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Top Trends From Our eCommerce Event [Amsterdam, March 2023]

Top Trends From Our eCommerce Event [Amsterdam, March 2023]

Blog Summary

This blog post discusses key takeaways from an eCommerce Aggregation event in Amsterdam. It covers topics such as the current acquisition status, the focus on niche or broad categories, the importance of brand founders in the brand's success, goals for 2023, and the potential for mergers of aggregators. The post also mentions an upcoming conference in New York focused on eCommerce M&A.

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Key Takeaways From The eCommerce Acquiror Conference – NY 2024

Summary

Our 2024 eCommerce Acquiror Conference took place Jan 16th in New York, hosting eCommerce acquirors and eCommerce operational experts from around the world. The agenda was to discuss key trends driving eCommerce valuations and discuss operational areas within eCommerce acquirors. We thank our title sponsor Airwallex and all our other sponsors for making this great event a success and we look forward to seeing you all and some new faces at our next annual eCommerce Acquiror Conference.

1.eCommerce Environment

Participants: Furhaan Khan at UBS, Bill Pecoriello, CEO at Consumer Edge.

Key Takeaways:

  • UBS and Consumer Edge kicked off discussions reviewing the macro landscape impacting eCommerce valuations.
  • Based on public company comparables, eCommerce valuations have softened. Consumers spend is forecasted to transition from post covid high sectors such as travel however consumer spend in general remains subdued by caution towards inflation and interest rates.
  • Medium view (2025-2027) is that M&A volumes will be expected to increase once again as inflation starts to curb and the cost of capital stabilizes.

2.Acquirors

Participants:

Session 1 Panellists:

    • Philipp Triebel, CEO at SellerX.
    • Mark Goldfinger, VP of Growth at unybrands.
    • Ben Cogan, Co-Founder at Agora.
  • Insight provided separately by Tushar Ahluwalia, CEO of Razor, who have a successful record in consolidation of aggregators [Stryze & Valoreo].

 

Session 2 Panellists:

  • WTB Co-CEOs, Jaschar Hupperth and Nicolai von Enzberg.
  • Olsam Group Co-Founders: Ollie and Sam Horbye.

Key Takeaways:

  • Announcing 2 New Mergers Of Aggregators: The Fortia Group was proud to announce the merger of We The Brands and Mantaro Brands, two German based aggregators, a deal that The Fortia Group had been appointed M&A advisors.Weeks before the conference the eCommerce world learned about the successful merger between Olsam Group [UK based] and Dwarfs [NL based].It was noted that while these are logical strategic moves and something many in the aggregation space will be considering, these deals do take longer due to the complex nature of appeasing a larger group of shareholders. Deal timelines were from 6 to 12 months in duration.

 

  • Consolidation (MoA) and Acquisition Trends: Acquirors in the space are communicating more discussing topics and solutions to issued being created. Consolidation within the market is an important topic.The macro implications of cost of capital in the current environment consolidation are a lot more complex than straight M&A due to the fact they are share deals with limited cash changing hands.The main reason for consolidations are as follows:
    • Strengthening Balance Sheet
    • Scale
    • Cash
    • Leverage
    • Group EBITDA

 

  • Challenges of Market Conditions: Panellists discuss the challenges faced over the past year, including lower consumer spending due to inflation, pressure on margins, the rise in interest rates, and the general move towards a survival mode among companies.
  • Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Focus: The preference for DTC over Amazon (FBA) due to control over customer data, customer support, marketing, and the overall customer experience (CX) is emphasized.Amazon remains a focus, but many are becoming more interested in diversifying into DTC or gain back more control through this channel, particularly as increasing Amazon operational fees are forecasted for 2024.

 

  • Integration of AI and Technology: eCommerce players have a range of tools available to help them achieve success in the markets.AI is delivering solutions for cost savings removing resource requirement on content, customer service benefits by reducing SLA’s pricing and demand planning.

 

3.Acquisitions

Participants: Alex Lukashov, CEO at Fintent, Muddy Mat, Johannes Rossner [on behalf of Alpin Loacker and BBG), Daniel Mc Carthy, Co-Founder at Theta, Paul Hanley, Co-Founder at The Fortia Group and Withum CPAs.

