Holding a public event during a time of mandated silence by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission can make for an awkward affair. Nonetheless, social resale platform Poshmark pressed on to hold its eighth annual conference for its community of sellers on Friday and Saturday.
The goal of PoshFest is to energize the community of “seller stylists” and showcase upcoming and recently launched features. But as the company dished on its latest tools, along the way it also wound up providing notable context for its upcoming initial public offering.
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As founder and chief executive officer Manish Chandra made clear, the company is in a state of constant development. And its moves over the past year have positioned the platform as a blend of some of the top retail trends of the moment. Beyond the company’s core premise of socially driven resale, it moved into short videos and doubled down on reselling, sustainability and intelligence-driven personalization and recommendations.
Poshmark may be a nine-year-old company, but it’s as if someone stirred together the current trends and just baked them to produce this platform.
A recent report from CB Insights may put a finer point on it. The “State of Retail Tech H1’20” examined investment momentum in the first half of the year, and found that investors are particularly keen on social commerce start-ups and resale platforms, among other areas, including businesses that can answer the elevated need for data connections across stores and online.
Now consider Poshmark’s offerings, as discussed at PoshFest: Its new “Just Picked” feature uses a machine learning, artificial intelligence engine to scan listings and match them to specific shoppers for personalized collections. This spring, the company introduced short video-driven Posh Stories, so sellers can demo products and engage people in new ways — whether that’s creating their own fashion shows, sharing new looks or offering beauty and styling tips.
“We believe video is going to be essential to the selling format,” Chandra explained, “as people connect more and more over the Internet or through the app and less…in physical life.”
Another feature, called RePosh, “allows a buyer who may never have sold something before, with a single click, to create a new listing,” he added. “It allows someone who’s maybe got a misfit or who’s bored with an item to quickly resell it on the platform.”
Reselling is core to Poshmark’s business model, so it’s no surprise that it partnered with Goodwill. The deal accomplishes two things: It helps the charitable organization move merchandise, while infusing inventory into Poshmark’s marketplace, where some sellers may struggle to source products during lockdown.
The updates continue, with “Dropping Soon,” a feature inspired by retail’s much-hyped sneaker drops. With this, sellers can pre-market listings that will drop at a future point in time, so they can build anticipation. And shoppers who “like” the item can get push notifications as soon as it becomes available.
To further keep the marketplace bustling, Poshmark added new categories including toys and games; grooming; skin care; hair, and bath and body. And to ensure a bevy of sellers, the company worked to make the selling process as fast and simple as possible. For instance, users can copy similar product listings to create their own and create packing slips right through the platform, to make fulfillment and delivery easier.
For current sellers, Poshmark responded to popular requests by raising the limits on the number of photos and draft listings, and it just introduced more photo filters and editing tools. Sellers can also pin Posh Stories to their product listings and get a curated list of the most engaged shoppers.
More changes to Posh Stories include its new permanent status and location in a new Stories tab on users’ closets, where they can see Stories created in the past 48 hours, favorite closets for future reference and get alerts when new items come out.
During Saturday’s hackathon, Poshmark developers drilled into more details about new search tools and filters, including the ability to search closets and purchases, filter by party view — referring to the platform’s real-time shopping events — print bulk labels, and bundle items by likes.
Altogether, the changes speak to how Poshmark is trying to make its platform more powerful, while also making it easier to go from user to seller as quickly as possible.
The timing of these updates seems critical. Having entered Canada last year, Poshmark is emboldened to expand its social selling premise to other markets worldwide, Chandra said. And, it’s worth noting, the company is doing so during a pandemic that has radically accelerated online shopping.
Indeed, experts believe that the coronavirus took three to five years’ worth of retail tech development and squeezed it into a single year. That could be huge for a company like Poshmark, which is every bit as much a tech company as a retail business.
According to Chandra, the business rebounded quickly after contracting in the early stages of COVID-19. The ceo told WWD in April that, “since March, it’s been steady and strong to the point that the last couple of weeks have been some of the highest in our history.”
At PoshFest, he made it clear that the social aspect of his business model is more important than ever.
“We’ve created a social marketplace, which has brought in the human interaction [in] the way that human interactions happen in real life,” Chandra said. “You’re running a physical boutique, and now you’re forced to run it online or you want to broaden it and connect with a nationwide audience. Poshmark is really giving you a very specific tool and a specific platform to take that forward.”
And, again, not just in the U.S. “Poshmark allows you to connect to an audience across the country, so you’re not just limited in your neighborhood,” he added. “And hopefully soon, [it will] allow you to connect across the world as well.”
Already the company swells with eight million sellers pumping out more than 100 million listings for a community of 60 million people in the U.S. And almost a year and a half since opening in Canada, the platform serves more than a million Canadian sellers, who have listed more than $100 million worth of product.
Had Poshmark gone public last year, as it initially intended, things might have looked very different. But it wound up pulling its IPO filing in September 2019, reportedly so it could improve its sales and execution.
If that’s true, Chandra may look back on that decision and see it as a wise move. Of course, one can only speculate on that, because for now, he simply cannot say.