Pose has a new purpose.
The Los Angeles-based app and Web site early to the digital photo-sharing phenomenon has implemented commerce functionality to enable users to buy, sell and trade clothing and accessory items captured in fellow users’ images, and monetize the strength of its visual content. Launching officially this week after a testing phase that began in May, the peer-to-peer marketplace positions Pose in competition with a slew of digital resale options including The Real Real, Poshmark and Tradesy trying to woo the fashion community away from eBay.
Within its marketplace, Rachel Rutherford, co-chief executive officer of Pose, said, “We are seeing unique items that 10 years ago people used to hunt for on eBay. They are the things that people go to the flea market for. It is a niche for us. If you look at Poshmark, that maybe is where you can buy khakis. We are not really the place to go buy khakis. We are the place to find a unique handbag or scarf. Our girl is looking for a self-expression piece that Pose has always had as a brand that is carrying over to commerce.”
Buying and selling on Pose shouldn’t be a huge leap for users accustomed to posting pictures on the platform. “It is very similar to the process they had been doing already on Pose for the past three-and-a-half years in terms of uploading a picture of their outfit. If you want to add a price, then it’s a listing, but if you want to upload to share with friends or for inspiration, then it’s a Pose. So, these two entities live together,” explained Rutherford. Pose takes a 20 percent commission on sales made through its system.
The road to Pose’s commerce solution was a relatively long one in the context of digital start-ups. Founded in 2011 by Alisa Gould-Simon and Dustin Rosen, Pose initially envisioned advertising as the underpinning of its business model, but found that chasing advertisers left it beholden to brands that didn’t fully understand digital mediums or want to abandon their traditional outlets to spend in the mobile space. “For us, it feels like everything is now in-house as opposed to when we were in the business of having clients and being more in service relationships of running campaigns,” said Gould-Simon.
Pose merged with another L.A. start-up, Little Black Bag, last year. Little Black Bag, a social shopping site where shoppers traded fashion merchandise presented to them first in mystery bags, has since been phased out, and Pose assumed its technology, staff and funding. Little Black Bag’s founder and ceo Dan Murillo provided support in the transition, but exited the combined company following the merger, as did Rosen. Gould-Simon and Rutherford became co-ceo’s of Pose on April 1.
The merger with Little Black Bag left Pose with an asset atypical in the digital consignment field: a trading capability. “No one is doing that in the peer-to-peer experience,” said Rutherford. Pose users can trade merchandise directly with their user peers or view all the items up for trade in an area in the app dedicated to trading. “We are seeing it is definitely a different behavior. There are some items that have more resale value, so you want to sell them, but there are other items that might not have so much resale value, but you’d love to get something new to you if you could trade them to someone who might be excited to trade,” said Rutherford.
Beyond trading, Rutherford and Gould-Simon emphasized Pose’s rich content library differentiates it in the crowd of digital resale choices. “We have 3.5 million poses, and there is so much data on those poses. When you make a purchase and you buy Alisa’s sweater, we can send you an e-mail that says, here’s three ways to wear a sweater just like that,” pointed out Rutherford. Leveraging its content, she mentioned Pose is going to be adding an “I Want It” feature allowing users to signal that they’d like to purchase items in images posted on Pose, even if those items aren’t listed for sale.
Gould-Simon revealed that Pose has more than 2.8 million registered users, and it has been downloaded more than four million times. She detailed that Pose’s user base demographically breaks down into two groups: women aged 18 to 21, who may be students and low income, and women aged 28 to 45, who are often professionals and higher income. Gould-Simon reasoned the demographics are the result of the high-low fashion sensibility of Pose, and a strong collection of bloggers and celebrities the likes of Louise Roe, Leandra Medine, Kelly Wearstler and Melanie Brown, better known as Mel B or Scary Spice, that pull their audiences into Pose.
“We have the younger women who are buying the low because that’s what they can afford, but they are aspiring to the higher, and then there are women that can actually afford the higher price points and appreciate the style and diversity of Pose,” said Gould-Simon.
Between Pose and Little Black Bag, the company has raised nearly $15 million in funding. Among Pose’s investors are Upfront Ventures, True Ventures and Mousse Partners. Gould-Simon noted Pose is “cash positive” and not seeking further funding at the moment.
“We are absolutely focused on profitability,” she said, indicating that to get to profitability Pose has to become a recognized resource for the resale of high-quality goods. In peer-to-peer marketplaces, Gould-Simon continued, “Either you need a huge scale of inventory or you need very successful sell-through of your inventory. Ideally, you have both. We are more focused on sell-through and really creating a strong conversion with our consumers.”