Pure Player

Pure Player: Definition, Goals & Future 

Let's say you need a new pair of jeans. In the modern eCommerce landscape, you have various choices when it comes to buying a new pair of trousers you like. Retail giants like H&M provide both physical stores and online shopping as options. However, there are also shops solely dedicated to online retail. These online-exclusive businesses are known as pure players.

What Is a Pure Player? 

Pure players in eCommerce are companies that exclusively sell products and services online, without operating physical brick-and-mortar stores. This sets them apart from multi-channel retailers that utilize both physical stores and online shops for sales. Examples of well-known pure players include Ebay, Etsy, Zooplus, and ASOS.

One defining characteristic of pure players is their single-channel distribution strategy, allowing them to focus entirely on their online business and optimize their processes accordingly. By avoiding physical retail options, they can reduce costs and target specific customer demographics to serve them effectively.

What Are the Goals of Pure Player? 

Internet pure players intentionally employ a single-channel strategy to focus on one distribution channel and operate it with high quality. Four essential goals of this eCommerce model are:

  1. Rapid Customer Base Growth: By concentrating on a single distribution channel, internet pure players can swiftly establish a strong market presence and build a loyal customer base.
  2. Revenue Growth: Internet pure players target specific markets and demographics, which can lead to higher conversion rates and increased average order values, resulting in revenue growth.
  3. Expertise in Niche Markets: Both small and large online pure players can demonstrate their expertise through specialization, customer-oriented advice, and personalized offerings. This fosters consumer trust and credibility.
  4. Business Scaling: A single distribution channel can be scaled more easily and quickly compared to a multi-channel strategy, allowing for the addition of further products or product categories.

Benefits and Risks 

Pure players, businesses entirely focused on one niche, come with their unique set of benefits and risks:


  • Specialization and Expertise: Pure players can become experts in their chosen field, catering to a specific market segment with deep knowledge and tailored solutions.
  • Focused Growth: Their single-channel strategy allows for rapid market penetration and the potential to build a loyal customer base quickly.
  • Potential for High Rewards: When market conditions align with their focus area, pure players can thrive, benefiting from undiluted performance and potentially outperforming competitors.


  • High Dependence: Relying solely on one sector, product, or investing strategy makes pure players vulnerable to fluctuations in that specific area.
  • Lack of Diversification: Their concentrated focus makes them the opposite of diversified businesses, potentially resulting in higher volatility and susceptibility to economic downturns.
  • Market Sensitivity: Their performance can be significantly impacted by changes in market conditions. For example, a pure play favored by growth investors may struggle during a bear market when value investing tends to excel.

In summary, pure players offer the potential for exceptional success but come with the risk of heightened sensitivity to market conditions and lack of diversification. It is essential for investors and businesses to carefully assess these factors when considering the pure play model.

Is the Pure Player Model the Future? 

The future of the pure player model is at an interesting juncture. With the ongoing digital transformation and surging eCommerce revenues, one might expect continued success for these companies. However, industry experts predict that many pure players will eventually expand into multi-channel retail.

Companies that once solely operated online are now opening physical outlets, such as concept stores and pop-up shops. Zalando, a notable example, started as a pure player but now offers outlets too. These additional customer touchpoints enable direct interactions and provide multi-sensory shopping experiences.

While this adaptation can strengthen customer engagement and market presence, it does entail relinquishing some of the cost-efficiency benefits of online-only operations. Moreover, this shift is a response to traditional retailers entering the online space, necessitating a merger of digital and physical retail expertise. The future of pure players also hinges on technological advancements, particularly in artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Staying competitive in the market will require adopting these innovations to offer more personalized customer experiences. Concepts like digital clothing try-ons may become mainstream in the fashion industry soon, with early adopters leading the way.

Pure Player: Key Takeaways 

  • The term "pure player" refers to businesses that exclusively operate in the online retail space.
  • Pure players forgo physical stores and focus their efforts on optimizing online shopping experiences.
  • These online-exclusive retailers can offer cost-effective, specialized services, but they may eventually integrate physical stores as well to complement their online presence.