Future Commerce Releases 2nd Annual Nine by Nine Report, Celebrating 81 Brands That Are Changing Our World

Future Commerce, the retail media research startup focused on helping eCommerce businesses create strategic vision, announced today the release of its second annual Nine by Nine report, which celebrates 81 innovative brands, retailers, services and collective organizations across nine categories that define what makes a brand meaningful to today’s consumer.

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“The fact is that customers are returning to in-store purchases, and nascent brands will have to become omnichannel in order to meet customers where they are.”

This year’s report explores the nature of the customer who, after relying on eCommerce to meet her needs during the pandemic, has returned to brick and mortar. There she discovers more direct-to-consumer brands on the shelf than ever before. She also finds an explosion of private labels occupying an ever-growing amount of space. When she does shop online, she finds that DTC brands are engaging in more channels than ever before. Not only are brands omnichannel, now so are their customers.

“Claims about the size and scale of the eCommerce digital shift during the pandemic were grossly overstated,” says Phillip Jackson, co-founder of Future Commerce. “The fact is that customers are returning to in-store purchases, and nascent brands will have to become omnichannel in order to meet customers where they are.”

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Upon conducting this report, nine recurrent themes bubbled during our pandemic year:

  1. DTC Comes of Age. Digitally native brands that have outgrown the “DTC” moniker and evolved into full-on omnichannel retail. Skims, the official undergarment brand of the US Olympic team, and NOBULL epitomize the DTCers who have come of age.
  2. Inclusive. Brands that embrace — and provide products for — every person, regardless of gender, size, income level, or skin condition. Rihanna became a billionaire due to her highly successful inclusive beauty brand, Fenty. Girlfriend Collective is worth celebrating for it’s marketplace of ethical and size-inclusive brands.
  3. Putting the C in CX. Every brand talks about putting the customer first, these brands actually do it in ways that are meaningful to the consumer, like CAMP, which built a toy store for its customers to play in.
  4. Niche Marketplaces. Curated marketplaces, like Radical Girl Gang, handpick brands for their audiences so that their customers get the most important and best stuff available.
  5. Private Label “Grails.” Certain private labels, like Target’s Cat & Jack™ and Hearth & Hand™, have hit upon the Holy Grail: products that are better than branded ones, and more affordable, too. Customers love them.
  6. Metaverse as Mall. These are the brands — Etherum, Discord, Bored Ape Yacht Club — that combine to replicate real life, digitally. They power the metaverse economy and various communities, and provide consumers with a sense of purpose while there.
  7. Can’t Afford Real Life Yet (C.A.R.L.Y.). Last year’s report introduced CARLY, but the pandemic has changed her a bit. She still cares about social justice, but now she identifies with what she buys. She still doesn’t have a lot of money, but she’ll spring for a gender-neutral handbag from Telfar.
  8. Performance Art as Commerce. These brands leverage absurdism to make their voices heard, and their operators fall into three operating modes: artists, auteurs, and anarchists. The perfect example of this category: Elon Musk, The PT Barnum of performance art.
  9. Wellness. Wellness continues to take front-and-center of our psyches, but the category is expanding into new horizons. The Alma marketplace is making it easy for people to find mental health services, while Apple is fighting child pornography. Walmart is launching health clinics in thousands of its superstores, and doing more to ensure consumers have access to healthcare that all of our politicians combined.

“Customer expectations pre-pandemic were focused on delivery speed and brand promise. Now, as we face supply chain and inventory challenges, we find that the customer’s expectations are focused on price and availability,” says Brian Lange, co-founder of Future Commerce.

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