Quite a bit has changed in the world of e-retailers since my last edition of innovative e-commerce sites to watch published a year and a half ago. The space is filled to the brim with new ways for consumers to purchase -- whether it's through subscriptions, personal shoppers ,or unique ways to get everyday purchases completed more conveniently, it's an exciting time to buy online.
Here are some of what I believe to be the most innovative e-commerce/retail sites. Do you have any to add to the list?
thredUP is an online consignment store, but simpler. On the site, you can browse thousands of like-new clothing items (the company is pretty strict in what it accepts) or order a bag for you to fill up at home of your like-new clothing items. According to its website, "you can refresh your entire wardrobe online without ever leaving your house."
Shopping the site is a beautiful experience and certainly doesn't feel like you're sifting through a bunch of "junk." The clothing items are displayed professionally like many other e-retailers.
Best of all, gone are the days of lugging trash bags full of your used clothing to a consignment store or donation center (and let's be real, those bags stay in your trunk for at least a month before they make it to a store). All you have to do now is fill up a thredUP bag that's mailed to you for free (and is the same size as a large trash bag) and put it out on your doorstep to be picked up. The thredUP team will then go through your items and determine what can be consigned and what will be donated or returned to you (your preference). thredUP covers the shipping and pays you for every item it can sell to other families. Not a bad deal!
thredUP is an innovative way to tackle the concept of donations and thrifting online.
It's not often I talk about feminine hygiene in an article, but LOLA is too good not to mention. LOLA is "a modern approach to feminine care." Simply put, LOLA delivers 100 percent cotton tampons to your door every month (or however often you'd like to receive them). There are no synthetics in its product, meaning that LOLA tampons are 100 percent natural and biodegradable. And, they're delivered right to your door -- no more runs to the drugstore.
Subscription boxes aren't new, but not only is the brand innovating on product -- providing a 100 percent natural alternative to the generic feminine care brands -- it's also making the purchasing experience extremely convenient.
Cosmetics that fit your life. Stowaway's cosmetics are all miniature -- travel-size lipsticks, eyeliners, blush and more, that actually fit inside your bag. The site notes, "it costs the same amount to make a 'right sized' mascara as a 'too-large-to-finish' mascara" and Stowaway is making makeup more convenient at an affordable price.
Personally, I can't remember the last time I finished an entire lipstick. Not to mention, I'm switching between bags all the time (from work to travel to clutch to everyday purse) and many of my bags aren't large enough to hold an entire extra makeup bag. Stowaway is all about makeup that fits into your life, not the other way around.
Trunk Club's tagline, "Premium clothing, Great advice, Zero work" sums it up nicely. The entire concept of Trunk Club is innovative -- fill out a detailed style survey, connect with a personal stylist, receive your trunk, pay only for what you keep.
Boom. You have a new wardrobe while barely lifting a finger (and certainly without having to go to the mall).
The style survey for both men and women is robust and gives you complete control over what types of clothes you're most interested in. The personal stylist is real -- you interact directly with them. You are able to preview your trunk before it ships and give feedback to your personal stylist (who will learn more and more about you and your style as you order more trunks!). Your trunk is then shipped directly to you and you have 10 days to try on everything. You only pay for what you keep and shipping is free both ways.
Instacart truly is "the best way to shop for groceries." Instacart lets you shop from local grocery stores online (e.g., Whole Foods, Safeway, Costco, etc.) and then sends a personal shopper to pick up and deliver your order to you on the same day -- often within a couple hours.
No, grocery delivery isn't new, but unlike other grocery delivery services, Instacart goes directly to the store you choose and shops for you on demand instead of keeping your fresh produce in a warehouse. It's revolutionizing grocery delivery.
Rent the Runway
Rent the Runway is changing the meaning of ownership by providing designer dress and accessory rentals. They believe that "a beautiful product shouldn't only be experienced by owning it." Customers can lease designer dresses and accessories for a 4-8 day period for 10 percent of the retail price. Each dress includes a backup size at no additional cost to ensure fit. Rental prices include the dry cleaning and care of the garments.
It's brilliant. Men have been renting tuxes for ages, but women (in the past) were supposed to drop thousands of dollars on a gown they'll only wear one time. I know where I'm getting my next special occasion dress.
Not only does Rent the Runway lease formal wear and accessories, but recently it launched the "Everyday Wardrobe." For $139/month, you gain access to unlimited clothes and accessories for everyday wear.
Pairing content with commerce, Food52 is a perfect addition to the list of innovative sites. Food52 started out as a place to bring cooks together from all over to exchange recipes and ideas. It launched its shop in 2013 to "bring like-minded makers and artisans together" and celebrate their goods and crafts.
The kitchenware is absolutely gorgeous -- artisanal, simple, mostly hand-crafted. Food52 believes "great food isn't just about ingredients, it's about everything that makes a meal -- it's the platter you serve tacos on; the composter in your kitchen; the knife you take on picnics; the beeswax candles that burn on your table; and the honey from the same apiary that you stir into your tea."
Food52 builds magical food experiences and is truly a one-stop-shop for a food lover. Full of recipes and gorgeous kitchenware, it would be difficult disappoint.
Diving into mobile shopping head first, Spring is essentially a shoppable photo feed of products on your iPhone.
Brands choose which items they want to sell on Spring and how those items are presented within the app (usually artistically, looking a bit like Instagram). With a very simple interface, it's very easy for a consumer to make a purchase. Personalization is key and users can follow brands and fashion bloggers for specific recommendations and feeds.
The app integrates with the brands' existing e-commerce infrastructures, so after checkout, the experience is as if you ordered on the brands' website. And, you no longer have to download a separate app for every brand you like.
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"Woman buying online" photo via iStock.