Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Would You Take Fashion Advice From An Engineer?

An example of a popular "set"
How have 3 engineers created a fashion site which is 6 times more read than Vogue? Launched in 2007 by 3 ex-Yahoo engineers, Polyvore is one of the companies changing the way we shop online.

When Pasha Sadri, Jianing Hu and Guangwei Yuan sensed a shift from print to digital media, they pounced on the opportunity to capitalize on the online fashion market. Despite being a popular online subject, companies had not yet realised the potential to make money from e-retail.

Exploiting this gap, the trio created Polyvore, a place where fashion conscious people from around the world could share their style and thoughts on fashion.

One of the site’s most popular features is called “sets”. This allows users to pick their favourite items from the site, and make collages resembling the trend pages of a fashion magazine. Users can browse other users’ “sets”, enter them in competitions, join groups and buy merchandise directly. Users are also able to share their sets on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Create your own set
With over 6.5 million unique hits per month, Polyvore has unsurprisingly attracted retail partners such as Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom, and designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Diane von Furstenberg.

The benefit of having tech-savy people at the helm of a fashion company is that they can create smart ways of allowing users to interact in the online fashion community. For example, a bookmark drag bar allows users to “clip” products from other stores or sites. Around 95% of content on Polyvore is collected using this method.

One of the many competitions run by Polyvore
Competitions on Polyvore allow users to interact in the online community, not only with users, but designers. Competitions such as a recent clutch ‘design-off’ have also involved designers such as Rebecca Minkoff.

Features do not just benefit consumers. A new function called Dashboard, allows companies and designers to “take the temperature” of their brand. This can tell them how popular a particular item or collection is in real time, instead of waiting until the season is over.

Like many other websites, Polyvore embraces social media sites such as Facebook to further enhance their offering to their community. Sites such as Facebook allow easy interaction between Polyvore, brands and online users.

When asked why he thought Polyvore was so successful, Polyvore’s CEO Pasha Sadri said for most other sites, “immediate revenue is the focus for a lot of shopping oriented sites. Whereas on Polyvore, [users] want to come and browse and interact. That suits the way a lot of women shop.”

Despite being technologically focused, Polyvore relies on the taste of their users to drive their site. When questioned about why the site does not use algorithms like Google Boutiques, Sadri said the Polyvore “belief is there is actually no substitute for human taste. You cannot capture in an algorithm. Following that person whose taste you like it the best way to discover products that you are likely to like as well. An algorithm might capture the average of your taste, but it leaves out the element of surprise that a real person gives you.”

So what can designers and retailers learn from Polyvore's success? Polyvore have mastered the art of using basic techniques to great effect. Here are some examples of Polyvore's smart marketing:
  1. They are getting the community to promote their company by making it easy for users to upload their sets onto social marketing sites such as Facebook, which increases exposure to their brand exponentially. They also provide Polyvore "badges" for bloggers to put on their blog which links to the Polyvore site. These techniques are not only effective, but relatively cost-free.
  2. Their site is consumer focused with users selecting the content of the site through the sets they create. 
  3. Polyvore have formed relationships with big brands such as Bergdorf Goodman and Yves Saint Laurent who have bigger marketing budgets Polyvore can benefit from.
  4. They encourage users to get involved, not only through creating their own sets, but by creating competitions which give those in the Polyvore community, a unique forum to show their skills.
  5. They support and reward users who are part of the Polyvore community. For example, they will have regular features with bloggers who post Polyvore on their blogs and interview bloggers who are actively involved in the Polyvore community.
Checkout the site for yourself and let me know why you think Polyvore is so successful - who knows, you might be inspired to create your own set!
Check out my post on Google Boutiques to learn more about the new wave of online shopping changing the way we buy online.

Information sourced from http://polyvore.com and http://fashionmarketinggroup.tumblr.com/
Images sourced from http://polyvore.com


  1. Impressive! I love how interactive it is!

  2. The website is fantastic! Very user friendly:) I guess that's what you get when you have three engineers at the helm of a company!:)


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