Described as ‘the marketplace for current culture,’ StockX is a retail platform on which consumers can both buy and sell highly coveted fashion and accessories.

But what does ‘marketplace for culture’ mean exactly, and how does StockX resonate with its highly invested, Gen Z audience?

Olivier Van Calster, GM of International, recently shared some insight into the company’s strategy at Ecommerce Expo. Here’s a run-down of what he said, with further insight into marketing to Gen Z.

High demand products traded in real time

Van Calster explains how StockX began with a rather abstract idea. That is, “how can we apply the mechanics of the stock market to everyday consumer products, to create a marketplace that is completely innovative in the way demand and supply meets, and the way pricing is set?”

This idea was eventually applied to a category that has seen tremendous growth in the past few years – sneakers – which itself has been driven by the rise of ‘cultural collaborations’, i.e. brands working with creators and designers to create in-demand (and often limited edition) products.

StockX fundamentally works as a resale marketplace, whereby sellers set their products at their chosen asking price. Meanwhile, buyers can either choose to buy at this fixed price or place their own bid.

As Van Calster explains, this means that “at any point in time, across a global audience of buyers and sellers, the marketplace will effectively match ‘bids and asks’ in real time, over, now, 125,000 different product categories. That’s the uniqueness of StockX,” he says. “It’s basically high-demand products, of current culture, with a real scarcity, traded in real-time.”

Authenticity is crucial, too, of course. StockX ensures this via its 11 authentication centres around the world. Sellers are required to ship their products here, before the marketplace verifies them and ships them onto the buyer.

‘The stock market for things’

While threequarters of StockX’s audience are below the age of 35, Van Calster says that “the vast majority of app users are actually under the age of 25, so we are talking about a specific demographic that has very similar behaviours across the globe.”

He highlights how these behaviours are rooted in more than just standard consumerism. StockX consumers, he says, “seek out products for their significance, and for the fact that owning and probably wearing those products indicates a certain belonging or adherence to a cultural sphere.”

At the same time, Van Calster says an important consideration is also whether products will appreciate in value over time.

“That’s where our model of being ‘the stock market for things’ really plays out,” he says. “Because not only do we have this ability to transact at any time, with the market price being the guide (and the consumer having pricing power), but also over time customers are learning and use our data to understand, [for example] how much is this collaboration between Jordan and Dior appreciating in value?” In turn, this enables consumers to “build a portfolio of assets that’s very different from the stocks and shares that we might be used to.”

Interestingly, Van Calster explains what he calls “the smart StockX trader” – someone who “will buy three pairs of the product (if they can). They will buy one because they want to wear it, a second one because they want to hold it – because they feel confident that over time it will appreciate in value – and they will keep the third one to resell within a short window and pay for the other two.”

With the majority of consumers falling into just one of these groups, however, it means StockX is never short of buyers or traders.

Transparency and evolving ‘well beyond the niche’

StockX says that transparency is key when catering to the Gen Z trader-consumer audience.

“To start with, our website and our app are a treasure-trove of information,” explains Van Calster. “You will see on every product page a history of the pricing, what the original RRP was, the history of trades. You can literally see in real time the bids and the asks. So, there is a huge amount of visibility around data – that is something we know our customers really relish and want to understand.”

Van Calster also references “a whole ‘wrapper’ of cultural engagement” which in recent years has extended “well beyond the niche” of the sneaker category.

“Over the last several years we have expanded our verticals (or categories) to basically build around this idea of – what are the products with cultural relevance that are particularly relevant to a Gen Z audience?”

So, as well as adding more fashion brands, StockX has embraced ‘new luxury’, which refers to traditional brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci that have created collaborations with other designers in order to appeal to Gen Z.

While Van Calster insists that StockX won’t venture too far out of its comfort zone (“…you’re not going to see us sell cars or any other product that is so far removed…”), new categories will continue to be a focus.

“In the most recent time, we’ve launched categories like collectibles, and art prints. We’ve seen tremendous growth in trading cards which are extremely popular in the US and increasingly popular in certain European and Asian markets, where the same concept applies,” he explains. “These are products that are highly culturally relevant, there is real scarcity, there is an imperative need for authenticity.”

So, will we ever see an end to the luxury resale bubble, or more precisely, brands releasing limited edition or ‘in demand’ products that are so primed for the resale market? Van Calster says not likely.

“It’s great for the brands because they create scarcity and therefore appeal, and frankly sometimes it is also the reality that it is impossible to benchmark supply to demand,” he explains. “At one extreme you risk over-producing [products] that nobody wants, or you end up in a situation where a product sells out and then StockX becomes a fantastic place for people to access that product.”

Meaning and belonging over exclusivity

When it comes to what draws young consumers onto StockX versus other resale sites or marketplaces, Van Calster says that their motivation can be more complex than regular consumerism.

Fortunately, says Van Calster, it helps that Gen Z are so “relaxed about the idea of exploring non-traditional retail channels.”

“The other thing we notice very clearly is that Gen Z consumers are looking for meaning and belonging much more than exclusivity for the sake of it. So, something that’s exclusive because it is expensive has no appeal to them,” he explains.

In contrast, “something that is desirable because it is a collaboration with a designer or an artist, say Travis Scott, they really relate to. By engaging in consuming that product, they can connect to an audience that is broadly and widely connected to that artist or that creator. That’s what makes the act of ‘consuming’ meaningful or purposeful for them. That’s a very different approach from myself or even my parent’s generation who would have bought a brand for its exclusivity.”

Naturally, social media is also key to StockX’s marketing strategy, but it also informs what sells on the marketplace, too.

“The interactions we have with our users (and through them, with the brand) is very much based around how we connect with trends and observe emerging opportunities through social media,” says Val Calster.

“We also have, internally, an amazing set of specialists within our key categories who are absolutely on the lookout for the new products and the new drops. So, this combination of internal knowledge and and being very actively tuned into and engaged with social media as the place where those trends manifest themselves.”

Future focus on expansion and UX

So, category expansion aside, what else is on the horizon for StockX?

Van Calster says that the post-pandemic landscape is one of sizeable opportunity for the marketplace, where scaling recent growth will be critical.

“Close to my heart as GM of international, is geographic expansion,” he says. “We are growing very fast across the Asian markets, we’ve just launched in Mexico which is going to be a great bridgehead for us into Latin America, and plenty of growth opportunity in Europe.”

Lastly, Van Calster says that user experience is also a priority, particularly for users of its ever-popular app. “We see the web presence as our front door,” he says, “but all the regular users have got the StockX app and know it back to front and are extremely active on it. It is very much for that generation [Z], for that consumption… the app is the way to go without a doubt.”

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