How curation is reinventing e-commerce

More vertical, personalized, to build powerful community conglomerates: curation has not yet finished surprising you.

In 2020, the curator is making a comeback in style! With a more community-based approach and armed with new tools. Their objective, on the other hand, has not changed: sorting through the ambient infobesity to uncover only the very best. A mission that is not limited to media and now extends more and more to e-commerce.   

Permission to have second (curation) helpings  

The online shopping offer has become massive, to the point where it is difficult to find your way around. That's why, for the last few years, it has tended to become more vertical in order to assist visitors in their search. Do you want to buy niche beauty brands? Niche-beauty or Cult Beauty should satisfy you. Do you swear by clean brands? Take a look at Bubble. Are you a trendsetter, on the lookout for new DTC brands? Go to Thingtesting or CPGD.

And this even exists for marketplaces. The best of Aliexpress? Go to Thieve or Aligurus. The best of Amazon? It's on Canopy. Some brands like Neighborhood Goods go so far as to reinvent the physical department store as we know it. Using the same principle of marketplace-style brand curation, we find 100 or so DTC brands among the most "Instagrammable". In short, a very zeitgeist store, in the spirit of the times, and it's bound to please.

Curators are rolling out the red carpet

Nevertheless, this curation must be careful not to sink into its own infobesity and avoid becoming too superficial. Indeed, most of the current solutions remain standardized: they lack a personalized and exclusive approach, and leave questions unanswered that often lead to inertia. In short, it is not very actionable. Fortunately, with the rise of the Passion Economy, more and more creators are monetizing their curation talents in a one-to-one approach and in a more interactive way. It’s a little human touch that makes the act of buying online even more social.

  • Let's mention Showfields. This company, similar to Neighborhood Goods, has set up weekly live-stream sessions organized by prestigious curators to whom you can ask all your questions live or by email following the event.

  • Having sniffed out the opportunity, Ibbü has decided to put expert curators in touch with consumers looking for recommendations.

  • The new generation SMS marketing tool Subtext combines mass mailing with the ability to answer each person in a personalized way. It also works for the curator-journalist. More and more media outlets, such as CNET or Buzzfeed Shopping, use the service for "one-to-one scale". In other words, they send a shopping curation list via SMS to their subscriber base and make themselves available to the readers to personally answer all their questions. Clever, isn't it?

  • And what about "drops", "bundles" and other very social collaborations that are experiencing an unprecedented craze?

It's powerful. Why? Because it's a very personal, emotional and interactive type of curation. The curator doesn't just select the best, they highlight this curation by anchoring it in storytelling, providing context, scenography and infusing it with purpose.

Giving the means for curation

The potential of curation for e-commerce does not stop there. We are indeed seeing the emergence of new models with strong ambitions. In other words, scalable and highly profitable curation models.  

For example, Thrasio, Perch, Heroes and Sellerx are e-commerce companies whose business consists of detecting, buying and scaling the most successful Amazon FBA merchants. The business is lucrative. The profitable Thrasio unicorn already generates $300M in revenues, which represents only 0.15% of the market according to VC Ali Hamed. The latter explains in an article that this ecosystem of Amazon third party vendors could be the most important breakthrough since the iOS App Store. In short, this is the ongoing curation of the best of Amazon to build profitable large-scale brands.

Another approach is to curate and bundle intrinsically social brands, very often DTC brands, by creating powerful ecosystems.

  • Iris nova operates the largest network of DTC beverage brands in the United States. Its strength? The power of a network, enabling it to adapt, share infrastructure, cross-sell to the same audience and lower the customer acquisition cost (CAC).

  • Details Provision offers menswear brands, while Resident Home positions itself in the home universe. Here, too, the positioning is clear: it is a question of curating and grouping the best companies around a modus vivendi to “unleash the full potential of the brands and consolidate long-term health with a clear path to profitability”.

  • Metamorphosis Partners, professionals in the pet industry, select, operate, accelerate and market seven brands dedicated to pets. Their particularity? Two powerful media sites skillfully irrigate all the other brands of the group with traffic.

These examples — conglomerates of verticalized community brands — are particularly interesting because they highlight the power of efficient curation. Curation, that, as we said earlier, is no longer limited to its collection, however fine and qualitative it may be. Instead, it is conceived around an architecture, a community, an ecosystem designed to draw all its quintessence. In short, curation with a vision… and the means to implement it.

Stay curious,


NB: a huge thank you to Tim Masek for reviewing a draft version and for all his precious recommendations.

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