What is Depop, and how does it work?
The story of Depop begins in 2011 at H-FARM, the Italian startup accelerator headquartered in the Venetian lagoon. Fast forwarding to the early days of 2019, Depop has 15 million users worldwide and H-FARM signed the exit from the startup’s capital with a return of six times the initial investment (Terzano, 2019). Overall, one would not be mistaken to label Depop as one of the most successful startups ever launched on Italian soil. Headquartered in London, Depop is a mobile-based marketplace that allows its users to buy and sell new or second-hand clothes, accessories and designer items. Its community is primarily composed of creative, young people and is the app of choice of many established influencers. It can rely on a stable growth of 250.000 new users per month, a team of 100 people divided among offices in London, Milan, New York and Los Angeles (EconomyUp, 2018).
The user, rather than being a “simple” buyer, is offered a space become a full-fledged entrepreneur by opening a virtual shop.
As the picture shows, the interface closely resembles the one of Instagram. In a similar manner, users can stay updated regarding new listings by following other vendors, they can interact with a new item on sale by liking it, they can gather further information by posting a comment and they can directly message the vendor to negotiate the sale price and agree on the shipping method (by mail or in person). Coming to the revenue stream, Depop manages to stay up running by charging sellers 10% of the item sale price, once the transaction has occurred. This means that, as long as a vendor has not sold the item, no costs are incurred to keep the listing online.
Since the large majority of users are first-timers when it comes to selling a product online, Depop provides each new user with an extensive “bible” containing best-in-class examples to add successful listings, such as how photos of the item on sale should be taken and which information needs to be included in the product description. This, and many more suggestions have a double function: not only do they increase the likelihood that “novel entrepreneurs” have a successful experience with the app, but also that the overall quality of listings on the platform is high. A key feature along these lines is the possibility of leaving reviews on user profiles, which stimulates community members to strive for a quality feed and quickly flags instances of inappropriate behaviour. Another way through which Depop is trying to increase the “fashion savviness” of its users is through collaborations with establishes vintage sellers or experts of the industry that open their own shop on the platform. Such collaborations are another way of sparking curiosity and inspiration for best practices, as well as creating an element of excitement and buzz towards the latest trends in the world of vintage clothing. Overall, such collaborations aim at making the community feel more alive and offers users an opportunity for personal growth within this industry (Witte, 2018).
Problems and suggestions for improvement
In order to grasp what Depop users are mostly unsatisfied with and to provide possible suggestions for improvement, I decided to conduct an in-depth overview of app reviews on the consumer review website Trustpilot. Below are summarised the main issues that users have been reporting.
The Explore section features non personalised listings
One of the features of Depop is the Explore section, which is curated by the app’s Editor Team and is used to promote the best listings on the platform according to the “in-house style guidelines” (Depop, n.d.). However, users might be viewing categories of items that they are just not interest in buying, therefore causing Depop to lose on potential sales revenue. To solve this issue, Depop should tailor the Explore section to each user. For instance, they could populate this section with products that belong to categories similar to the ones viewed by the user during previous searches, therefore matching her/his tastes.
Scammers are a very real issue
Like any online marketplace, Depop users are not immune to scams. Over time, there have been various reports of sellers being paid but not sending the item, sending an item which is different from the one listed, or sending a counterfeit item. Overall, Depop does not seem to be providing enough measures against such unfortunate events and seller reviews alone are not a strong enough deterrent. To improve the current situation, Depop could take inspiration from eBay. For profiles that have too little reviews or do not provide parcel tracking with their deliveries, the famous online marketplace holds the payment for 21 days (eBay, n.d.). If, after such time frame, the buyer has received the parcel and has not reporting any wrongdoings, the payment is unlocked.
Vendors cannot track the performance of their listings
The last issue that users are facing is connected to the amount of information they have available to measure whether they are performing well and if there is room for improvement. In this regard, the only measures available at hand are the amount of likes and comments a listing receives and the customer reviews received by the community. To provide a better service to the community and attract new users, Depop could provide analytics insights that describe a profile performance in a more detailed manner. For instance, by knowing which item is being viewed the most, a user could shift her/his focus onto a specific product category. As it stands now, the user base is left in the dark and is missing out on key measures that would help them improve their virtual shop and the overall quality of the listings that populate the platform.
Overall, a close cooperation with its users can bring tangible improvements to the platform. The three points listed above provide three of the most mentioned pain points and require immediate action in order to provide a personalised, safe and insightful experience to the users.
Depop. (n.d.). How do I get featured on the Explore page?. [online] Available at: https://depophelp.zendesk.com/hc/en-gb/articles/360001792207-How-do-I-get-featured-on-the-Explore-page- [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].
eBay. (n.d.). Funds Availability. [online] Available at: https://pages.ebay.com/seller-center/service-and-payments/funds-availability.html [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].
Economyup. (2018). 20 milioni a Depop, la lezione per il retail: permettere al cliente di aprire il proprio store online | Economyup. [online] Available at: https://www.economyup.it/retail/ratail-10-milioni-depop-la-startup-vende-abiti-online/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].
Terzano, C. (2019). Exit H-Farm da Depop, cedute quote per 2,5 milioni di euro – Startupitalia. [online] Startupitalia. Available at: https://startupitalia.eu/103334-20190118-exit-h-farm-depop-cedute-quote-25-milioni-euro [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].
Trustpilot. (2019). Depop is rated “Poor” with 4.5 / 10 on Trustpilot. [online] Available at: https://www.trustpilot.com/review/depop.com?languages=en [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].
Witte, R. (2018). How Depop is Leveraging Collaborations to Grow Their Community. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/raewitte/2018/06/26/how-depop-is-leveraging-collaborations-to-grow-their-community/#cad41705a004 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].