how French Tech unicorns live on the Amazon

To find a place in the e-commerce sector, you need to manage to interact with the inevitable ogre Amazon. A task far from obvious, as the American giant is showing huge leadership on many levels. A lead he is also keen to maintain, even if it means using skills within the limits of competition rules.

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Where historical players like Fnac-Darty or Cdiscount are trying to keep up with Amazon in the same area of ​​business, French Tech nuggets are trying to go to areas still not occupied by Jeff Bezos ’company. With success, because they manage to convince investors of the potential of their activity. As a result, 5 out of 25 unicorns (unlisted startups worth at least $ 1 billion) in the French ecosystem have found their place in e-commerce.

To reach this prestigious threshold, two approaches stand out. On the one hand, ManoMano, Vestiaire Collective and Back Market have settled into niches abandoned by Amazon. On the other hand, Ankorstore and Mirakl show larger ambitions: to give merchants the tools they can do without the American giant.

Treading on the gaps left by Amazon

Vestiaire Collective (2009), ManoMano (2013) and Back Market (2014) are three marketplaces (or “marketplace” in jargon), i.e., platforms similar in appearance to Amazon, in relation between vendors and end customer. Aside from the merits, each of them has found its success in a sector that has been neglected or not yet monopolized by the American giant.

Vestiaire Collective organizes the purchase and sale of second-hand luxury products between individuals. In other words, the startup has digitized a second-hand market which Amazon never launched, but which is still occupied by other leaders like eBay.

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But with its relatively narrow positioning – expensive clothing and accessories – and numerous fundraisers, Vestiaire Collective has dug a hole in it. For the French nugget, the threat is more called Vinted, a Lithuanian platform created last year, positioned on a wider spectrum of second-hand products, but it eats up market share in luxury.

For their part, ManoMano’s French connects DIY product sellers with end customers on their platform. More technological than the historical players in the sector (Leroy Merlin, Castorama …), but endowed with more specialized business expertise than Amazon and others, ManoMano has succeeded in building a niche. From now on, it must maintain its leadership both on the technological side and on the business side to maintain its position as the leader of Europe.

Finally, the Back Market bet on the reconditioned market, these second-hand products are sorted before they are sold. A market still neglected by Amazon, which is content to offer a range of second-hand or simply unpacked products. French startup aggregates offer offers from well-known brands and those from independent sellers to present them to customers.

Ankorstore and Mirakl want to enable online life without Amazon

Unlike the three mentioned examples, Mirakl and Ankorstore are not aimed at end customers. Their targets were merchants, where the two French champions presented themselves as tools to do without Amazon.

One of the great strengths of the American giant is that it offers a large catalog of products, and large volumes that allow it to lower prices for customers. For brands that want to go online, this problem of catalog diversity can be a real obstacle.

This is where Ankorstore enters, which achieved unicorn status with a mega-fundraising of 250 million euros on January 10. The young shoot has developed a marketplace specializing in wholesale purchases, where stores-online or not -will be able to buy products at lucrative prices to diversify their offer.

The startup aims to “reinvent the retail market by leveling the playing field, allowing independent retailers to thrive and compete with e-commerce and mass distribution giants“.

The company thinks of itself as a counter-power, which will give small businesses the possibility to offer a wide range of products at prices close to Amazon and other golgoths.

For its part, Mirakl didn’t hide its positioning as a successor to Amazon, and even made it a selling point. Publisher of a marketplace creation software, unicorn allows any business to create its own online sales platform. Where Ankorstore aims to bridge product offering differences, Mirakl strives to narrow the technological gap with the industry giant.

And for good reason: few companies have a way to build a customized marketplace that will work well, let alone compete with Amazon. Mirakl therefore offers a full range of tools – and more or less extensive development support – to its customers to create an effective marketplace.

Result: in just a few months, Mirakl can support a company in creating its own marketplace. Its technology is behind the Darty, Auchan, Galeries Lafayette and Leroy Merlin platforms.

Not to mention having to beat Amazon, the two unicorns allow a relatively large number of players to develop alternative options and not rely on the Seattle monster.

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