To find a place in the e-commerce sector, you need to be able to cohabit with the inevitable huge Amazon. The task is far from obvious, because the American giant shows a great advantage on many levels. Leadership that he also wants to retain, even if it means using practices at the limits of competition rules.
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Where historical players like Fnac-Darty or Cdiscount are trying to coexist with Amazon in the same business niche, French lumps of technology are trying to enter areas not yet occupied by Jeff Bezos. With success, because they manage to convince investors of the potential of their business. As a result, 5 out of 25 unicorns (unlisted startups worth at least $ 1 billion) in the French ecosystem have managed to find their place in e-commerce.
Two strategies stand out to reach this prestigious threshold. On the one hand, ManoMano, Vestiaire Collective and Back Market have settled in niches left by Amazon. On the other hand, Ancorstore and Miracle show even greater ambitions: to provide traders with tools to work without the American giant.
Step into the spaces left by Amazon
Vestiaire Collective (2009), ManoMano (2013) and Back Market (2014) are three markets (or “market” in jargon), or platforms similar in form to Amazon, whose link is between suppliers and end customers. Except that, thanks to each of them, they found their success in a sector that the American giant has neglected or has not yet monopolized.
Vestiaire Collective organizes the purchase and sale of used luxury products between individuals. In other words, the startup has digitized a used market that Amazon never launched into, but that is still occupied by other leaders like eBay.
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But with its relatively narrow positioning – luxury clothing and accessories – and multiple fundraising, the Vestiaire Collective eventually dug its own hole. For the French lump, the threat is more called Vinted, a Lithuanian platform created a year earlier, positioned on a wider range of used products, but eating away at market share in luxury.
For their part, the French from ManoMan are connecting DIY product retailers with end customers on their platform. More technologically advanced than historical players in the sector (Leroy Merlin, Castorama …), but endowed with more specialized business expertise than Amazon and others, ManoMano has managed to build a special niche. From now on, it must retain leadership on both the technological and business sides in order to maintain its position as a European leader.
Finally, Back Market was betting on a revamped market, these used products were repaired before they went on sale. A market that Amazon still neglects, which is pleased to offer a range of used or simply unpackaged products. The French startup aggregates the offers of well-known brands and those of independent retailers in order to present them to customers.
Ankorstore and Miracle want to make life online without Amazon
Unlike the three examples listed, Mirakl and Ankorstore are not intended for end customers. Their targets are traders, with whom the two French champions present themselves as tools for working without Amazon.
One of the great advantages of the American giant is that it offers a huge product catalog and huge quantities that allow it to lower prices for customers. For brands that would like to go online, this catalog diversity problem can become a real hurdle.
This is where Ankorstore enters the scene, which achieved unicorn status on January 10 with a mega-fundraising of 250 million euros. The young edition has built a market specializing in wholesale, where stores – online or offline – can buy products at affordable prices to diversify their offer.
The startup therefore aims to “redesign the retail market by leveling the playing field, allowing independent retailers to thrive and compete with e-commerce and mass distribution giants“.
The company envisages itself as a counter-force, which would give small businesses the opportunity to offer a wide range of products at prices close to the prices of Amazon and other Golgotha.
For its part, Miracle does not hide its positioning as an alternative to Amazon, and has even made it a selling point. A publisher of market creation software, unicorn allows each business to create its own online sales platform. Where Ankorstore aims to bridge differences in product offerings, Mirakl seeks to reduce the technology gap with the industry giant.
And with good reason: few companies have the funds to build a tailor-made market that would work properly, let alone compete with Amazon. Miracle therefore offers a range of tools – and more or less comprehensive development support – to its customers to create an efficient market.
The result: in just a few months, Mirakl can support the company in creating its own market. His technology thus stands behind the platforms of Darty, Auchan, Galeries Lafayette and Leroy Merlin.
Not to mention a win over Amazon, the two unicorns allow a relatively large number of players to build viable alternatives and not become addicted to Seattle ogres.
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