 

  • Our Shark Tank Brands Were A Big Success:
    • Introducing Muddy Mat – Impressive omnichannel pet brand coming to market in Q1 2024. Matthew, Andrew and Ikho gave a fantastic demo and financial performance overview of the brand.
    • Alpin Loacker – EU based tech hiking clothing and equipment omnichannel brand.
    • Berlin Brands Group – US portfolio. BBG wish to refocus efforts and as such are open to offers for their current US portfolio.

To learn more about any of the above deals, please contact The Fortia Group directly.

  • Daniel Mc Carthy, Co-Founder at Theta educated the crowd on valuations with this talk on “Uncovering Hidden Valuation Insight through Predictive Customer Value Analysis”, followed by a poll on current valuations observed in the market.

Poll no.1: What is the typical valuation range you are seeing for profitable Amazon FBA led brands?

  • Average valuation range: The average lower bound of the valuation range is approximately 2.86x, and the average upper bound is approximately 4.13x.
  • Lowest valuation range: The lowest valuation range given was 1x.
  • Highest valuation range: The highest valuation range provided was 8x
  • Please note all valuation ranges are EBITDA multiples.

Poll no.2: What is the typical valuation range you are seeing for DTC led brands?

  • Average valuation range: The average lower bound of the valuation range is approximately 3.78x, and the average upper bound is approximately 6.06x.
  • Lowest valuation range: The lowest valuation range given was 2x.
  • Highest valuation range: The highest valuation range provided was 12x.
  • Please note all valuation ranges are EBITDA multiples.

 

  • Paul Hanley, Co-Founder at The Fortia Group brought the audience through the firms new Buy-side diligence offering. The Fortia Group have been servicing investors and credit funds but are now formalizing their Buy-side diligence offering, a rapid initial target screen, to learn more please contact The Fortia Group directly.

 

 

04.Value Creation

Participants:

Will Holtz, Head of Operations at SourceMedium

Daniel Mc Carthy, Co-Founder at Theta

Robert Sperling, CEO at EastWest Basics

Rupesh Sanghavi, Founder & CEO at Ergode

Jim Stine, VP of sales at ShipPlug

Naseem Saloojee, Co-Founder at Carbon6

Kevin Fischer, President At KAPOQ

Bill Tauscher, CEO at Farallon Brands

Balaji Kolli Co-Founder at Saras Analytics

CFO Josh Holley at Bare Performance Nutrition

Jacob Cook, CEO at Tadpull

Heath Barnett, Head of SMB & Growth, North America at Airwallex

Jim Mann, VP of Europe at Getida

Ben Fletcher, CEO at The Mothership

Joseph Falcao, CFO at Orva

Shawn Dougherty, COO at Society Brands

Alex Urdea, Founder at Deep Ocean Partners

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Title sponsor Airwallex spoke about the important of localised payment options and how this was going to be crucial as part of a hyper-localised targeting strategy for eCommerce today and into the future.
  • Local payment methods accounted for 77% of transactions worldwide.
  • 44% of consumers are likely to trust online shop that offers their preferred payment methods.
  • The supply chain panel agreed that the rise of manufacturers going direct to the customer via marketplaces will continue to cause difficulties for eCommerce acquirors. It will be difficult to compete on price, however, as always obsessing over CX, branding and marketing strategy always have their place in combatting this type of competition.
  • A common theme throughout value creation talks were the importance of visiting and developing relationship with suppliers globally. Often this can open up different credit terms or cost efficiencies over time.
  • Predications for 2024 on supply chain were mixed as we move further from a covid container spike yet current situations in Suez Canal may continue to cause delays and additional cost.
  • KAPOQ and Carbon 6 explained that obsessing over performance metrics and investment benchmarking were crucial for brands and operators to double down on, with new Amazon marketplace fees forecasted to hit 2024, operators should be focusing on where they can make savings and efficiencies within the P&L.
  • CFO Josh Holley brought this to life with insight into how his brand, Bare Performance Nutrition are optimizing with data support and help from Saras Analytics.
  • Scrutinizing costs and ensuring you are setup for future success was a common theme, Bill Tauscher at Farallon Brands explained the importance of agility in retail, the role of eCommerce and marketplaces, and a view on timing when discussing growth plans with big retail.
  • Conference Partners Jake Cook, CEO at Tadpull and Daniel Mc Carthy, Co-Founder at Theta discussed the importance of understanding and using data sets to help with prediction analysis or growth forecasting.

