Op-Ed: Online-only retailers disrupt industries with unmatched value

Posted Aug 7, 2013 by Nicolle Hiddleston
Convenience, variety, and discounted prices are literally at our fingertips when we shop online. E-commerce has revolutionized the way we shop; we no longer have to leave our houses or even get dressed to make an important purchase.
Online shopping.
Online shopping.
Similarly, online-only companies have forever changed how much we spend. Exclusively online enterprises offer market minimum prices by eliminating fixed and overhead costs (like rent, commission, and utilities) associated with brick and mortar retail outlets. With fewer employees and no middlemen, these companies are able to bring their products directly to consumers at prices traditional retailers simply cannot match. Several companies utilizing this efficient and innovative business model have recently emerged, disrupting their respective industries and garnering media attention and rapidly growing fan bases.
Prescription eyewear company, Warby Parker, sells hip, stylish glasses at affordable prices, far below the market average, by selling strictly online. Competing with designer prescription eye frame dealers where prices stretch to several hundred dollars, Warby Parker vends glasses starting at a mere $95. The company operates through a website that virtually models their frames and through which shoppers can request five pairs of glasses to try on at home. With only 150 employees, Warby Parker boasts more than $50 million in profits and even donates a pair of glasses for every purchased pair to underprivileged individuals. To date, 250,000 pairs have been distributed by this company, whose business model, customer service, and corporate social responsibility are disrupting eyewear giant Luxotica’s monopoly over the prescription glasses industry.
Saatva, an online-only mattress retailer, is proving equally disruptive in the mattress market. The company offers its patented ultra-premium luxury mattresses at prices up to 70% off what traditional mattress retailers charge for comparable beds. Saatva allows customers to shop online, removing the frustration generally associated with mattress shopping, while providing a stress-free, yet always-on-call customer service experience. Consumers are additionally extended a penalty free 30-day home trial. Saatva’s outstanding customer service culture and hand-crafted, American-made products made to last 10-15 years have helped the brand become the top rated mattress on Google for 2012-2013.
Fellow e-tailer, Everlane, sells its own clothing brand, much like American Apparel, but at a fraction of their prices. All items included on are sold for less than $100. In a refreshing demonstration of transparency, Everlane displays the true cost of each product and then reveals the retailer markup, attempting to show consumers the actual value of their purchases. Much like Warby Parker and Saatva, Everlane retails high quality products. Yet while other designer retailers often mark up clothing by eight times before reaching the consumer, Everlane has created the first designer clothing brand that is considered affordable by consumers.
Companies like Warby Parker, Saatva, and Everlane are industry disruptors, challenging market giants that once dominated their economic ecosystems, and acquiring ever-increasing followings. Thanks to efficient online-only business models, these companies additionally have a boundless capacity for hyper-growth. Yet most importantly, online-only retailers afford consumers the benefit of high quality products at affordable prices with all the convenience of the online shopping experience.