5 Online Retailers Cashing In On E-commerce


More people than ever are going online to shop. They’re making more splurge-purchases on luxury sites, doing more comparing of bargain prices, and, yes, they’re even “drunk-shopping,” as e-Bay mobile vice president Steve Yankovich, revealed last year. As an alternative to brick-and-mortar stores, the e-commerce industry has emerged as a great place to get exactly what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. The best sites carve out a niche in the industry and make sure to connect with their customers in a unique way. Here are five e-commerce companies that have marked their territories—and are primed for big success.


Lot18 | Lot18.com

Specialty: Food and wine
Headquarters: New York City
Leadership: Philip James, Kevin Fortuna (co-founders), Mark Pinney (CFO)

Why it’s hot: Want some Gilt with that wine? Lot18 is a luxe, membership-only daily deals website that specializes in top-tier wines, gourmet food, and sumptuous culinary experiences. The company’s team of experts works with winemakers, food producers, and hospitality chains around the world to select personalized, high-end offers for customers. The 750,000 member company raised $30 million in funding from Accel Partners, New Enterprise Associates, and FirstMark Capital last November, and delivers to all 50 states. Not sure if you can trust Lot18′s taste? Its VP of procurement, Dini Rao, was a senior buyer for AmazonWine and helped the company to sell more than half a million bottles of wine in its first year.


Crowd Seats | Crowdseats.com

Specialty: Sports
Headquarters: Los Angeles
Leadership: Justin Cener (CEO)

Why it’s hot: Launched in August 2011,Crowd Seats is the first flash deals site for professional and collegiate sports events around the country. The company purchases excess inventory from teams and brokers, and sells nearly 500 tickets each week for 50% to 90% of the face value. Plus, there are no convenience charges or processing fees, and ticketholders can cash in on Groupon-style discounts via friend referrals. Crowd Seats vouchers are currently available in six U.S. cities, and will expand to four more, including Toronto, by the end of June. But don’t think you’re getting bottom-barrel deals. Although it hasn’t yet received additional funding, Crowd Seats sells nearly 500 tickets each month to showdowns like the Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic and the Yankees vs. the Rays.


Fab.com | Fab.com

Specialty: Design
Headquarters: New York City
Leadership: Jason Goldberg (CEO), Bradford Shane Shellhammer (CCO)

Why it’s hot: In February 2010, comeback kids, Jason Goldberg and Bradford Shane Shellhamer raised Fab.com from the ashes of their defunct social networking site, Fabulis. The new company is a flash sales marketplace that sells home goods, accessories, clothing, and jewelry from independent designers, and recently updated its mobile app, which is the No. 1 shopping app for design in the Apple App Store. Fab.com raised more than $51 million in funding by December 2011 and acquired German flash sales site Casacanda two months later. The newly christened Fab.de added 300,000 members in just 40 days, bringing the company’s global membership to nearly 2.5 million.


Oyster.com | Oyster.com

Specialty: Travel
Headquarters: New York City
Leadership: Elie Seidman (co-founder & CEO), Ariel Charytan (co-founder & CCO), Etyan Seidman (co-founder & VP of product)

Why it’s hot: Aside from booking a flight, finding a place to stay can be one of the most daunting aspects of travel. Enter Oyster.com: a travel accommodation PI whose 20 hotel “investigators” have covered more than 2,500 hotels in over 100 locations around the world. Investigators take high-res photos of everything at each location—from the mattress to the mini bar—and review it on a one-to-five “pearl” scale. Oyster.com also checks out nearby restaurants to see if they’re up to snuff. Last April, the Travel Channel invested $7.5 million in the company and earlier this year, Oyster.com released a free iPad app that includes more than 700,000 undoctored images and interactive maps.


Shop It To Me | ShopItToMe.com

Specialty: Apparel
Headquarters: San Francisco
Leadership: Charlie Graham (CEO)

Why it’s hot: Founded in 2005, Shop It to Me is hardly a new kid on the block. Even so, the personal Web shopper makes more than 2 billion product recommendations each month and continues to feature new retailers among its 700-brand list. Recent retailers include Alexander Wang, Milly, and Karen Millen. The company’s platforms include Salemails, or personalized newsletters delivered to its 4 million, too-busy-to-browse subscribers; and an expansion of ShopItToMe.com, where bargain hunters can search for new deals.

