We caught up with Matt Whiffen from DNVBlist.com to help us understand the evolution of v-commerce, and his mission with DNVBlist.com.
So what exactly is V-commerce and Digitally-Native Vertical Brands?
It's typically defined by four or five pretty simple characteristics: 1) started online and e-commerce driven, 2) physical product, 3) focus on customer experience, and 4) the brand on the website is the brand on the item/product you buy.
What has been the turning point for this movement?
You could say the turning was actually the starting point of the acronym itself. Online-only businesses have obviously been around for a while now, but they weren't really defined in this way until Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, put the acronym to it. Now, DNVB is also synonymous with vertical commerce or v-commerce.
How do V-commerce brands compete with E-commerce brands?
All v-commerce is e-commerce, but all e-commerce is not v-commerce, if that makes sense. Amazon sells every brand under the sun, same with Walmart and Jet.com, now owned by Walmart. While Amazon and Walmart both have their own in-house brands, their bread and butter is obviously selling other company's goods. V-commerce brands sell their own stuff, and that's it.
Because of that, they can compete on a few levels. One is customer experience, which we mentioned above. Amazon has everything at a good price and it gets to you quick, but a v-commerce brand has a lot more freedom to connect with you one-to-one, and the best brands do this really well. Competing on price isn't reserved just for the Amazons of the world though. V-commerce brands sell direct-to-consumer so there's no middleman taking a cut. If they choose to, that savings can get passed to the customer and often does.
What is your insight on the future of V-commerce?
It's getting easier and easier to start a brand or company these days, so the proliferation of brands isn't going to stop anytime soon. That obviously means more competition for each brand, which continues the cycle. V-commerce will adapt with trends and technology just like anything else. I would image VR/AR shopping experiences are closer than we think.
For folks paying attention to the retail space, it's common knowledge that malls are having a really tough time and we've seen an increasing number of retail brick-and-mortar businesses declaring bankruptcy. This isn't necessarily the beginning of the end of in-person shopping, but shopping in general whether in-person or online is certainly changing in a massive way.
What does this mean to the online consumer?
Does this apply to everyone or it this generation specific? Competition is a positive thing and it definitely applies to everyone. Competition means brands have to compete on a number of fronts from price to quality to variety to marketing channels and everything else. This can only be a good thing for consumers.
What is the DNVBlist and what is it’s mission?
We got pretty literal with the name. The website is just that, a list, broken down into 20+ different categories. We're already above 300 brands at this point and that's growing. The website is more of a placeholder for the list itself, our social channels are where most of our content lives.
We see two sides to the mission. One is brand-focused and one is consumer-focused, but they're really just the two sides of the same problem. The "problem" being that there are so many brands out there it's a) hard for consumers to find them and b) harder (and increasingly expensive) for brands to differentiate themselves and get in front of the right people. We feel we can help do that whether it's our daily content, weekly Featured DNVB, or future podcast and video content.
For someone looking for athleisure gear, for example, they might go straight to Lulu Lemon, but there are dozens of cool brands out there. Need a new pair of socks? Don't just grab the random set at Costco, look at all these rad socks? Need a new watch? Check out all these cool brands! Need new sunglasses? Don't dare step into Sunglass Hut! Go here. It's just never-ending in a really good way, but you have to know it's all out there. More choice, more price points, it's just about awareness both for consumers and the brands themselves. From the standpoint of making DNVB List a viable business, our primary focus will be adding value for brands and we have a number of ways we intend to do that. For now we're just trying to be part of the general conversation.
Why did you start the DNVBlist?
Honestly, I have zero background in retail or e-commerce. It's really just a general interest in it. My background is in startup operations starting with a company in San Diego called TakeLessons.com. I was an early employee at Uber where I ran operations in San Diego and did some city launching. I did my four years there before taking the General Manager role for a hospitality startup in San Diego called Sonder, and now run Operations for a new dockless bikesharing startup called Spin in San Francisco. Whether DNVB List actually becomes anything, we'll see, but I've always had a general interest in small business and that has morphed into a focus on these DNVB-type companies.
What is the long-term goal of DNVBlist?
We're starting with the website and social. Right now, we've got the weekly Featured DNVB and lots of other content throughout the week. We're currently working on a podcast which will be similar to the conversational style of the Featured DNVB but audio. And lastly, live streaming and video in general is getting easier and cheaper to do by the day. So, basically expand the featured DNVB-type model into audio and video where there's info on the brand, the founders, and the product. I envision it as a mix of Cheddar, Kickstarter, Product Hunt, and QVC, all wrapped into one and only online.
How can someone signup and what do they get?
Best way to get a hold of our content is simply to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Any future additions or happenings will be pushed out there. Follow us on Twitter, Insta, and Facebook for lots of great content from general information on new brands as well as giveaways, and more!