2023 Startups 100 | Ecommerce shortlist and award winner

Meet our five nominees for this year’s ecommerce award, and find out how they’ll be shaping the future of online shopping in 2023.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

We’ve become accustomed to a world where every item we need or want can be sent straight to our doorsteps at the click of a button. There's simply no going back from the ecommerce revolution.

But, such commercial convenience has not sprung from nowhere. It’s made possible by thousands of online stores, depots, workers and couriers, as well as the web-based tools that now live within our laptops and mobile phones. All of these elements are aimed at making online sales simple and accessible to all.

It hasn’t been entirely smooth. Industry megaliths such as Amazon have made big money and grim headlines by pushing the limits of ethical business practices to breaking point. But this year’s Startups 100 Index shows the many new businesses are looking to switch up the narrative with game changing shopping and shipping solutions.

Alongside guest judge, Deann Evans, Director of EMEA Expansion at Shopify, we’ve picked out the top five firms we think are set to make radio waves in the ecommerce space. Read on to find out more about their ingenious ideas – and see which tops the podium for 2023.

Deann Evans - Shopify
Introducing Startups 100 guest judge, Deann Evans

Deann Evans’ career spans over two decades in ecommerce and SaaS leadership roles. She currently oversees the European expansion of Shopify, the global commerce platform powering millions of modern, high-growth brands including Gymshark and Huel. This role enables Evans to empower merchants through Shopify’s substantial partners and developer community.

WINNER: Packfleet

Packfleet

Startups 100 WINNER
2023 Startups 100 | Winner of the Ecommerce award

In recognition of the business showing evidence of genuine innovation in the competitive ecommerce space to support seamless consumer experience.

Learn more about Packfleet

Each of our fantastic nominees put in a thoroughly convincing pitch, but they were a few carats short of gold. Instead, it's the top-notch delivery service, Packfleet that takes the ecommerce throne!

Today’s online consumers want the cheapest and fastest shipping they can get their mouse on – often at the expense of the gig economy worker who makes it possible. Cost-cutting at legacy couriers has left drivers and warehouse teams vulnerable to layoffs, real-terms pay cuts, and constant surveillance over their performance.

Putting them all to shame, Packfleet is a new, ethical delivery service launched to reverse the trend and give recipients, merchants, and drivers a better overall experience.

“Packfleet's pending status as a B Corp and fair wages shows its commitment to sustainability and society,” Evans comments.

The startup promises to pay staff a decent rate with proper employment benefits, alongside offering cheaper, emissions-free deliveries. As a result, independent sellers can still use the service to compete with Amazon’s monopoly power.

While still a small company, Packfleet already serves over 100 ecommerce merchants. Combined with 0% churn and 30% MoM growth, it will likely take on a lot more in 2023.

Packfleet’s mission statement chimes particularly well with Evans, who works on supporting small and local businesses everyday at Shopify. “Independent retailers need to meet consumers' delivery expectations which is difficult to do without scale,” she says. “Packfleet is giving them this advantage.”

Runner Up: The Modern Milkman

Modern Milkman

Plenty of ecommerce organisations – the eBay auction house being one – have found success by putting a spin on a traditional, pre-internet concept. The Modern Milkman is no different, taking an old-school idea and giving it a 21st century makeover to facilitate effortless online ordering for a range of everyday groceries.

Flexibility is a big pull-factor. Unlike other repeat-subscription services, which bind users into rigid contracts, Modern Milkman’s tech platform connects independent suppliers with customers so they can amend orders up to 8pm the night before. Plus, all groceries are delivered in entirely compostable and recyclable packaging.

They started small, but the founders are now far from a local milk round, having rapidly expanded to multiple UK regions and even abroad, saving an estimated 50 million plastic bottles from landfill so far.

It’s certainly a refreshing business model for Evans, who assesses the company’s vision to reduce single-use cartons as “really resonating with consumers. I'm impressed with the founders' business model evolution from milk round to innovating the grocery supply chain while keeping customer experience at the core of the business.”

