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The End of Cardboard Forts?

Today alone, I'm waiting for deliveries from UPS, USPS, and Amazon. As a testament to how much cardboard and packaging I receive, I managed to ship all my ecommerce orders for Holiday 2020 without buying anything except packing tape. It was approximately 90 shipments.

Enter: Olive. The anti-cardboard box fulfillment company.

“Olive is on a mission to reduce waste and improve the experience of shopping online. Right now, with our consolidated, cardboard-free deliveries, we're putting a significant dent in carbon emissions. We believe that big impact starts with small steps, and one day we aim to completely eliminate single-use packaging from e-commerce.”

Olive was founded by Nate Faust who previously founded … and sold it to Walmart for $3.3 billion. Over the last decade plus, he’s watched ecommerce trend to faster shipping and potentially for little actual need. Do we really need those resistance bands from Amazon in two days or less? Maybe not. Faust is creating a new value proposition with Olive:

  • Consumers? Less cardboard forts in their mudrooms and easier returns.

  • Brands? Differentiated access channel for customers. Potential shipping efficiency.

  • Environment? Save on last mile carbon emissions and packaging resources.

But let’s think a little more broadly. I believe there is a wide range in potential for a company like Olive:

  • Compelling channel for newer brands looking for discoverability. This could come from the marketplace angle (e.g. stores selling gym shorts).

  • Samples in shipments. Olive will know a lot about customers - and know which samples a customer is more likely to act on. Think Birchbox samples but for Olive boxes

  • Current retail focus is on fashion… so perhaps partner with one of the sizing companies? (e.g Truefit) Why not be alerted that the size you have in your cart might not be the best one for you?

  • Anything that is received with regularity or on a schedule. Think essentially subscribe & save via Amazon. CPG brands are not part of the initial Olive offering, but could be a natural extension.

  • Shift to be more of a marketplace with promotions. Think like Rakuten with cash back for specific stores. (E.g. 10% extra off exclusive to Olive)

The shopping process is very reminiscent of Honey / Rakuten / RetailMeNot. As a consumer, you can either go to the Olive website and see the retailers, or be alerted to affiliated retailer via a Chrome plugin. Once you get to the checkout page, you simply need to click a button in the plugin and your work is done. (see my Miro board for additional screenshots of this flow). At this point in ecommerce, many customers are already well-educated on plugins, especially the type of customer that will be aware of Olive in these early market stages.

As a consumer, this is a wildly low risk situation. There are no additional fees either for a delivery or for an account. You can seemingly still collect all your loyalty points and credit while consolidating deliveries. If the environmental impact of Olive doesn’t sway customers perhaps package theft will. Porch pirates are a trend that no longer limits itself to city life. The security and predictability of an Olive delivery could be incredibly compelling.

Currently, there are 43 brands offering free shipping + returns on Olive. I’m willing to bet that this number increases especially as retailers continue to deal with the challenges of bracket shopping.

Am I Olive Eligible?

Olive "Marketplace"

Olive Shopping Experience


Are these problems that you are trying to solve for your business? Or maybe you just like to talk about eCommerce and digital strategies? Let’s talk.

This post can also be found on my Substack.



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