Social marketplace Depop surpassed 13 million users in June. This, combined with a $62 million boost in funding, marks a seminal year for the company.

Once described as ‘part Instagram, part eBay’, Depop has gone on to become a big name in its own right, carving out a niche within fashion recommerce. TechCrunch reports that Depop has seen revenues of around $50 million since its launch, with the company taking a 10% cut of the overall $500 million it has sold in merchandise.

So, what has contributed to its success, and what does this tell us? Here’s four lessons we can learn from it.

Targeting a social generation

First founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Simon Beckerman, Depop is a social selling app in the same vein as Poshmark and Etsy, but with a bigger focus on personal style. Essentially, it allows sellers to curate their own ‘online shop’, posting images of clothing and accessories that they want to sell. Buyers on the platform can like items, message sellers, and generally ‘hang out’ within the Depop community.

The latter is what sets Depop apart from other fashion marketplace apps, with its social features helping to draw in and engage an overwhelmingly young user-base. According to the company, 90% of Depop’s users are under the age of 26, while one-third of all 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK are said to be registered on the app.

As well as helping to build a sense of community, the social side of Depop means that people also use it when they’re not necessarily in the mood to buy (or sell). It’s been reported that users open the app ‘several times a day’ to communicate with others or simply scroll through the feed, much like they would on Instagram.

The aim to be a sort of ‘shoppable Instagram’ was there from the very start – before Instagram itself even introduced a buy button. Speaking to Wired, Simon Beckerman, explains how “young people, who used their phones a lot and are used to social networks, found that it was easy to use. We also wanted to create a community around it – so creating new experiences, new trends – through this kind of discovery feature.”

Depop’s user-base has largely grown through word-of-mouth, with the app taking on a cult-like status among young users. However, its marketing has also helped to further extend reach, with its 2018 global campaign reflecting the style and sub-culture of its user-base. The campaign featured bios taken from existing Depop profiles, and used as “a celebration of its creative and diverse entrepreneurial community.”

Depop campaign

Championing user creativity

Depop’s 2018 campaign is a good example of how the company utilises its own audience. As well as big campaigns like this one, it fuses user generated content into most of its digital marketing, particularly on social media. 

Yoann Pavy, head of digital marketing for Depop, told the audience at this year’s Festival of Marketing: “A lot of our content on Instagram is just reposting the coolest shit that is on Depop for people to see.”

This strategy couldn’t be any simpler, but it works wonderfully for Depop. The reason being is that there is so much creativity and self-expression displayed on the app by sellers, the company doesn’t really need an additional layer of creative. Its users are its brand, so it makes perfect sense to repurpose the content created by them.

In doing so, Depop empowers its users, and further encourages them to get even more creative with their imagery and editorial. As well as earning money, sellers have the additional incentive of collecting followers, which in turn can help make a store more lucrative. And so the cycle of user generated content continues.

Tapping into consumer trends

At a basic level, Depop is a place for fashion lovers to get their hands on unique, limited, and vintage clothing. However, the company’s success also points to a number of wider consumer and fashion industry trends, as well as a shrewd understanding of how to navigate them.

The first and most obvious is the importance of sustainability, and the increasing desire (again, particularly among younger consumers) to buy second-hand. According to a report by ThredUp, millennials and Generation Z are adopting second-hand 2.5x faster than other age groups, with more than one in three Gen Z consumers set to buy second-hand in 2019.

ThredUp stat

Alongside concerns about sustainability, Depop also allows consumers to dictate trends (and develop their own personal style) as opposed to buying from traditional fashion brands and retailers. This sense of empowerment also extends to the business opportunities that Depop affords, giving its young user-base the means to make money on their own terms.

This means that, as well as being a recreational or ad-hoc way to earn, Depop can go on to become the only source of income for its most successful users. The Cut’s profile on prolific Depop sellers highlights, for example, how one user earns around $3,000 a month by selling on the app as a ‘side hustle’.

Interestingly, Depop does not have much involvement in the logistics of sales, instead leaving it up to sellers to ship their own items. Only in the US does it offer ‘ship with Depop’, which is simply the option to create shipping labels.

This does create a little uncertainty for buyers – there’s no indication (apart from profiles and previous reviews) about how the sale will pan out. Then again, this feeds into Depop’s ethos, which is that it is up to each seller to generate success in their own right – which will be more likely to occur with fast and efficient service.   

As well as the opportunity it provides them, Depop is also clever in how it works alongside sellers to help them grow businesses. The Depop Community Leadership Programme enables new Depop sellers to get advice and help from some of the most successful on the platform. The biggest are often invited to sell their clothes at pop-up stores, with Depop able to generate interest in these events on the back of their influence.

Pop-ups & partnerships

Finally, Depop’s expansion into physical retail has also played a part in its success, with several outposts allowing it to strengthen its connection with local communities (as well as foster entrepreneurial spirit).

In 2018, Depop opened two physical stores in Los Angeles and New York respectively, allowing visitors to get advice on how to sell on Depop, and the chance to buy from pop-up stores.

More recently, Depop has also ventured into physical retail in the UK, opening up a three-month long pop-up in department store, Selfridges. The space showcased different Depop sellers on a weekly basis, allowing them to exhibit key pieces that were exclusively sold at Selfridges. By partnering with an established retail store, Depop has been able to build authority within the wider fashion retail industry, as well as create further opportunities for the featured entrepreneurs.

Following on from this, Depop has also been generating interest from others within the fashion industry. Most recently, it has partnered with Ralph Lauren to help curate a collection of second-hand pieces, all of which have been sourced by Depop sellers, and showcased in Ralph Lauren’s flagship London store. This venture is proof of Depop’s growing clout, as well as its ability to explore opportunities that align with its core purpose.

Combining the best of social media, ecommerce, and the circular economy – there’s a reason why it is fast-becoming the only place Gen Z want to shop.

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