 

Poll no.3: What is your top financial and operational priorities for 2024?

  • Become cashflow positive: 45%
  • Increase corporate EBITDA margins: 23%
  • Revenue growth: 13%
  • Reduce leverage: 12%
  • Improve inventory turns: 7%

Poll no.4: What is your target for corporate EBITDA by end of 2024?

  • Unprofitable: 0%
  • 1-5% margins : 20%
  • 6-10% margins: 10%
  • 11-15% margins: 60%
  • 16-20% margins: 10%

Poll no.5: What will drive the biggest valuation (profit multiple on exit / listing) of aggregators?

  • Financial profile e.g. corporate EBITDA margin: 15%
  • Brands: revenue quantum, growth, net margins: 54%
  • Being truly omnichannel: 8%
  • Tech & Data competence: 0%
  • Scale efficiencies: 8%
  • Other: 1%

 

Need some comments from the finance and operations panel.

Need a comment from an investor in the space [ don’t name Alex Udea].

Need success stories comment, don’t need too much detail on that.

 

We thank all our sponsors, without them conferences like this would not be possible. We look forward to working closely with you all throughout 2024.

  • Airwallex | ConferenceTitle Sponsor
  • BigCommerce
  • Carbon6
  • Eastwest Basics
  • Factored Quality
  • Getida
  • Grips
  • KAPOQ
  • Saras Analytics
  • ShipPlug
  • Withum

As we mentioned at the event, this will become an annual event, and together, we look forward to making the next one bigger and better.

 

Blog Summary

This blog post discusses key takeaways from an eCommerce Aggregation event in Amsterdam. It covers topics such as the current acquisition status, the focus on niche or broad categories, the importance of brand founders in the brand's success, goals for 2023, and the potential for mergers of aggregators. The post also mentions an upcoming conference in New York focused on eCommerce M&A.

Read Time: 5 minutes

[We would like to thank Accel Club for sponsoring this event].

Due to an influx of headwinds caused by geopolitical conflicts, downturn in the market, post-pandemic landing etc., 2022 was the worst year for M&A (eCommerce included) since 2008.

In order to discern actionable sector insight in a rapidly changing market, we host a quarterly thought-leader event with top eCommerce acquirors. We discuss how global trends are impacting the industry and what are the implications for sellers and buyers on a deal-to-deal basis.

In this round-up piece we will look at the top takeaways from our recent eCommerce Aggregation event in Amsterdam, highlighting polls we conducted around these themes:

  • Current Acquisition Status
  • Operations: Broad Vs. Niche
  • Brand founder involvement post-close
  • Goals and prediction for 2023
  • Mergers of Aggregators [MoA]

Have you joined our exclusive Acquirors Network? Fortia’s Acquirors Network is a curated community of C-suite in eCommerce M&A built around thoughtful discussion and quarterly events. Inquire HERE.

Is your firm currently acquiring?

  • Yes 95%
  • No 5%

While firms are technically acquiring, per our end of year Survey of Acquirors, the numbers are significantly lower than our 2021 survey.

  • Expected 2023 deal volume per firm: 5 – 10 deals [vs. 2021 forecast: >30 deals].
  • Valuation multiples were reported between 1.5X – 4.5X EBITDA range for 2023 [vs. >5X EBITDA in 2021].

The yearly forecasts among leading investment banks debated whether markets were headed for a recession or soft landing towards the end of 2023. However, all agreed that growth would continue to soften, inflation would decrease, and rate hikes would be less aggressive. The confluence of  which have impacted valuations. All signs point to an emerging buyers’ market in 2023, as opposed to the sellers’ market of 2020.