Why we love it?

Whether it’s traditional “brick-and-mortar” companies choosing to shift their focus, or new brands creating their own niche strictly within the e-commerce world – it has become apparent that taking business online is the way to go. With U.S. online sales expected to reach nearly $370 billion within the next four years, it only makes sense for retailers to start focusing more on the customer they don’t see – the one shopping from their laptop or mobile device.

What are your favorite new online retailers? Comment below!




Valentine’s Day Courtship Tips for Brands

Social-Media-Valentines-DayA staggering 72 million adults will buy Valentine’s Day cards this season. That’s 40% of all cards sold. And while that’s an impressive figure, 60% of folks are still untapped. We can only image what the numbers look like for money spent on dinners, flowers, chocolates, jewelry and more. Again, while huge, a large number of the adult population still doesn’t budge. In time for the big day, outlined are four Valentine’s Day courtship tips for brands to be more relevant to customers this season.

Don’t make the same mistake

It’s pretty obvious, but even a Harvard University study points to the fact that people are more accurate at predicting emotional reactions to negative events than positive ones they have experienced in the past. Just like humans try to avoid repeating terrible relationship mistakes, brands too need to learn from bad marketing decisions made in the past. The good news for brands is that through a variety of technological techniques and advances like predictive analytics, brands can now foresee what’s coming ahead and how to react. Again, making it easier to not only not make the same mistake again, but preventing one from ever happening in the first place.

Be relevant to your target

Don’t be scared to ride the wave of trends. In fact, marketers should leverage what’s happening during the season – whether it’s Gangnam Style, wedge sneakers, Pinterest, or the latest handbag, marketers have a better chance of making the sale if they stay on top of what matters to their target audience. Last year’s Michael Kors #fallinginlovewith campaign is an outstanding example of a brand that capitalized on being relevant and timely by tapping nearly every social media medium, including Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and ultimately, bridging the gap between mobile and social.

Know what you’re doing

Too often, marketers carry out campaigns purely on a hunch or good idea. Smart marketers should go that extra mile and tap market researchers to reach out to community panel members for a gauge on how Americans will feel about specific marketing campaigns, themes, ideas, etc. prior to cupid’s arrival. As market researchers start reaching out to community panel members, it’s important for them to ask the right questions. Many researchers today are asking respondents for basic information that they should already know like their geography and general interests. As a result, response rates go down and the overall strategy falls through the cracks. Reexamining how to best ask meaningful questions will provide marketers with better insight into the attitudes and opinions of respondents so that they’ll know to plan for the big day, which is exactly what we help brands do here at Vision Critical.

Target the outliers

Almost half of Americans have negative feelings towards Valentine’s Day.  Most marketers are so busy focusing on how to sell to the population that enjoys it that often times they leave the non-lovers hanging. Marketers should consider a duel, or ubiquitous approach to targeting those in love (or like) and those that are single.

Holiday Communication

If you sell a product or service, think about a way to talk about what you sell in a way that might make it a great Valentine’s gift. Offer a sale or package price, particularly if it can bundled and wrapped. You might consider sharing some links to blogs and news articles relating to Valentine’s Day cooking, recipes, attire, decorations, crafts – anything you think your readers and fans will enjoy and share.

Holiday Images

When looking for images to share, it’s best to either purchase the image from a site like iStockPhoto (because yes, you are using it for commercial purposes), or use Flickr to find images that the owner has stated that the image can be used for commercial purposes. Go to Flickr.com, start a search, and then use the Advanced Settings to filter out the images that you shouldn’t be using (the setting is at the bottom of the page). Note that you still need to pay attention to each image and what the owner states – some require that you attribute the image to the owner, like Image courtesy of Mike Allton, Flickr. Sprinkle some of these quotes and images into your social media activity and marketing leading up to Valentine’s Day to keep your customers smiling. More importantly, look for ways that you can provide value to your readers and your efforts will be appreciated. For instance, you might offer some alternative ideas to the typical “dinner and a movie” that both husbands AND wives will appreciate. Poll your employees about their best and worst Valentine’s Days and then share those stories in a blog post for our readers to enjoy.


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