Peer-to-peer selling app Mercari was founded in 2013 in Tokyo by a game developer, Shintaro Yamada, who after traveling the world decided the only universal currency was casual trading, or the marketplace.
Inhabiting the market alongside competitors such as Offer Up, Let Go and Poshmark, Mercari is geared toward more “casual sellers,” or rather the “younger mom,” according to Brad Williams, director of communications at Mercari.
And it’s big in Japan, since becoming what Williams, calls an “overnight sensation,” after a television ad aired about the company. Before Mercari, “buying used was not part of mainstream [Japanese] culture,” as Williams said.
As for the U.S., Mercari has seen 45 million downloads to date, with a little over 2 million monthly active users. “America has made it really easy to buy,” added Williams who, prior to joining Mercari last November, was with Levi’s and spent nearly five years with eBay.
While he credits eBay as having ”done a pretty good job for being built in the early days of the Internet,” Williams argued the ease of use of Mercari, with customers listing items in as little as three minutes on an iPhone.
Contributing to this ease may be the company’s focus on its technology as a driver in its mission of “making selling easier than buying.”
In replicating the payment system used by sharing economy ride-share pioneers Uber and Lyft, the company introduced Instant Pay this July to the U.S., following the introduction of its Pack & Ship service. About 1,200 employees in Tokyo, with technical divisions in Palo Alto, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., power the selling app.
Mercari users can sell or buy almost anything with its “everything ships” model. Exceptions include its list of prohibited items, but even cosmetics make the cut for what is salable on its marketplace. Today, Mercari’s core categories include clothing, shoes and accessories.
On the recent press regarding the pre-owned makeup market, Williams added, “We don’t have a point of view on that. We regulate the sale of pre-owned beauty on our site.”
But marketplace regulation often invites authentication solutions.
“Broadly, the shared interest is authentication to ensure buyers, brand rights owners and sellers reach a productive compromise,” Williams said. Just over the last few weeks, Mercari has built out its third-party brand partnerships team to aid the productive compromise on authentication. It sees this as the “first step,” as it continues to build market share in the U.S.
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