Poshmark Debuts Pet Category Amid Frenzy for Four-Legged Friends

Poshmark is following the same formula it used when it ventured into the home and beauty categories.
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Francis Scialabba

· 8 min read

Poshmark’s only a few weeks removed from trading on the Nasdaq, but already growing its business. Cofounder Tracy Sun is confident Poshmark’s new pet category will seamlessly fit into the social commerce model it’s built over the better part of a decade.

“Catalog expansion is a strategy we’ve had in place for a few years now,” Sun told Retail Brew. “We know if we listen to feedback [...] when we do launch, supply will come quite quickly and the category will mature over a period of time.”

Keep reading to learn more about Poshmark’s entry into petcare, how it’s differentiating from other resale platforms, and its potential for additional category expansions.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Retail Brew: Why launch the pets category?

Tracy Sun: At Poshmark, we combine the very best of the social networks and the ease and selection of e-commerce. We’ve done this successfully with fashion, with home, with beauty. Pets are another member of the household, and up until now, we’ve enabled our buyers and sellers to connect with one another over their shared love for — whether it’s fashion and style or home accessories and beauty. Now we’re bringing our social marketplace to a new category —to enable people who are seeking a simple, social, and sustainable way to buy and sell pet accessories at an affordable price.

RB: What makes Poshmark confident the pets category will fit into the business model?

TS: There are two types of data that have driven this decision. The first is quantitative. There, we’re able to look at search queries on Poshmark; we’re able to see, “What are buyers looking for?” We are seeing a lot of activity already, even before the category has launched, around things like pet leashes and collars.

The second, which is equally important, is the qualitative data. One of the values of Poshmark is we really value the human connection. Throughout the course of running our business, we’ve often gone to our community and listened to them. “What do you want to buy and sell that we don’t have today? It’s your business; give us feedback.” So, we’ve heard from many of our sellers in particular in this qualitative feedback, “Hey, you know what? I want to grow my business this way.” We bring those two together as well as our strategy for category expansion, which is one of our levers for long-term growth and that brings us to the pets launch today.

RB: Can you describe the process of actually launching the category and having items for sale?

TS: One competitive advantage of the Poshmark model is we are asset light, in that we don’t carry inventory. Once we’ve made this decision based on the qualitative and quantitative data that I shared earlier, we start to add this category into all of our merchandising and marketing systems and into our algorithms that make all of the fundamental systems that make Poshmark work. So when we do turn on the category, it will enable any seller on Poshmark who has pet items to be able to go directly into the catalog as they create their listing and select among the categories they want to sell. Conversely, our shoppers, when they start searching for items or when they open up their personal shopping feed, if they start to engage with this category, our algorithms will start to show it back to them and re-merchandise it to them accordingly.

RB: Are you worried about populating with inventory upon launching?

TS: Not worried about it. We already see some supply of pet accessories on Poshmark today, but the category is not official so it’s really hard to find. So what we’ll do is structure that into our catalog, which then enables our system to accurately categorize and re-merchandise and remarket to our community. Catalog expansion is a strategy we’ve had in place for a few years now. We’ve expanded to home. We’ve expanded to beauty, and now it will be pets. It’s a playbook now. We know if we listen to feedback, we listen to the data, that when we do launch, supply will come quickly and the category will mature over a period of time.

RB: Are there concerns about cleanliness selling secondhand pet accessories?

TS: The pets category will include both new and secondhand items, just like the rest of the Poshmark marketplace. We do expect the pets category to follow all of our existing marketplace policies and community guidelines. Meaning, everything should be in sellable condition.

RB: What influence did the pandemic and its effects have on your rollout of the pets category?

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TS: We had wanted to launch this category based on community feedback and data pre-pandemic. What’s happened with the pandemic is pet ownership is skyrocketing, hitting record levels. Now it’s a great time to enable our community to buy and sell for their four-legged animal.

RB: What separates Poshmark from competitors like Etsy and eBay that also occupy the peer-to-peer commerce space?

TS: What makes Poshmark different is our focus on people. When you think about physical markets that have been around for hundreds and thousands of years, or the local farmer’s market today, people generally like to form relationships with the people they're buying and selling from. It’s community; it’s also very helpful to be able to ask questions about, “How does this size work? I’m not familiar with brands, can you tell me how to wear this?” There’s so much more to fashion than just the transaction. The popularity of e-commerce has really stripped out all of that conversation, all of that humanity in shopping. What it highlights is the actual SKU and the price, which are parts of the equation but not the full equation.

What Poshmark does is we put back all of that vibrancy into the shopping experience again, and we do it online. So whether you’re shopping for your furry pet, or yourself, or your child, or your home, you do it through connecting with people. You can see Poshmark as your own personal, virtual mall that you have on your phone. When you open up that personalized mall, your shopping feed is populated by people you’re following who can recommend items to you, recommend brands to you; you can have conversations with them. Putting people at the heart of commerce is something that’s unique to Poshmark. One interesting thing about Poshmark if you see it through the social network lens, everything that people are talking about, every piece of content you see is for sale.

RB: Do you see a potential decline in business once people return to physical stores more regularly?

TS: There are three trends that are important to understand that are happening in commerce. The first is the shift to online. The second is the shift to social, particularly Gen Z. They want to talk about things. They want to connect about things. They don’t want to just be told what to buy. And the third is the shift to secondhand or resale. All three of those trends, the seeds were planted many years ago and they have been gaining momentum.

What we saw with the pandemic is that the pandemic accelerated the adoption of these trends. I think when stores open up again, the selection and ease of being able to shop online—the circular sustainability values that particularly the younger shopping generation is embracing— I don’t see those as flash-in-the-pan values. Those are things I believe are here to stay. I believe these trends have accelerated and will continue.

RB: Are there more category expansions in Poshmark’s future?

TS: There are several long-term strategies that we’re laser-focused on delivering. These are strategies that have been in place already and we’re going to continue focusing on delivering on those strategies. The first is what we’re talking about today, expanding the number of categories that our community can buy and sell. This helps our shoppers find even more products in a simple and sustainable way. But it also helps our sellers as they’re looking to grow their business. We will continue on that strategy, pets is the biggest news for now.

The second one is we will continue to focus on our international expansion. We started this with Canada. It was our first step into our international forray, and that won’t be our only step. It’s not a one stop tactic; that’s a long-term strategy for growth. We believe this social marketplace model—social commerce model—applies to many different geographies, not just the US. We will continue to innovate in our core platform. In our community of buyers and sellers today, there’s many more things we want to add. For example, we launched Posh Stories, which is our video product, last year. That’s just meant for everyone to bring their listings alive and tell their stories a bit better through video. So we’ll continue to do things like that.

And the last long-term strategy we had is to support some of our higher volume sellers. What we see is that many sellers in Poshmark are really just thriving, and we need to build enterprise-grade tools to enable them to run bigger and bigger businesses. So we’re focused on extending our platform in that way as well.

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