Thrive Market isn’t just a pure play e-tailer. It’s a social experiment that combines e-commerce with an authentic commitment to social change, according to Gunner Lovelace, the company’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, who spoke during a Fast Company session last week at Shop.org in Los Angeles.
The online subscription service’s mission to sell name brand natural and organic products at affordable prices was shaped early on by its inability to secure venture capital funding, said Mr. Lovelace. Thrive had to rely on 150 bloggers or “influencers” to raise $10 million in capital. The number of influencers with a stake in promoting Thrive’s mission has grown to 500 today.
Mr. Lovelace said that consumers no longer trust traditional sources of information. “Working with influencers has taught us that content equals marketing and marketing equals content,” he said.
Mr. Lovelace said that consumers want to be able to buy “super high quality” products at a good price. Beyond that, however, they want those products and the companies they do business with to represent their personal values. This gives consumers the ability to “do something” while living in a politically dysfunctional world.
Thrive’s goal, Mr. Lovelace said, is to radically transform access to the products it sells. The e-tailer offers a free subscription to a family in need with every annual membership it sells. Customers may also donate some of their savings on orders directly into the shopping carts of Thrive Gives families.
From its beginning in 2014, Mr. Lovelace said that Thrive has seen “information overload” as a core challenge to breaking through in the market. The e-tailer has focused on “hypercuration – not trying to out Amazon Amazon” in order to be “an authentic, trusted source” for its customers. Instead of carrying 20 types of laundry detergent, for example, Thrive carries two.
Ultimately, Thrive’s success is a combination of science and art with all “data and storytelling go hand in hand,” according to Mr. Lovelace. In the end, he said, “It’s all relationship marketing.”