Polyvore continues to find its way under the wing of new parent Yahoo.
But if it wants to keep its competitive edge and remain relevant in the evolving world of social shopping, it will have to be through a balance of maintaining the right corporate culture and being where its users are.
Yahoo’s purchase of Polyvore, announced in July, was on undisclosed terms, but the company reportedly went for more than $200 million and, in exchange, provided Yahoo with a valuable audience of engaged users.
“We had built out essentially a product-as-a-platform for apparel,” said chief operating officer Arnie Gullov-Singh during the WWD Digital Forum in Los Angeles. “I think Yahoo saw that and said, ‘we have traffic. How can we throw it against your platform and drive even more customers to the advertisers’…so that’s certainly a big part of the attraction on the Yahoo side. It made sense for us, bless you guys, we have more budget than we can spend right now.”
What to do with that money is now the question. Gullov-Singh pointed out opportunities in other verticals, with men’s wear being the most obvious one. There’s also the question of how to expand on mobile and internationally, all while ensuring the same corporate culture that got Polyvore to where it is today.
“Your culture is what gets you through. We decided we were going to be very transparent with our team with how we were doing, good or bad,” he said. “You can’t bulls–t your team when you’re sitting next to them, and we found that being honest when we weren’t doing well, people wanted to step up. Six quarters ago, we had a terrible quarter. We didn’t know what happened but we rallied the company. The next quarter, we had a record quarter. That only happened because of our culture of transparency.”
It helps to know your customer, too.
“If you’re trying to create social strategies, you should really think about which platforms are your customers on…and you should focus on those and not try to be all things to all people,” Gullov-Singh said.
The Polyvore user community creates roughly three million outfits monthly, with the company realizing that access to its site via mobile is quickly growing, now amounting to about half of users. About 45 million of those outfits are “liked” by other users, and 75 percent of those outfits are shared on social media sites such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.
“The user intent is very different in lifestyle [shopping],” Gullov-Singh said. “Buying hard goods is all about things you need where you make a decision based on information — facts and figures and so on. But in lifestyle, it’s about things you want. You don’t necessarily know that you want a pillow that looks like this or a handbag that looks like this. So you need a different purchase funnel and that’s why it’s a very different purchase cycle.”
Enter social networks such as Pinterest or Instagram that help shoppers discover the kind of pillow or handbag they actually want.
Gullov-Singh painted the picture of a chain in which commerce requires inspiration, which requires content that then requires some sort of community to distribute that content.
He used the example of a skater skirt sold on Farfetch and how it was merchandised on the Farfetch site to inspire a purchase.
“They have 26,000 products in their catalogue,” he said. “This one outfit is really nice, but how do you possibly merchandise 26,000 products? You can’t. You’d go bankrupt and they’d go out of fashion before you possibly have a chance to merchandise them.”
Polyvore users helped merchandise that skirt and the 26,000 other products on Farfetch, Gullov-Singh said, by creating some 388,000 outfits, which were shared 605,000 times on Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram in the last 30 days.
“When you multiply that by 12 months and you multiply that by every kind of retailer that sells women’s apparel, you can see that this is the way of the future for scaling and reaching the audience.”