Will the winning aggregators have a niche or broad focus?

  • Niche 23%
  • Broad 27%
  • Combo 50%

In our Survey of Acquirors [2022], 64% of firms planned on focussing on fewer categories in 2023. This was reiterated at our NYC event [January 2023]: the majority of firms had a preference to focus on a single or small number of categories.

However, in Amsterdam [March 2023] several firms said they were not seeing enough dealflow to focus on a niche. Per our Amsterdam poll, 50% of firms are taking a blended approach which means predominantly focusing on preferred categories but open to acquisitions outside the niche.

Another way to bring strategic focus to acquiring assets was to look beyond category or geography, and target assets by theme e.g. US supply chain or eco-focus.

How important was/is the brand founder to the brand’s future success?

  • High 29%
  • Medium 47%
  • Low 24%

In recent quarters, we have seen a shift in structuring deals. One strategy is in-keeping with the PE model of retaining the founding team post-close. The pioneering eCommerce aggregators that rode the pandemic wave looked to migrate assets in their entirety to inhouse operations.

However, as operations and new product development have become a priority in recent quarters retaining the founding product expertise is imperative to sustaining growth.

As one aggregator stated in our Amsterdam event that its best performing brands are where it kept the founder for a year. Where founding teams remain, the earnout can be better structured thus diminishing the threat of a lawsuit further down the line.

Other Key Points Relating to Operations:

  • Firms are looking to diversify their supply chain to other markets, lessening reliance on China which has dealt with new rounds of covid and disruption in recent months. EU based sourcing can be more efficient.
  • While expanding into Direct-to-Consumer markets was a key goal for FBA aggregators, it is proving a more difficult feat.
  • Consensus: Integrating enterprise analytic tools like Netsuite is difficult and a huge drain on a firm’s resources.

What are your Current goals for 2023?

Top Results:

  • Hire more operations people
  • Cost optimization – offload or kill non-core assets.
  • Channel diversification ie. off-amazon.
  • Become ‘IPO ready’
  • Become cashflow positive
  • Become EBITDA positive
  • Raise more debt
  • Be self-sustaining by end of 2023
  • MoA

As operations and efficiency are key goals for buyers, 2023 will take on a similar survival theme to 2022.

Is your firm currently in active discussions to acquire or be acquired?

  • Yes 57%
  • No 43%

In a year marked by survival, consolidation is inevitable. There is no consensus as to when rates will peak but it is expected to rise to 5.25% by Q3 2023 and preface a light recession/soft-landing. As rates are expected to hover between 4% and 5% through the end of 2024, and with the current outlook for growth, aggregators – that are presently struggling to service their debt – will view a merger as a viable option. However, with the current outlook strategic mergers of aggregators [MoA] is not relegated to only firms seeing signs of distress, as the 57% firms that respond “yes” suggests.

Mergers of Aggregators [MoA] will be a central theme at our exclusive day conference for eCommerce M&A in New York [June 8th]

Have You Signed Up?

 This is a ticketed event exclusive to: 

  • C-suite and Heads of M&A at eCommerce aggregators.
  • Senior associates at PE firms and strategics/corporates that acquire in the eCommerce space.

Tickets include:

  • Networking drinks reception in a local venue.
  • Full day of networking, panel sessions, break-out roundtables, and keynotes on relevant themes in eCommerce M&A.
  • Gourmet breakfast and lunch from Convene’s in-house chef.

Full event agenda to follow.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Alex Urdea, Co-founder, Upper90
  • Brian Harwitt, CoVenture
  • Sakib JamalCrossbeam
  • Anthony Johnson, Former CTO, Thrasio
  • Joseph Falcao, Former CFO, Thrasio
  • Mark Goldfinger, VP of Growth, unybrands

More to be announced.

Event Schedule: 8am – 5pm EST.

When: 8th June 2023.

Where: Convene, 101 Greenwich Street, Lower Manhattan, NY 10006.

Cost per person: €249 + Booking Fee [Limited availability].

BOOK YOUR TICKET HERE

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