Imran and Cate Khan, Snapchat’s former head of strategy and Quidsi’s former senior VP respectively, launched Verishop this week, an “enhanced e-commerce platform that combines quality curation and discovery—with the convenience you’ve come to expect.” At launch, the company has 160 brands and 4,000 items for sale, offers free returns and exchanges, 24/7 customer support, free two-day shipping, and all of the inventory is owned and shipped by Verishop itself, rather than through third-party sellers. The company also has partnerships with a handful of influencers who curate products and take a cut when they drive a sale, and is creating original content around both these influencers and its assortment of brands.

Verishop is the latest entrant into a crowded and often deadly field of content and commerce plays, digital department stores, drop-shipping companies, and other “universal shopping carts” that have tried to aggregate demand and take a cut of the growing ecommerce industry. Many of these are either following in Amazon’s footsteps or attempting to mitigate the shortcomings of Amazon’s model, but the results have been subpar. Spring is the most recent example to realize only a microcosm of what it promised, but there are dozens that came before it.

The biggest question about Verishop is why create it, given that it remains unclear whether the problem it attempts to solve is enough to build into a lasting business. Each of the benefits described above, from free shipping and returns to 24/7 customer support, are table stakes today, also known as false negatives. Shoppers don’t really care if you have them, they only care when you don’t have them and they need them. The company’s brand selection also doesn’t help; Verishop stocks brands like Levi’s and AllSaints, whose products are already widely available, along with some digitally-native ones like Boll & Branch. For most third-party retailers today, differentiation only comes in the form of exclusive products and high-touch services. Other than that, the retailer playing field is incredibly commoditized and it is unclear how Verishop is any different than the rest.

But platforms and marketplaces always have a preference toward buyers or sellers. Airbnb, for example, was built from day one for the host, not the guest. That’s why Airbnb customer service rarely sides with guests—its model depends on the availability of hosts to acquire the guests, so it needs to keep its hosts happy. So far, Verishop is taking the same approach by focusing on sellers, which makes sense early on—if there are no brands on the platform, there won’t be any shoppers. However, this startup stage will soon wear off, and the focus will need to shift to building a massive audience, which is the only reason why brands would want to use the platform in the first place. We call this the fallacy of ecommerce’s infinite shelf space, and it’s a mistake that many ecommerce brands and platforms make. Retailers can’t subsist solely by offering infinite supply (there is an overabundance of supply)—they must garner and maintain demand (brands are fighting for shoppers). The latter is the real thing Verishop needs to solve for, otherwise it won’t have much of a purpose.

The challenge, then, is that consumer brands in today’s hyper-competitive landscape are not loyal to most platforms. While some are more sensitive about their brand image and experience than others—which is why some abstain from selling on Amazon—in reality, all are simply looking for the best place to acquire customers at the lowest cost, be it Facebook and Instagram ads, retail, out-of-home advertising, direct mail, TV, radio or other platforms. There is no channel loyalty.  

Khan says that Verishop is different from Amazon and other ecommerce platforms because it’s brand-safe, doesn’t have fake reviews, and provides a trusted user experience. This is easy to say when you have no customers, but surely if the platform does scale, each of these “benefits” will turn into real challenges that the company will need to mitigate. Brands and shoppers will try to game the system if it’s worth it—as they do with Amazon—but Verishop isn’t big enough yet for them to try.