How Depop is catering to Gen Z and millennials to get an edge over resale competitors

When Simon Beckerman created the thrift-shopping app Depop in 2012, right at the cusp of the Instagram age, he had initially intended to create an informal venue for his community of creative friends to sell previously owned clothing and swap inspiration.

Now with 10 million users, and buoyed by a recent $20 million Series B round of funding, Depop rivals the likes of peer marketplaces like Poshmark and ThredUp. Though Depop was originally formed in Milan and is based in the U.K., the platform has grown significantly since it debuted in the U.S. in 2014, thanks largely to strategic marketing and a growing legion of celebrity fans such as model Emily Ratajkowski and Italian blogger Chiara Ferragni. Today, the U.S. makes up 30 percent of total users, mostly comprised of sellers and buyers in the Gen-Z and young-millennial demographic.

As part of the continued expansion into the U.S. market, Depop has pursued a series of experiential marketing ventures, including partnerships with fashion retailers like Reformation, a brick-and-mortar store in Los Angeles and a forthcoming shop in New York, slated to open later this summer. According to Depop CEO Maria Raga, these shops are intended not just to acquaint American thrift enthusiasts to the European company but also to showcase its focus on community building. In that vein, Depop also hosts regular workshops for sellers, where they can learn tips about selling and meet fellow users in real life.

“Our brick-and-mortar effort is very much linked to our other purpose, which is to empower people, especially creative people,” Raga said. “The way we’ve been basically doing it is by building communities. When you start to get to know people that use the app, they really crave to have that real-life experience.”

Ultimately, though, the mobile app remains Depop’s bread and butter. Raga said what sets Depop apart from apps like Poshmark and ThredUp is that it’s designed as more of a social media platform tailored to individuals in creative fields compared to a traditional e-commerce app. It is also intended to be accessible for younger shoppers, and thus features a wide variety of brands and price points, as well as true vintage apparel from the 1960s and beyond. Depop sifts through these products and user profiles to create curated content and encourages users to talk with each other using the chat function, to foster a more informal feeling of shopping a friend’s closet compared to other resale brands.

“We really believe in the concept of not just being a place to buy and sell, but a place to inspire and connect, to just socialize and hang out. In order to do those things we need to be in sync with what is out there — whether it’s music, art, entertainment or anything that has to do with culture.”

To further enhance the mobile experience, Depop recently added video functionality to the app, allowing users to post footage of themselves wearing an item for sale, much like Gen Z peer-to-peer seller Yeay. It also integrated a feature for users to share their Depop stores on Instagram and Instagram Stories, giving the app more visibility, especially among influencers like model and body inclusivity advocate Tess Holiday, who also uses the platform.

Focusing on connectivity in this way is a targeted play for millennial and Gen-Z shoppers, demographics studies show are significantly influenced by social media to make purchases. According to Yes Lifecycle Marketing, 80 percent of Gen-Z consumers and 74 percent of millennials are inspired to buy a product in part because of social media.

“Gen Z wants to shop through social,” Ed Kennedy, senior director of commerce at Episerver, told Glossy in April. “The product experience is exposed through social media,” he said. “It’s people asking for opinions and recommending products to one another.”

Looking to the future, Depop plans to focus on improving its machine-learning algorithms to better serve up recommendations to shoppers using consumer data, said Raga. “We’re working on personalizing the experience so you can explore things more relevant to you and automating parts of the app to make it more scalable.”

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