Runner Up: Intelistyle

Intelistyle

Computers are already replacing human workers at an incredible rate in industries like retail, manufacturing, and even medicine. Now, our AI friends have another career path to choose from: personal stylist.

Intelistyle’s clever tool uses artificial intelligence to analyse the latest catwalk photography and social media. By understanding the latest fashion trends, plus the customer’s style, preferences and unique needs, it produces instant and free recommendations from their wardrobe and retail partners to complete a user’s dream look.

Having won an Innovate UK grant to further develop the AI technology, Intelistyle has already partnered with major fashion brands – including H&M, D&G, Tommy Hilfiger, and Yoox Net-a-Porter – to bring better product discovery experiences to their users.

Evans takes her hat off to Intelistyle’s innovative product, expressing particular excitement for the benefits it could bring to online clothes retailers this year. “In today's economy,” she says, “consumers are more conscious of how they spend money. The Intelistyle-powered recommendations will help consumers purchase the right products for them.”

Runner Up: RevLifter

Revlifter

Are you a fifty-year-old man receiving promotions for maternity wear? Or a Londoner being given in-store discounts for a shop in Glasgow? Never fear; RevLifter is here to defend web users from the too-common issue of irrelevant online advertising.

With its intelligent software, the startup uses behavioural data to stop the spam and instead, tailor marketing to an individual’s unique shopping habits. Using this method, RevLifter can issue hyper-personalised offers at every touch point, meaning clients get more revenue, customers, and conversion rates in one.

RevLifter is providing gold-dust information for growth in ecommerce conversions. And, helpfully, every campaign is displayed via a centralised hub where RevLifter partners (like boohoo, ASOS, AT&T, Clark's and John Lewis) can visualise the many bottom-line benefits of the service.

“Consumers expect relevancy throughout every touchpoint with their favourite brands,” points out Evans. “Revlifter’s customer results demonstrate the ability of hyper-personalisation and deep customer understanding to drive growth for brands in ecommerce.”

Runner Up: Anansi

Anansi

Here’s a fact you might not be aware of: on average, only 10% of all goods-in-transit are insured. While the ecommerce sector has boomed in recent years, insurance providers haven’t kept up, leaving sellers with fragile defences to protect them against lost, damaged, or delayed parcels.

Anansi’s goods-in-transit insurance platform has arrived to bandage up the issue, armed with a full roll of parcel tape and a digital, streamlined customer claims experience. Claims are automatically triggered based on predefined time thresholds, so customers don't have to worry about fiddly paperwork or endless phone calls chasing for a refund.

Founders Megan Bingham-Walker and Ana Martins De Carvalho both say the positive feedback received from prospective merchants shows a real need for thorough, simplified insurance claims.

Our ecommerce expert, Evans agrees. She praises the motivation behind Anansi for “solving a complex and costly problem for independent businesses. The impressive team clearly has deep commerce experience and is building a mission-driven and inclusive company.”

How important is an online presence for startups today?

We’ve highlighted five businesses that are rejuvenating the ecommerce space with fresh, customer-focused ideas. But the truth is that every firm – regardless of industry or sales model – needs an online presence to thrive in a society where almost every audience is logged on.

More on this – See our guide on How to Start an Online Store

As Evans elaborates, “it is critical for startups to build their presence wherever their customers are – whether that’s in store, online or through newer channels like social. It is where they can share their story and mission, and get discovered by potential customers and investors.”

Of course, a paradox emerges. As more businesses move online, it becomes harder for emerging firms to stand out in a crowded internet marketplace that’s filled with branding, ads, and promotions.

Online purchases are set to make up 20.8% of sales in 2023. Startups asks Evans: how can ecommerce businesses get a chunk of the pie and continue to scale – particularly in the current period of permacrisis?

Today’s sellers might be charting new cyberspace waters. But Evans’ reply is an age-old retail idiom: keep the customer satisfied.

“Brands must keep customer experience at the heart of everything they do,” says Evans. “Customers want direct relationships with business, whether that’s consumer-facing or B2B. The brands and businesses that connect to their consumers to build long term relationships and loyal communities are those who will win in the new era for commerce.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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