With around $370 billion purchases returned every year in the U.S., and retailers losing up to 40% product value, Renato Anselmi Ricci may have a solution. The Monaco-born entrepreneur is taking his 3-day trial startup to the U.S. with VCs Village Global and Greycroft behind him.
In 2018, the National Retail Federation reported industry sales in the U.S. at around $3.69 trillion. Yet up to 10%—an estimated $369 billion— worth of purchases are returned. In Europe, PostNord states that when it comes to sending back online merchandise, Germans lead the way (53% of shoppers) followed by the Dutch (52%) and French (45%).
It’s no wonder the mounting costs of returns is spiraling into an e-commerce industry of its own with large retail brands looking to resell through off-price retailers.
However, Monaco-born Italian Renato Anselmi Ricci is tackling the mounting returns percentage from a pro-retail angle. The 28-year-old is co-founder and COO of nok (as in a knock on the door), a try-before-you buy platform. “Sellers can lose up to 40% of product value once returned, even if the box is just open. We are a white label service working with brands and retailers to let shoppers try from home for free,” says the LSE MSc Management graduate. “If you buy it after trial, it’s a one-click process or if you don’t want to buy, you organize a pick up.”
Ricci, who speaks English, Italian, French and Spanish, comes from an entrepreneurial family who specialize in coffee. “Although I was born in Monaco, my parents have always encouraged me to succeed on my own.”
He studied abroad, in the U.K. and Singapore, and in 2017 went on to win a hackathon in Berlin for a real-time pothole detection app. This led to a consultancy position in the Berlin Smart Transportation & Energy 2017 startup program. It was here he met American co-founder Bobby Wann and nok became one of the program’s accelerated startups. Although the pair are only months apart in age, they have a yin yang relationship.
“Bobby is the visionary and I’m all about operations and execution.” Ricci and Wann initially started by creating their own marketplace by buying products and charging people €5 to test them. “It proved consumers were even willing to pay for this type of VIP service. And we’ve now made it entirely free.”
With nok, there’s no money up front, and delivery of a new product to test is scheduled for the same day. The company has signed deals with the biggest players in the durable household good categories (and are keeping them under wraps until the launch later this fall). Visiting one of their websites or Facebook pages, you could come across a “Try now” button.
People initially thought the nok idea was crazy. “Why would I want to try a product free through nok when I can buy it on Amazon and ship it back weeks later?” Ricci had one reply: “It’s like Bezos always says ‘the consumer experience is all about convenience.’ ”
“Essentially we are the glue between third-party logistics and brands that ask for no money down while providing instant gratification. If we give consumers a positive experience, they’ll buy your brand again.”
After a successful launch in Berlin, the startup just signed deals with two leading VCs, Village Global and Greycroft. Nok’s team of ten has relocated to the U.S. and is looking to double up in size to prepare for multiple client launches. “It’s a dream to have a startup in the U.S., the world’s most prolific environment,” Ricci articulates.
He adds, “My objective has always been to come back home to apply my experience and foster innovation by offering an incentive for locals to go abroad and other value-added activities for Monaco.”