Direct to Consumer Brands

Inc has written a fantastic overview of the rise of Direct to Consumer, or DTC, brands. With input from Wharton, the birthplace of Warby Parker, Jet.com and others, this is well worth your time.

Wharton professors, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs are fueling an entire generation of Warby Parkers. Now there are more than 400 startups tackling products from toothbrushes to bras. What could go wrong?

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Build or Buy?

This is a guest post by Ben Koppenens of Ecquisition.com, an online website marketplace (https://www.ecquisition.com/).

Before you set up an ecommerce business, you will have to invest 6-12 months at least. Is your goal a website with high rankings in Google? Then add another 6-12 months. You can skip this initial phase by taking over an existing shop. This way you can save a lot of time and get a head start. In this article we will discuss this kind of acquisition.

Buying an existing web store

By buying a web store you have some major advantages. Often there is already revenue, contacts with suppliers, clients and of course the website itself.

If you are going to buy an existing webshop, there are a number of factors that can boost the price considerably. For example, if you have to buy the current stock directly or if the seller based the price of the webshop on turnover that he expected to make in the future. First and foremost, based on a broad-based valuation method, our advice is to come up with a price that you both consider acceptable. But in whatever way you come to a price, when the website has proven itself, the purchase price will reflect this success and requires an investment.

On the other hand, the self-launching of a webshop also has its drawbacks. Adapting that design every time, creating valuable content, building up SEO positions, fine-tuning the technology or building a regular clientele can be a lengthy and expensive process. On average, starting a serious web store costs 25,000-30,000 US$ at least.

Ways to find an existing web store

If someone possibly thinks about selling his web store, he will not immediately show it on his website. Showing that a webshop is for sale will quickly make you lose customers. That is why there is usually nothing to see on the web shop itself. But just like in the other company sales there are special mediators and websites for this. This ranges from simple advertisements at market places to full purchase guidance. This website offers ecommerce company’s for sale as well as advice when you want to buy or sell: ecquisition.com.

Risks when buying a webshop

Always make sure that you carefully examine the price of a webshop. In many cases this is based on, for example: numbers of visitors and generated revenue. But does this mean that there is actually profit? What are the costs of those visitors, for example? If there are a lot of advertising spending needed to attract those visitor numbers? Because we can all advertise and buy visitors! (effective and cheap advertising is still good though). Visitor numbers can also drop quickly in the event of a possible takeover. For example, the seller may have mentioned his shop on many other websites (his own PBN). If he is no longer owner, these links will be removed, which means less direct visitors, or even visitors from search engines. You will have to build all of this yourself. So always do good research before you purchase a website.

Advantages of taking over an existing webshop

You no longer have to worry about creating the website, finding suppliers or buying the domain name. Because that’s all done. Often there is still stock present, or a dropship contract, and if you are lucky, the website already has quite a few visitors. So you can get started right away. And with problems you can still ask the seller for help.

Other advantages:

An existing customer base
Backlinks to the web store
Existing stock/suppliers

Disadvantages of taking over an existing webshop

But there are also disadvantages to taking over a ready-made web store. You did not set up the webshop from the beginning, so probably certain elements are not entirely to your liking. The start-up period often consists mainly of hard work and a lot of investing, but during this start-up period one learns to know a shop and niche through and through. You made every decision and solved every problem, so that your webshop will no longer have any secrets.

Chewy Acquired by PetSmart

In a deal announced by the best ecommerce reporter, Jason Del Rey, Chewy.com has been acquired by PetsSmart for over $3 billion. Yes, billion. Similar to the recent Walmart purchase of Jet.com, is this nuts?

Forbes recently wrote about the company, of particular interest:

One pet industry veteran, who says he knows three people who are familiar with Chewy’s finances, doubts the company will reach profitability. He says Chewy’s average sale is $75, its average margin after discounts 30% and its average cost of delivery–which Chewy offers for free on orders of more than $49–around $12. A competitor estimates that Chewy’s customer-acquisition cost could run as high as $200 per first sale, given that the company pays to appear at the top of Google searches for each of the hundreds of brands it carries. “The bottom line is that Chewy is incredibly predatory, and they’re willing to lose money to grow their volume,” says the industry veteran.

So, it’s likely Chewy, like Jet, is unprofitable and will be for some time if not ever. But co-founder Ryan Cohen says he is convinced that e-commerce will eventually take at least 50% of total pet product sales and that Chewy will log more than $5 billion in revenue by 2020.

Potential. That’s the price paid by PetSmart and others for what perhaps the future of ecommerce and retail will look like in a few years.

Yup, Ecommerce is Hard

WSJ reports Walmart is in talks with Jet.com, the barely one year old ecommerce startup:

For Jet, a takeover by an old-line retailer would demonstrate the challenges of attempting to go it alone in the hypercompetitive e-commerce market.

This business is capital intensive, heavily reliant on brand and a massive slice of luck..

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Dollar Shave Club

Stratechery has a nice piece on the Unilever Dollar Shave Club purchase. Noting something we also discussed with respect to FMCG:

I suspect this sort of disruption will not be a one-off: the Internet (and e-commerce) has so profoundly changed the economics of business that it is only a matter of time before other product categories are impacted, with all the second order effects that entails.

Read the piece here.

Offcourse whilst it’s a good deal for founders and investors, it does raise concern as to why another pure-play ecommerce company could not reach the public markets.

The World is Flat…and Fast

The Economist has a good piece on why the world is getting flatter and faster. This is to the detriment of large companies, particularly those in the FMCG space. They note:

Yet these advantages are not what they once were. Consolidating factories has made companies more vulnerable to the swing of a particular currency, points out Nik Modi of RBC Capital Markets, a bank. The impact of television adverts is fading, as consumers learn about products on social media and from online reviews. At the same time, barriers to entry are falling for small firms. They can outsource production and advertise online. Distribution is getting easier, too: a young brand may prove itself with online sales, then move into big stores. Financing mirrors the same trend: last year investors poured $3.3 billion into private CPG firms, according to CB Insights, a data firm—up by 58% from 2014 and a whopping 638% since 2011.

If you’ve got a good product, it’s never been easier to get it out there.

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