Over the past fifteen years on the internet we’ve seen a few waves of e-commerce innovation. From the initial humble beginnings of simply selling books online, to shopping/pricing comparison engines for electronic and other feature-laden items, to this current wave of “social commerce” which includes local merchants’ deals propagated by friends’ recommendation-driven purchases. We’re now at a point where the average consumer is not only comfortable buying all sorts of things over the web – they’re happy to tell their friends about it too.
We at NextView Ventures believe that one of the next waves of online shopping is the accelerating trend of consumers purchasing high-consideration goods: “considered commerce.” In other words, people are now buying things online which take more than a few (dozen) minutes of reflection. And not surprisingly, the most salient reasons that these items are given more consideration are that the cost are higher, they often take up more space in a person’s life/house, and they’re experienced over a longer duration. In many cases, there were already cases of these types of products already being purchased online, but given a new wave of innovation and greater acceptance, I think we’re at an inflection point where an increasing number of high-ticket, larger, enduring goods will be bought on the web.
Selling high-consideration goods online is not just about publishing a web product catalog with features, specs, and reviews. It’s about helping foster consumers though a rich buying experience. Sometimes it’s a trial or another way to experience the good before its purchased. The innovation happening in this space now is centered around the way vendors present, inform, and consummate a sale. Whether it’s offering membership into a perceived exclusive club or utilizing a renting-to-own scheme, these new e-commerce services provide enhanced comfort around a purchase and ensure confidence about making the right decision without actually touching it in a physical store. In our NextView Ventures’ portfoiio, we’ve already invested along these theme in backing Mojo Motors (changing the model for used automobile purchases online) and TurningArt (empowering consumers in making meaningful artwork more accessible).
Continuing this thesis, yesterday it was announced that we at NextView made an investment in Cambridge-based CustomMade along with Google Ventures, First Round Capital, Founder Collective, Launch Capital, and angels. CustomMade founders Mike Salguero and Seth Rosen have already built a truly exceptional service – their web marketplace connects consumers interested in purchasing custom goods with thousands of custom makers who can specially create them. On CustomMade.com, you’ll find makers of everything from wood furniture craftsmen to metal jewelry artisans and everything in between. The startup’s offering has solved many of the pain-points which consumers face when purchasing not only a higher-priced luxury good, but a unique and custom one at that. The user experience provides for the enhanced discovery of skilled artists, the browsing of example items within a maker’s portfolio, the ability to receive numerous proposals from many talented craftspeople for their potential piece, and the trust in a payment process intermediated by the CustomMade as a fair and independent third-party. All of these features (among many others) by necessity empower consumers to not only secure comfort in purchasing a high-consideration item, but also enjoy an optimal experience with the whole process of a personalized item being created solely just for them.
Our decision-making process at NextView for new investments always boils down to weighing three primary factors – team, market, and product. We are delighted in this case because CustomMade already excels in all three dimensions and has the potential to grow into so much more. We’re very excited to be working with Mike and Seth to be a small part in helping them build a company that is riding a megatrend in the next wave of e-commerce.