London-based Depop bills itself as “the creative community's fashion marketplace.” A peer-to-peer shopping app, it differentiates itself from other marketplaces like eBay or Vestiaire Collective by appealing to a slightly edgier more creative consumer. At the intersection of social and e-commerce, Depop’s feed is a collection of perfectly-lit, beautifully-shot photos — where 90s Stüssy sits side-by-side Vivienne Westwood items perched on dust bags. Now with 17 million active users around the world, and doubling its revenue growth year-on-year in 2018, it’s no exaggeration to say that Depop is changing the way we shop online.


2019 was a huge year for Depop — looking back, what were some of the biggest highlights?

In the first few years after Depop’s launch in 2011, growth was very organic — mostly through word of mouth. The combination of branding and the evolution of our digital marketing has been really strong this year, and has helped us reach new audiences while keeping our existing community engaged.

In the digital marketing team, we’ve been doing a lot of testing in terms of tactics and strategies, and working out how we can gain greater visibility across platforms. We’ve grown the department, too, adding interdisciplinary roles like graphic designers and content producers. It gives us the luxury to move fast — so if we have an idea in the morning, we can execute and launch it by the end of the day.

The addition of our CMO, Peter Semple, has also really pushed the marketing team and our strategy forward. He’s thinking big, and encouraging all of us to think even bigger. We’ve also worked on some incredible partnerships — collaborating with iconic brands like Selfridges and Ralph Lauren.

A big part of Depop’s success is down to the community it’s built with its users. How has that impacted your traditional marketing funnel, and what does the engagement pyramid look like for the brand?

In a way, when it comes to our marketing strategy, we’ve already done the hardest part — which is building that community and advocacy. It’s flipped the traditional marketing funnel on its head.

We have a lot of data that shows that once users buy from the app, they will come back — so it comes down to the product itself. For us, the funnel starts with encouraging users to actually try the app and interact with its community. The fact that Depop is a social marketplace means users are going to come back on a daily basis to check what has been posted in the meantime, the same way they would on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat.

Getting people to interact with the product is a mix of targeted advertising, organic engagement, and having a very comprehensive strategy about how to attract users. We’ve done some pretty cool campaigns that weren’t necessarily direct response, but have taken more of a softer approach — showing content to particular audiences without asking them to install the app. For example, on YouTube, we use long-form videos as the hook and showcase for our community. In the last year, we’ve grown our channel by 900%. Building these branded campaigns, even if they’re not necessarily direct response, can be really beneficial — then, the loyalty comes from the app itself.

When it comes to our marketing strategy, we’ve already done the hardest part — which is building
that community and advocacy. It’s flipped the
traditional marketing funnel on its head.

At a high level, what are the channels that work best for Depop?

Ultimately, I think it’s pretty simple — it’s about following where people spend their time on. Our audience spends a lot of time on Snapchat, Instagram and increasingly on TikTok too. There is no way that a jump on Snapchat wouldn‘t work for us — all three are guaranteed channels, and we just need to figure out a good way to communicate with users through these platforms.

In the past year, we scaled up the obvious channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, and then started doing a lot more testing on Twitter and Pinterest. Any channel could be a good one, but there’s always going to be some that work better for your business and the audiences you’re trying to draw in. It’s a good rule of thumb — put as much effort as you can to grow the most important channels, and in your spare time, try and diversify the less obvious ones.

And don’t forget to think about your less obvious audiences, too. Our target audience might technically be Gen Z, but there is always a way to talk with other audiences — parents, grandparents, they could definitely be part of your strategy, if you manage to crack the content.

How do you picture your audiences, and how do you engage them?

I definitely think about audiences more like tribes, or sub-communities of communities. There are so many ways we could segment, and we do it more through interests or buying behaviors rather than demographics, which can feel really reductive — for example, segmenting through preferences like vintage or streetwear, or by the designers users are interested in. Then, we try to create the most compelling pieces of content for those segments, and show it to users in the most effective way.

It’s a change I’ve noticed in the wider industry, too. Five or six years ago, there was a very demographic-based approach to advertising. Algorithms would always focus on age and gender, and, in turn, you would match your advertising to these demographics too. Now, most platforms generally ask advertisers to go broad. It’s all about focusing on the particular community that you want to engage with, and then putting the ad out there almost without restrictions — and letting the algorithm find the right people for you.

At the core, it’s about creating the content that will resonate with the community you’re pitching to, and that people will naturally engage with.

Depop is often referred to as “Gen Z’s favorite shopping app.” What do you think has been key to cracking this audience, and what tips can you give other marketers wanting to do the same?

Actually, the most important piece of advice is to step away from these arbitrary do’s and don’ts when it comes to marketing by demographics. You can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach with your audience, whether that’s Gen Z or baby boomers. We didn’t design Depop for Gen Z, we made it for creatives who love fashion — they could be any age. That’s why I prefer to talk about marketing to tribes instead of demographics — tribes are trans-generational. It also helps keep our voice and brand very clear and authentic, and closer to how people interact with each other in real life.