, authentic marketing strategy to build a loyal customer base and stand out among the remaining sea of competition. In simpler terms – customers need to love their experience with you. When we invested in Chewy.com, a customer-centric e-commerce experience for pet supplies, it was because they had the best selection, lowest prices, fast shipping, and better customer service than any other pet retailer. In other words, they beat the competition in all three categories of the price, quality, and service triangle, providing a next-level experience to anything else in the pet market.
Not every business can or should strive to lead the market in all three of these categories, but we believe to build a stand out ecommerce business you need to excel in at least two of these categories, and which two you chose must be a purposeful decision catering to a very specific target market and things they most care about.
Our team has the unique experience of helping scale successful companies across every segment of ecommerce. In building Chewy.com from $30 million in annual revenue to a household name doing over $1 billion annually, we’ve navigated how to reach substantial scale with significant infrastructure investment while maintaining healthy unit economics and working capital dynamics.
We also love working with individual direct-to-consumer brands with more concentrated product portfolios such as BURST and Super73, who have excelled at earning brand value and building superior customer experiences in their segments. And Arteza, another DTC native brand, represents that ecommerce is not just about building a competitive advantage against Amazon, but working with Amazon to leverage their ecosystem and reach your customers where they are.
Our experience with these partnerships, coupled with our experience in consumer services, give us a unique ability to add value to rapidly scaling ecommerce businesses. These service-based companies range from USMobile, a highly customizable hybrid network operator, to Medly, an on-demand, digitally native pharmacy. But in knowing that there is no better experience than having actually been a Founder yourself, we have been continuously building our ecommerce team to include some of the most successful founders and executives in the industry’s history, such as Venture Partner and CoFounder of Rent the Runway Jenny Fleiss, and various members of our Strategic Advisory Board. We are excited to take our expertise in creating next level value and scaling companies to $1 billion+ in revenue and apply it to teams setting a whole new standard for the customer experience.
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