It is time to break free, say Kausambi Manjita and Barada Sahu, the co-founders of e-commerce platform Mason, which is today announcing a $7.5 million seed funding round. E-commerce businesses all around the world can do better with their own online stores than by tying themselves to Amazon, the founders argue.
Mason’s hypothesis is that millions of e-commerce retailers are on Amazon largely because they appreciate the fact that the marketplace’s technology makes it easier to run their businesses. “Thanks to solutions such as Shopify it’s pretty straightforward to launch an online store, but actually running it is much more difficult,” says Manjita. “That’s why retailers feel they need Amazon’s support.”
However, there are real problems with the Amazon route, Mason argues. First, it’s very costly – retailers are handing over as much as 35% of their sales through the marketplace in what Sahu describes as an “Amazon tax”. The second issue is that it is very easy to get lost in the crowd on Amazon’s marketplace; it gets millions of visitors, but there is no guarantee any of them will find their way to your store.
This is why Mason advocates a standalone store approach. And the company claims its platform can give e-commerce businesses the simplicity and functionality they crave, without having to go through Amazon.
Broadly, its services sit under three pillars: merchandising, sales and promotion, and personalisation. In each of these areas, Mason runs a suite of tools to help businesses drive sales – to convert more site visitors into paying customers and to increase the amount they spend.
The platform offers both diagnostic support and recommendations, adds Sahu. “We can give you the data to tell you how you’re performing – how long people are staying on your site, for example, or where they’re stepping back from making a purchase,” she explains. “We also offer ‘playbooks’, which are essentially strategies for improving that performance, tailored to your business and the type of customers it serves.”
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If that sounds too good to be true, Mason has statistics which suggests its approach can drive value. It has already signed up around 1,000 companies, which are seeing significant benefits from deploying the platform. Average order value rises by an average of 23% 30 days after deployment, Mason says, while session time rises 17% over the same period, and sales are up 35% after 60 days.
In addition to those uplifts, Mason points to its cost advantages. Retailers typically pay 0.25% of each purchase made using its infrastructure – a fee far removed from Amazon’s rates.
It’s a proposition that appears to be working. Mason’s customer numbers are now growing at a rate of 15% a month, even before it has invested in sales and marketing support. The platform targets relatively established e-commerce retailers, rather than start-ups still trying to find the right market for their products, and then helps them to grow more aggressively.
“We are changing the game,” says Manjita. “Most brands are left with no option but to sell at marketplaces like Amazon and pay 35c for every dollar simply because running a profitable standalone direct-to-consumer store is just too hard. By democratising access to a complex tech stack, from data-driven merchandising, to sales automation, to personalisation, we are helping more entrepreneurs to stay independent.
Investors like the business too. Today’s funding round is led by Accel and Ideaspring Capital, with participation from Lightspeed India Partners as well as Mana VC, Gaingels, Core91 and VH Capital. “In order to build a truly scalable outcome, the team is on a journey to create a self-serve platform wherein e-commerce brand owners could create, communicate and grow,” says Accel partner Subrata Mitra. “An upside to this: it allows them to go global.”
Certainly, Mason’s new capital gives it the power to step up its go-to-market activities. Until now, the company has largely been focused on product development. “Now we feel we have the right product, it’s time to invest in evangelising it,” adds Manjita.