NOTE: GrowthBeat -- VentureBeat's provocative new marketing-tech event -- is next week! We've gathered the best and brightest to explore the data, apps, and science of successful marketing. Get the full scoop here, and grab your tickets while they last.
Everyone in Silicon Valley likes to throw around the old “that company is the new Pets.com” line. (It even appears on the cover of August’s Vanity Fair.) Now there really is one: Wag.com has gone live, 11 years after Pets.com went to the same place your pet goldfish went. (RIP, sock puppy mascot.)
Wag.com comes to us from Quidsi, the folks behind diapers.com (baby care) and soap.com (household goods). Quidsi is one of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce companies, thanks to its e-commerce experience and replenishment business model. The items Quidsi sells are the ones you always need to buy, plus a few others you don’t need but impulsively get.
Quidsi sites are easy to navigate. As an online shopping mom, I’ve always appreciated that their shopping carts are just as easy to unload as they are to load. The company offers customer service around the clock, making it possible to get help returning a stroller at 2am (new mom, screaming baby, don’t ask). Then there’s 1-2 day shipping. This is a godsend for home-bound new parents changing lots of diapers.
Wag.com is just as stocked and accessible as Quidsi’s other sites. It boasts 10,000 products, 24/7 customer care, and “1 place for all things pets.”
The problem — for Wag.com — is it also offers that famous 1-2 day shipping on any orders over $49, including 50 lb. bags of dog food and 30 lb. boxes of kitty litter. There are also aquariums for sale, cat “furniture” (dibs on that for my next band name) and other items that may cost more to ship than they’re worth.
Shipping was Pets.com’s soft underbelly. The company, founded in 1998, had to undercharge for shipping costs to attract customers, so it actually lost money on most of the items it sold. In 2000 Amazon.com-backed Pets.com raised $82.5 million in an IPO. The company shut down nine months later.
And this is where Amazon.com comes in once again. In November 2010 Amazon announced its acquisition of Quidsi for $540 million (part of that includes the fact that Amazon assumed about $45 million in debt and similar obligations). The deal finally closed in April 2011 after an extended review by the Federal Trade Commission (Amazon and Diapers were the two biggest diaper sellers in the country). Wag.com is Amazon’s new Pets.com.
Amazon’s luck with online pet shops hasn’t been, er, lucky. Let’s see if they can figure out the shipping dilemma. In the meantime, please comment on your pet product buying behaviors.