When Poshmark opened its platform to the sale of home decor items last month, it was a sign that the fast-growing e-commerce company was expanding from a curated fashion app to a lifestyle marketplace. The app, which previously only let people buy and sell new and used clothing, is now encouraging users to sell home items like accents, wall art, and bedding — basically anything you’d find alongside the clothes in an Anthropologie. It’s a logical step for the company as it reportedly eyes an IPO this fall, and one that’s paid off. The home market has been growing at a faster rate in the four weeks since it’s launched than other new markets, like the men’s section of the app, have in the past, Poshmark co-founder Tracy Sun toldThe Verge. “What the acceleration of the home market says, is that the selling of home is not that different from the selling of fashion,” Sun says.
Selling on Poshmark is straightforward: sellers get a free pre-printed shipping label for items under five pounds, and Poshmark takes a cut of each transaction — 20 percent from every sale over $15, and a flat-rate fee of $2.95 for items under $15. Since it was founded in 2011, its sellers hit $1 billion in sales last year, speaking to the success of the platform’s social-driven approach. The app closely mirrors Instagram’s feed design, and users can follow and leave comments on other users’ “closets,” or their profiles. It also rewards social behavior by featuring listings that have been most recently shared to the feed. “Sharing is a huge part of many of our algorithms,” Sun says. “This is a really important underpinning of how to be a successful seller on Poshmark. In any social network, you have to engage with the community and stay active.”
“Active” is exactly the word to describe the Poshmark community, which is made up of 40 million users, 5 million of whom are sellers. How successful you want to be on Poshmark depends on how much effort you put into the app. While some are casual users looking to make a few bucks from cleaning out their closets, others are seasoned veterans who scour thrift stores and vintage shops to curate their shops with, and find items to flip for a profit. The most dedicated sellers meet up at annual PoshFest conferences hosted by the company and go on Reddit and YouTube to share tips and rant about buyers who lowball them with ridiculous offers. Their reactions to the new home market were mixed, with some users mourning the loss of what made the platform special, and others taking it as an opportunity to sell more kinds of items.
Maria Materasso, a full-time Poshmark seller, was shocked by the decision. “My first reaction was, ‘why’? Poshmark set itself apart by being solely a fashion website,” she said in a YouTube video about the update. Materasso, who’s been selling on the platform since 2013, makes about $1,200 a month from the site and does closet reviews for people looking to improve their selling experience. “I do think that it will help bring more eyes to the site. However, I do still believe it will give it more of a ‘garage sale’ type of vibe, and that I don’t like,” she toldThe Verge.
A scroll through the home section does turn up some oddities: half-used candles, far too many porcelain dolls, and 15 lb weights that would actually make the seller lose money if the item sold, due to extra shipping fees. Many people said they didn’t even know home items weren’t allowed on the app until the official announcement.
“It did seem like a free-for-all when it launched and I saw everything from baby potty training seats to furniture, but now it seems like people understand it a bit more and what’s allowed,” Ashley Dey, another full-time Poshmark seller, toldThe Verge. Dey is a Poshmark ambassador, which is a status given to active sellers with good ratings, and it gets her perks like being recommended to new “Poshers” as a person to follow. With over 380,000 followers on the app and 2,430 listings currently for sale in her closet, Dey has started incorporating home items on her thrifting trips. “The items that have sold for me have all been kind of quirky, including a baby Groot container, two ring holders, wall art, and some sloth yoga figurines,” she says. For Dey, the home market is a welcome addition. “Before the new market launched, people would still list home items, so I think with the official launch and filters, it’s much more organized.”
Poshmark has competitors from other app-based startups, and sellers often cross-list their items on multiple platforms for better sales. There’s Depop, another Instagram-like app to sell clothes, geared toward a younger, edgier audience; The RealReal, for more high-end and luxury items, which Poshmark competes with by offering its own authentication services for items over $500; and with the addition of the home market, Poshmark is now chasing broader marketplaces like Mercari and eBay.
Moderation is an issue in any social platform, and in Poshmark’s case, the company is investing in machine learning and algorithms to look for items that violate its policies, which might include fakes, electronics, and used makeup. “Without technology, human beings can’t really keep up with the growth that digital businesses can achieve,” Sun says. The platform also relies on its community to flag prohibited items, and some users take issue with the tedious review process that follows after. “They should be paying me if I decide to do this,” a user wrote in the Poshmark subreddit about their growing discontent with the platform since the addition of the home market. “The inclusion of this feature implies Poshmark doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle growing reports.” As a fail-safe, the app offers a buyer protection system that gives them three days to verify that the item they received was as described, before releasing payment to the seller.
Sun says the overwhelming response to the home market has been positive so far, but the team has still gotten some requests from people who want to go back to the original, fashion-focused experience. Keeping these users in mind, Sun says this is why home items were included as a brand-new market. “If you don’t want to look at home items, you can continue to go to the women’s market, and you won’t see any of the home stuff when you’re there,” she says.
There is one feature that sets Poshmark apart from other social networks, and that’s the fact that there’s no private messaging system. So if you have a question for the seller, you have to publicly post it on an item’s listing. This was intentional, as most comments would usually be about items anyway, such as whether a shoe runs true to size. It cuts down on sellers having to answer the same questions over again, and helps other potential buyers. It’s also the reason why a lot of the conversation about Poshmark happens off the platform, a fact that Sun appreciates.
“It’s really important to give people the space to speak authentically about what they’re experiencing,” Sun says. “And I watch as many of those YouTube videos as I can.”