How To Compete In Online Retail
When the flash-sale site Fab launched last summer, featured retailers scored about $10,000 in sales--a miracle in an uneasy economy. Then the site blew up: Now sellers can net $100,000, and the site itself raised $50 million in venture funding. Bradford Shellhammer attributes the success to simple principles:
Shellhammer almost always uses vendors' product shots, which guarantees more diversity (and lower costs) than if everything were reshot in a studio. "The person who designed a product is also the best person to present it," he says.
Sure, you can find some cool, kitschy objects on eBay. But Fab pairs each item with the story behind it, making shoppers feel supportive of the seller. "People invest more in things they form emotional attachments to," he says.
Fab's real-time feed shows what items other users are buying, mimicking the effect of watching shoppers at a store. "Most people need reinforcement from others before purchase," he says, "so it helps when you can see what's moving."
Fab's site is built with purposefully clean grid lines and a simple, three-color palette. "Eva Zeisel said good design is about getting out of the way," Shellhammer says. "That has been the driving force in our own design."
Receives Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual from uncle for Christmas; discovers first style icon
Sees the band Erasure in concert in the front row; falls in love with glitter and feathers
Meets Fab cofounder Jason Goldberg on the dance floor at NYC's Roxy
Moves to San Francisco to start working at FIDM critiquing student portfolios
Graduates from Parsons with a degree in fashion design; hates sewing and sketching and decides not to enter the fashion world
Opens retail stores for Design Within Reach and Blu Dot
Pivots old business idea for Fabulis, a social network for gay men; writes business plan for Fab.com with Goldberg on a restaurant napkin
Meets design gurus Milton Glaser and Dieter Rams in the same week
Fab.com hits 3.5 million members and 1.2 million products sold
Illustration by Peter Sucheski
A version of this article appears in the June 2012 issue of Fast Company.