The digitally native vertical brand
Growing a business

Fashion marketplaces: Saving the apparel industry?

Once upon a time, private label clothing brands would first design clothes, market them, find buyers at department stores and chain retailers, fulfill orders, plan logistics to accommodate demand, and distribute to physical stores. Rinse and repeat.

The fashion supply chain all changed thanks to the smartphone and the rise of social media. Fashion bloggers, YouTube vloggers, Instagrammers, and industry influencers took to both changes eagerly and creatively.

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Since then, each passing year seems to foretell the beginning of the end for traditional retail. Once a mainstream attraction, shoppers have since resisted the charms of malls, department stores, and cookie-cutter chain brands.

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It’s “the age of digital Darwinism” as McKinsey put it.

Younger shoppers started looking to influencers for curated looks and personal recommendations; worlds away from the transactional nature of mall fashion. 

A few entrepreneurs noticed. And so began a quiet online revolution, led by the likes of PoshmarkFarfetchJOORThe IconicDepop and many others.

José Neves founded Farfetch to facilitate exchanges between buyers and 1,000+ luxury sellers, like Gucci and Saint Laurent. The founder and his company’s Platform Business model has been compared to Bezos’ Amazon.

But Farfetch never takes physical control of the products it sells. It’s unencumbered by physical warehouses and infrastructure that Amazon requires. Farfetch, however, invested millions of dollars in operations to get products listed quickly on its website. They also have a strong fulfillment network that processes and ships them out by the sellers.

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Poshmark started out as a retail clearinghouse for clothes with design mistakes or stock from past seasons. But the founders, Manish Chandra and Tracy Sun, wanted to go further by building a community-focused marketplace. When they first started, Chandra and Sun would invite women to hang out at a San Francisco wine bar to talk fashion and technology. Those initial one-on-one interactions led to the crafting of an addictive app that recreates the social shopping experience on mobile.

Poshmark is equal parts a social network, an eCommerce site, and a platform. It now has over 75 million items for sale across its 4 million sellers.

The use of Poshmark’s mobile app is astounding with “...some buyers and sellers often spend[ing] hours each day on Poshmark. The average customer uses it for 25 minutes a day, opening it seven to nine times,” according to the company.

Poshmark first led the second-hand retail market since its founding in 2011, processing more than 1.5 million transactions in 2013. Now they’ve taken social commerce to a whole new level, and personalized the shopping experience.

The digitally native vertical brand

Many attribute social commerce success with consumers’ shift to influencer-led, peer-approved, and mobile shopping.

But digitally native vertical brands (DNVB) should also take credit. As Bonobos CEO, Andy Dunn, coined it:

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DNVBs are “brands born online with a maniacal focus on the customer experience”

Digitally native vertical brands were created squarely for millennials and digital natives. Interactions, engagement, and transactions all happen via the web (and/or mobile). They can also expand beyond online to physical spaces that act as showrooms, often with shoppers not walking out with product in hand.

DNVBs have a few advantages. Not only did they start online — taking advantage of low overhead and access to customers — but they can also control the product from the factory floor to the consumer’s hand. Retailers don’t own the factories, but they provide manufacturers with spec details, which make their products unique or customizable. This allows retailers to direct where and how their product is sold, and collect data on their customers that helps them better market and improve their products.

The digitally native vertical brand

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

RELATED: [The merchant’s guide to multichannel sales & global growth]

Let’s get one thing straight: Vertical commerce is not eCommerce, with products across numerous categories. Vertical commerce is niche. Vertical commerce is specialized.

Think Warby Parker (eyeglasses), Bonobos (men’s fashion), Casper (Mattresses), Dollar Shave Club (men’s grooming), Poo-Pourri (toilet deodorizers), Glossier (beauty products) and Away (luggage).

This is where chain retailers and department stores faltered. They failed to foster an emotional connection with their customers, instead relying on a transactional relationship. They failed to curate and offer only the best products, which led to brand dilution. They failed to update their store experience. And they failed to redefine their value over their competitors.

That’s where DNVBs thrived. Since then DNVBs have taken market leadership and have attracted a devout customer base.

Plug-in to the Vertical eCommerce ecosystem

Today you can own your own brand with a direct sales strategy through eCommerce and extend it dramatically through fashion marketplaces like JOOR, The Iconic and many others.

Entrepreneurs like you can sell your goods on a nationwide or global scale.

It’s fantastic, really. You’re plugging into a system with a pre-existing customer base (in the hundreds of thousands to millions), a content hub (which saves you time and money on marketing), a mobile app (no need to develop one yourself), and exposure to prospective repeat buyers.

There are two digital marketplaces to consider: wholesale or B2C.

With wholesale marketplaces, big brands can join a global network to be discovered by the most sought-after retailers. Integrating with services like JOORNuOrder, and Modalyst means your time-to-market is shorter and you can overcome inefficient processes and disparate systems. Over 40 North American retailers are JOOR users including Neiman Marcus, Barney’s, Lord & Taylor, Net-a-Porter, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

B2C marketplaces — from AmazonAsosThe Iconic to FarfetchTheRealRealVestiaire Collective, and Fnac — can provide shoppers with a wide array of products (within a niche) at competitive prices. Brands like yours can offer a curated assortment without the risk of carrying full inventory. These marketplaces are conduits for deeper customer knowledge and brand-retailer partnerships, operating on speed, agility, and tech adoption.

Joor Access marketplaace


If growth and expansion is in your future, consider plugging into an already existing ecosystem. These fashion marketplaces offer you a central hub to manage inventory, orders and accounting integrations to grow across multiple sale channels in various currencies, fulfillment options, etc.

Because no one should be competing in the “Spreadsheet Olympics!

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