There’s no doubt about it—e-commerce is booming across the globe, and it may be forever changing the way we browse and buy products.
According to new data from comScore, e-commerce is up 15 per cent from a year ago, indicating a huge new trend. Last quarter, online purchases totaled $43.2 billion, and some reports predict the industry will reach $300 billion in the U.S. by 2015. Giants like Amazon and eBay are seeing increased competition as more and more e-commerce companies make their way onto the scene.
One site leading the pack is Storenvy, a social platform that allows small businesses to set up and customise their own virtual shops. Founded in 2008, the startup has seen record growth in the last year—a nearly fourfold increase in gross revenue. For consumers, this indicates a shift away from shopping malls and a pull to the more varied products consumers can find online.
The beauty of e-commerce is it brings businesses and shoppers from all over the world together to do business—and that they are. More than 18,000 independent stores utilise Storenvy’s free platform. Designers, artists, bands, t-shirt companies, startups selling swag, fashion boutiques, photographers, stay-at-home mums, and crafters are just some of the various entrepreneurs who have set up a virtual storefront on the site.
Storenvy has a small staff of 12, and claims its goal is to “humanize commerce.” It does so by allowing shoppers to interact with each other in a very social way—users can set up a profile, mark products as favourites, leave comments on items, and follow other users to see what they’re browsing. Because Storenvy caters to both businesses and shoppers by making the experience interactive, its site is unique from competitors like Shopify and marketplaces like Etsy. It’s also completely free for buyers and sellers.
“The biggest gap Storenvy fills is to provide a low-risk, high-impact online store platform for real people who aren’t necessarily e-commerce experts,” says CEO and founder Jon Crawford. “Other platforms offer loads of features and functionality that can be intimidating and over-powering for most creative entrepreneurs.”
Storenvy’s focus is on making the most intuitive, usable store platform — not the most feature-filled. That’s why people have referred to it as the “Tumblr of online stores.”
Many stores have found success on the social platform, including DPCTED, a T-shirt company that raked in $70,000 in sales over the past year thanks to the site. But the site isn’t just used by for-profit businesses—nonprofit Team Gleason raised $60,000 through their Storenvy shop since December 2011.
Storenvy raised $1.53 million in their seed round of funding from top investors, including Spark Capital, Kleiner Perkins, First Round and CRV. Though they’ve yet to attack obvious challenges like mobile apps, Storenvy hopes to grow exponentially in the coming years.
“Our mission is to democratize e-commerce and the core to that mission is giving it away for free,” Crawford says. “We want to empower everyone regardless of their income, skill level or business stage to succeed in the e-commerce space. Essentially, we want to be the Gutenberg printing press of stores.”
With e-commerce set to forever change the way we browse and shop, that certainly seems like a feasible goal.