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How Startups Saved Retailers From Drowning in Ecommerce

Updated: May 10

From TechCrunch - the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce by 5 years. Among other things, it mentions that ecommerce is slated to grow 20% in 2020. Suddenly, brick and mortar stores are faltering and ecommerce is king, and retailers need nimble startups to help them adapt. Here’s how:


  1. Retailers need to offer a seamless, personalized online experience. That means finding ways to use the power of data to tailor the experience to each customer shopping online, powered by startups like ToucanAI, FindMine, and Materiall. It means embracing new channels like curbside pickup, made possible by startups like BlueDot and Glympse, or voice commerce, where the consumer needs nothing but a smart speaker and their own voice to shop.

  2. Retailers need to make last mile delivery affordable and sustainable. We wrote last week about the horrible economics of delivery of low-cost items. On top of that, a whopping 30% of ecommerce purchases are returned, costing online retailers an estimated $550 billion in 2020. To solve this, retailers are turning to startups like Roadie and Narvar, experts in delivery and logistics, to mitigate these costs. And innovative tech solutions like Drapr and Mirelz are introducing virtual try-on technology to allow consumers to experience the product from home, substantially reducing costly returns for the retailer.

  3. Retailers need to rethink their supply chain. For many traditional retailers, ecommerce is like buying a cheap golf cart: it’s a fun diversion, but now that your car is broken down, you are puttering to work at 15 MPH and wishing you had sprung for a better model. Yet many traditional brick and mortar retailers have a huge advantage over purely online retailers: real estate. Retailers are turning their stores into fulfillment centers, and are suddenly able to offer one-day or even same-day shipping, which many online retailers can’t match. That’s why Target’s acquisition of Shipt in 2017 has been such a great investment, and why startups like Fabric who are enabling this for other retailers are going to be very valuable going forward.


Nobody could have predicted how much the world would change in 2020. But the ones who survive will be the ones who take the lifeline offered by startups.

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