Social Shopping: How Social Media is Changing the Retail Industry

Those Nike sneakers you never wear? That jean jacket you outgrew? Chances are a complete stranger is willing to buy these from you. Because of the constant evolution of social media, selling online has never been easier. In a new era of social shopping, the phrase “something old, something new” has a revitalized meaning.

Jenn Luong, a senior at Masterman High School, sells clothes on the marketplace app Depop, which is modeled after Instagram. She decided to begin selling through the app after hearing about it from friends.

“I looked at my closet and got kinda mad at myself with the amount of money I had spent on clothes that I never wear,” she said. “I got rid of all the stuff I hadn’t worn in the last six months and probably wouldn’t wear again. I gave my older stuff away to Goodwill and left the clothes that have name brands on them to sell.”

Marketplace sites, where anyone with internet access can sell products and services, have been active since the 1990s, starting with Craigslist and eBay, both founded in 1995. Before them, the only ways to sell unused items were through thrift stores or face-to-face. E-commerce sites transformed the way people sell.

In 2016, Facebook introduced Facebook Marketplace, which allows users to buy and sell items within their community. Before Marketplace, Facebook reported that 450 million individuals were members of “buy and sell” Facebook groups. In 2018, the social media company reported that “more than one in three people on Facebook in the U.S. use Marketplace monthly.” Facebook plans to introduce new Marketplace features that use artificial intelligence.

Sites dedicated solely to buying and selling are on the rise. Vinted was founded in 2008 by Milda Mitkute and Justas Janauskas. Last year, Forbes called Vinted “the world’s largest pre-loved fashion marketplace.”

Milda Mitkute, Vinted co-founder, decided to create the app after she realized
that she was buying clothes that she never ended up wearing. (Courtesy of Vinted)

The marketplace app Depop was founded in 2011 by Simon Beckerman and was designed to be innovative in the way it is formatted. The app allows users to “like” and leave comments on photos of items. They can communicate with sellers via direct messages.

“I tried to implement all of the things which this new generation had with other products, so it was like Instagram with a buy button,” Beckerman, previously Depop’s head of design, said in an interview with Wired. “Young people, who used their phones a lot and are used to social networks, found that it was easy to use.”

A big part of Depop’s community are these same young people, looking to rid their closets of clothes and make extra cash.

Luong has sold items such as clothing from Urban Outfitters and college gear.

“Making your clothing item look sellable is pretty intensive,” she said. “You have to pose in it and give it the best angle, which is super hard to do when you’re short like me and you’re trying to sell jeans.”

Depop’s search page, like the entire app, is inspired by social media sites like Instagram and Facebook. (Courtesy of Ebun Adebonojo/Workshop Staff)

Luong said she was excited when she sold more clothes than she thought she would.

“Selling connects you to people from everywhere. I’d never imagine that I’d be mailing clothes to a girl in the U.K.,” she said. “It really shows you the power social media has to connect people around the world… I’m just glad my clothes are going to a good home!”

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