Do you ever wonder how we functioned before the Internet? Imagine booking travel, shopping for real estate or sending flowers before being able to do so with a click on your keyboard. Do you even remember how it was done?
While it has been disruptive for less than two decades, the pervasiveness of online shopping has made e-commerce feel like it’s been around for a whole lot longer. When Marc Andreessen introduced the first widely distributed web browser in the early 1990s, it was only a matter of time before the platform became monetized. No one remembers the companies who started it all, paving the way for the likes of First Virtual and CyberCash, but everyone knows eBay and Amazon, the ones who scaled, disrupted market spaces, and broke the mold. There’s no doubt they’ve kept innovation as a key component to their business model, but young upstarts are creeping in behind them with new groundbreaking models.
The Fancy  is a great example of such an upstart . It has combined the commerce power of Amazon, the curated, social sharing model of Pinterest, and the visual-forward format of Tumblr. Founder Joe Einhorn is betting on the power of social sharing and sees a significant new segment of e-commerce where accidental discovery is as popular as deliberate search. Einhorn understands the significance of our visual society and the level of influence peers and aspiration groups have on our purchase decisions. He has created a company that plays homage to those human characteristics, and he’s betting that what Facebook did for people, Fancy will do for objects.
I’m naturally drawn to people, brands, and companies that realize opportunities and solve challenges through a careful combination of simplicity, common sense, and determination. Breaking the mold is just one thing Fancy gets right; here are a few more observations:
The visually designed user-experience of many e-commerce sites can be uninspired and uninteresting. Fancy is a design-forward site and builds on the human inclination to be attracted to beautiful things by developing a magazine-style layout with a clean aesthetic. This design-forward layout lends itself to working seamlessly with the world’s most beautiful brands, such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Stella McCartney, and Alexander McQueen, which not only use the platform, but partner with it .
Fancy is curated by its users, a cool-hunting, trend-forward bunch. Each of the 150 million objects currently on Fancy have been added by users who find things they like--and would want to purchase--anywhere on the Internet. And it doesn’t hurt to have tastemakers like Kanye West, Bar Refaeli, Ashton Kutcher, Salma Hayek, Pharrell Williams, Diddy, Carmelo Anthony, Chef Tyler Florence, Rick Ross, Lauren Santo Domingo, DA Wallach, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Cook using the site either.
Fancy is fully exploiting the power of the personal influencer through one of their most recent updates, which allows users to, in effect, create their own online retail store. Anything that can be sold online can be added to Fancy, and now anything that can be added to Fancy can be sold in your own personal Fancy shop. And the best part? The shop owner makes a commission for every sale, allowing every user to become powerful affiliate marketers.
I’m not sure Fancy can actually replace sites like Amazon, but with disruptive models, upstarts like Fancy will either steal, share, or drive Amazon to invent their own version of Fancy. Will you pick your next book to read based on what Kanye West is reading? Will you purchase diapers because they pop up in your following feed? Or will you continue to listen to the likes of Amazon?
Watching how Fancy performs during this year’s holiday season will be very telling. What do you Fancy?
Shawn Parr is the The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond , an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND .
[Image: Flickr user Will Luo ]