What happened to Polyvore?

Polyvore was a community-based social commerce website founded by Pasha Sadri in 2007.  While decorating his new house, Sadri, an engineer at Yahoo, found himself cutting furniture ideas and color patches out of magazines and arranging them on an inspiration board. At some point, he considered that these boards could be created more easily online. The basis for their construction was Yahoo Pipes, which Sadri used with fellow Yahoo engineers Guangwei Yuen and Jianing Hu to launch the first version of the Polyvore platform in 2007. Three years later, the platform received 6.6 million unique visitors with revenue mostly dependent on affiliate links. This number had increased to 20 million monthly users by 2016, with the Pinterest-esque curated shopping service amassing some 100 million items. On April 5, 2018, Polyvore was acquired by Canadian retailer Ssense with operations to cease immediately. 

So what happened to Polyvore? 

Ssense acquisition

When Polyvore was acquired by Ssense, the Montreal-based fashion platform and retailer suggested the coming together of both companies was synergistic: “We believe that Ssense is the right community for the Polyvore members, and we’re inspired by their commitment to offering a directional mix of the most coveted labels in the world.”

Though never publicly confirmed, the company’s motivation to acquire Polyvore was likely its large and devoted user base. But somewhat ironically, the acquisition angered the very customers it was hoping to secure. Polyvore users took to social media to lament the loss of friend networks and personal blogs that had taken years to create. Many also made a promise to never purchase from Ssense and urged others to do the same.

User data

In a statement of its own, Polyvore told users that their personal data would be shared with Ssense so that it could send them promotional information.

However, one wonders why user data was shared between the platforms when the two brands could not be more different. In one corner was Polyvore, a democratized fashion platform where brand discovery was a crowdsourced, community experience. In the other corner was Ssense, a platform for the uber-cool fashionista with an editorial department writing about arty and intellectual topics such as Croatian brutalism and sound art. 

While there was some degree of overlap between the two services, most users of the much more low-key Polyvore were never going to find a home on the suave and sophisticated Ssense platform. The inability for Ssense management to realize this fact was more or less confirmed when Polyvore fans reacted badly to the acquisition.

At the time of writing, it is unclear as to whether Ssense has any plans to bring back the features that made Polyvore such a hit. 

Key takeaways:

  • Polyvore was a community-based social commerce website founded by Pasha Sadri in 2007. Two years after reaching a peak of 20 million monthly active users, the platform was acquired by Canadian retail platform Ssense and shut down almost immediately.
  • Though never publicly confirmed, the company’s motivation to acquire Polyvore was likely its large and devoted user base. However, Polyvore fans reacted badly to the news that their curated accounts and friend networks would be lost. 
  • Ssense suggested that its community was appropriate for Polyvore members. In reality, however, the two platforms attracted a different sort of customer with limited overlap in content or fashion preferences.

Read Next: Poshmark, ThredUp, eBay, Vinted, Craigslist, Depop, Wish.

Connected Visual Business Models

Poshmark is a social commerce mobile platform that combines social media capabilities to its e-commerce platform to enable transactions. It makes money with a simple model, where for each sale, Poshmark takes a 20% fee on the final price, for sales of $15 and over, and a flat rate of $2.95 for sales below that. As a mobile-first platform, its gamification elements and the tools offered to sellers are critical to the company’s growth.
Wish is a mobile-first e-commerce platform in which users’ experience is based on discovery and customized product feed. Wish makes money from merchants’ fees and merchants’ advertising on the platform and logistic services. The mobile platform also leverages an asset-light business model based on a positive cash conversion cycle where users pay in advance as they order goods, and merchants are paid in weeks.
Vinted is an online shopping marketplace with a strong secondhand component. The company makes money via its buyer protection service. The buyer pays a fee to Vinted in exchange for services like customer support, insurance, and tracked shipping; Shipping costs; Wardrobe Spotlight (helping users boost the visibility of their items). And Bumping listed items.
Depop is a peer-to-peer shopping app founded by Simon Beckerman in 2011 at the Italian technological incubator and start-up center H-FARM. Depop experienced tremendous growth in the following years, thanks largely to word-of-mouth advertising and social sharing. The platform now boasts more than 21 million users. Marketplace giant Etsy has plans to acquire Depop in the third quarter of 2021 for a cash deal worth $1.625 billion.
ThredUp is an online sustainable fashion company founded by James Reinhart in 2009. Reinhart got the idea for ThredUp after realizing he had a closet full of clothes he did not want to wear and could not sell. ThredUp makes money by charging a commission on every piece of clothing sold on its platform. The exact commission depends on the listing price, which the company determines by analyzing the brand, size, seasonality, quality, and age of the item. ThredUp also charges customers a fee if they want to have their old clothing items processed by the company within a week.

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