As pointed out in this article in yesterday's TechCrunch, yet another company, Away, is pursuing the D2C business model -- another instance of the evolution of eCommerce from eCommerce 1.0 to eCommerce 2.0.
The article cites WarbyParker & Casper. Hem.com is another very interesting eCommerce 2.0 company, distributing a growing, full-stack (i.e., Hem designs, manufactures and ships its own, Hem-branded products directly to end-user customers), proprietary (i.e., you can only get Hem products from Hem) selection of furniture and home furnishings (note: Hem is one of my "Sherpa" companies).
eCommerce 1.0 was, essentially, taking paper catalogs and putting them online. The eCommerce merchant served the same purpose as offline retailers: aggregating products made by third parties and selling them through a more efficient distribution channel. Goods sold this way were often, but not always, sold at lower prices, because fewer parties were involved in the distribution chain, so fewer markups took place between the manufacturer and the end customer. Amazon is the canonical example of this.
eCommerce 1.0 had multiple benefits over offline retail in addition to (frequently) lower costs. These included broader selection (the experience was like being able to search the entire warehouse, not just the 2,500 square foot store on Main Street), search tools, online configuration tools, etc., etc., etc.
But, eCommerce 1.0 was still a multi-level distribution business, with the retailer buying the products from third parties and putting them through a more efficient distribution chain. Thus, the fundamental margin structure of eCommerce 1.0 businesses continued to be analogous to those of offline retailers -- because each of the manufacturer and the distributor (the eCommerce merchant) had to make significant margins (because they were separate businesses), eCommerce 1.0 businesses soon hit their own cost barriers.
eCommerce 2.0 companies, like Hem, WarbyParker, Casper and Away (and others) have large margin advantages over non-integrated merchants because they capture all the margin between the sourcing of the product and the shipping of the product to the end customer. This explains the growing number of companies being formed to pursue the eCommerce 2.0 model.
Many eCommerce 1.0 merchants are adopting eCommerce 2.0 strategies. Amazon sells an increasing number of Amazon-branded products, on which it, presumably, makes better margins, as does eBags, the original eCommerce 1.0 merchant that was the spiritual precursor of Away. Offline merchants, particularly grocery stores, have tried this strategy with own-branded or plain generic products, but have not focused on it as an exclusive strategy.
Interesting that an offline presence is creeping back into the eCommerce 2.0 mix. WarbyParker has a growing number of stores, and Hem is planning pop up stores in selected cities as the business grows. These efforts start as ways to contribute to the marketing efforts, but can -- e.g., Apple Stores --- grow to become an integral part of the model. But, even these offline efforts are still eCommerce 2.0-related, because they only offer products made by the merchant themselves (e.g., Apple Stores vs. Best Buy stores).