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Innovator Profile: Shelfleet Enables Online Brands To Expand into the Physical Retail Channel


The Coresight Research team will attend and participate in this year’s Groceryshop conference, which will be held on September 19–22, 2022, in Las Vegas, US. Groceryshop 2022 will explore the changing grocery landscape and help businesses navigate the rapid rise in e-commerce, the latest business models and technologies, and the shifting consumer behaviors that are impacting the industry.

On September 19, 2022, Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research, will emcee and feature on the judging panel of Groceryshop 2022’s “Shark Reef” startup pitch competition, which will see 12 early-stage innovators compete to win the Judges’ Choice and Audience Choice awards. In the lead-up to the event, we are profiling the participating innovators. 

This report forms part of our Innovator Profile series, which focuses on emerging technologies that are disrupting traditional retail and fuelling innovation across the retail value chain. We present Shelfleet, an online platform that has developed a shelf and wall rental program to connect independent brands to local retailers. Coresight Research collaborated with Shelfleet to offer insights into its capabilities and offerings. 

Areas of Innovation

Coresight Research categorizes the 12 participating innovators into three areas of innovation in retail: fulfillment and sustainability; product marketing and merchandising; and AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning) and automation. Shelfleet falls under “product marketing and merchandising.”

Brands and retailers are increasingly finding innovative ways to expand their marketing reach and brand awareness. Advances in retail technology and accessibility to shopper data are supporting omnichannel marketing and merchandising strategies to achieve growth.

Shelfleet: In Detail 




Austin, Texas, US 

Funding Stage 

Total funding raised: Undisclosed  

Company Description

Shelfleet’s online marketing platform allows independent DNVBs to expand into the physical retail channel by partnering with local retailers to sell their products. The shelf and wall rental program connects online brands with local brick-and-mortar retailers that have underutilized shelf or wall space in their storefronts. 

Brands can currently pre-register for Shelfleet’s shelf and wall rental program, where they enter information about their company, including their retail vertical, and wait to get matched with local retailers. By participating, independent brands can increase brand awareness and generate income from physical stores, while retailers can bring in new income streams and increase interest and store traffic in their physical locations with the addition of new products. 

Source: Company website
Source: Company website


What Problem Is the Company Solving?

While pandemic-induced lockdowns has recently bolstered the rise of DNVBs, a return to pre-pandemic shopping behaviors and increased store traffic in physical stores has led to a slowdown in traffic on many DNVBs’ websites. While many of these brands want to diversify into physical channels, high overhead costs alongside the high costs associated with leasing make it hard for them to do so. By using Shelfleet’s platform, these brands can place and sell their products in physical retailers’ stores while avoiding such costs. The rental program also allows them to test a store’s fit for their product (to find appropriate locations that resonate with target consumers, for example) with low commitment. 

Unlike online brands with digital ecosystems, physical retailers must continuously find ways to attract shoppers to their stores. Additionally, high rent prices put more pressure on physical retailers. By connecting with local brands, retailers can introduce fresh products from local brands into their stores, extending their reach to new types of shoppers or increasing the basket size of existing shoppers, by using their underutilized shelf or wall space. 

Market Opportunity 

There has been a surge in DNVB (digitally native vertical brand) launches in the US—we have seen around 50 set up in the food, beverage and snacks category over the last decade—and we expect DNVBs to continue to proliferate. While the longer-term trend sees online retail sales comprising a higher proportion of total retail sales, we expect more DNVBs to expand into physical stores in order to increase their presence across more channels and differentiate themselves from competitors. 

As digital and physical retail become more intertwined, online brands and physical retailers can work together and leverage each other’s existing infrastructure to create a better omnichannel experience for their shoppers.

What We Think

We believe that the trend in rise of DNVBs is likely to continue, despite a recent slowdown in web traffic. These brands should look to adopt a more omnichannel model that generates income from diverse streams. 

Retailers with high costs of leasing and underutilized space should look to partner with online brands to generate a new income stream while introducing new products to their store to capture and retain shopper interest in their physical stores.