Web-only brands have exploded in number over the last decade, growing sales and venture capital funding at a rapid pace. These companies—often called digitally native, vertically integrated brands or DNVBs—are in control of the entire consumer experience with their brand, from start to finish. They’ve also grown to become a bigger and bigger presence in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000.
Harry’s Inc.’s (No. 284) razors, Blue Apron’s (No. 197) meal kits or any of the dozens of web-only mattress brands that have popped up in the last few years like Casper (No. 182) or Nectar, are just a few of the more prominent DNVB retailers. But there also are plenty of niche brands, like boosted-bicycle maker Rad Power Bikes, custom-dress-shirt retailer Proper Cloth and online-only furniture seller Article (No. 425).
What is a DNVB?
Let’s break down the term. A digitally native retailer first started selling online, taking advantage of lower overhead and easy access to consumers across the country to grow their business. Retailers can grow beyond selling only online, moving into their own stores or working with individual retailers. Often these physical spaces serve like showrooms that shoppers often don’t walk out of with the product in hand.
Vertically integrated brands control the product from the factory floor to the consumer’s hand. Many retailers don’t own the factories, but they do specify exact product details, making what they sell directly to consumers unique or even customizable. This allows retailers to control where and how their product is sold, and also allows them to collect data on who is buying the product to better market and improve their products.
Internet Retailer looked into the 75 major DNVBs that are making an impact in their respective categories. Retailers include big names in the mattress and meal delivery categories to niche brands focused on hunting apparel and web-connected luggage.
Why should I care about DNVBs?
As a whole, the 75 retailers Internet Retailer tracked generated a collective $8.0 billion in online sales in 2017, Internet Retailer estimates—a 44.4% increase compared with $5.6 billion the year before (numbers are rounded). That means these DNVBs are already capturing nearly 2% of the total $453 billion U.S. e-commerce market, and are growing nearly three times as fast as the average e-commerce retailer.
Among all retailers tracked, meal kits, mattresses and apparel companies dominate a large portion of total sales. Of the 75 retailers tracked, nine sell meal kits, 11 sell mattresses and 33 sell apparel. Still, web-only brands are selling a wide range of products. Among the top-10 web-only brands tracked, there is an electronics manufacturer, a subscription shaving service and a jewelry retailer. Further down the list, there are beauty brands, sock sellers and makers of musical instruments.
DNVBs’ ability to create unique products and connect with niche audiences insulate them from some competition with Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) and other big retailers. And the direct-to-consumer model keeps prices down as well, making their unique wears more affordable to the niche or mass-market audience they want to draw.
This is an excerpt from Internet Retailer’s recently published The Rise of the Web-Only Brand report. The report is available as part of Internet Retailer’s U.S. Reports Pro Membership and as part of Internet Retailer’s Platinum All-Access Membership. Single copy sales are also available.