It’s hard to overestimate the importance of online video for e-commerce, and yet resale still hasn’t taken full advantage, according to David Oates, chief executive officer of secondhand clothes shopping app Curtsy. He aims to change that with the arrival of a new feature called Try On.
Not to be confused with augmented reality-driven virtual try-ons, Curtsy’s version is definitively all about video. But the goal is the same — to give people a better sense of real-life products than any static image could possibly provide.
Sellers are encouraged to try on products for their viewers, but how they model or showcase them is up to them. Even simply putting them on camera can be helpful. They can show the color, note any flaws for transparency and run their hands on the fabric, as a stand-in for the tactile experience.
The app will feature a dedicated section for Try Ons, and an endless scroll-through to hop from one video to the next. The more users interact with it, the more Curtsy can apply data intelligence to customize the feed.
If that sounds familiar, it’s not by accident. Oates was inspired by how his user base — made up primarily of Gen Z users — amped up their sales. They’ve always hit other social networks to promote their listings, but lately, he saw the use of social video jump.
“We’ve been noticing over the last year or two, alongside the rise of TikTok and more people getting comfortable with video, that people would do the post, take photos for Curtsy, upload their item and then post a video to Instagram or Tiktok,” he explained in an exclusive interview with WWD. Those particular posts got a lot more engagement, he added, so he built the feature directly into the app.
Of course, his fashion resale platform isn’t the first to integrate video. But he’s been less than impressed with how they often work those clips in, as tacked-on assets at the end of a photo carousel.
“So video is added as an afterthought to an e-commerce experience designed around photos,” he added. “The Instagram-TikTok example is a great one: You could always add a video to Instagram, but TikTok really designed the entire user experience around it and created the algorithm that incorporated all the videos to specific signals.
“How long did somebody stay there? How many times do they loop the video, [etc.] It was really TikTok that, like, made video, the full-screen video format, explode.”
Another obvious example comes from Poshmark, the resale competitor that launched Posh Stories with short shoppable videos in 2020 and a listing videos feature in 2021.
Oates called Poshmark’s Stories approach “interesting,” but said “it has not been widely adopted as a feature.” Those videos are also intended to be short, at just 15 seconds, whereas Oates wants to explore a longer format. He noted that even TikTok, which made its name with short clips, now offers longer videos.
Try On has been available through a beta test, then a soft launch this week ahead of the official debut. As many as 500 or more video listings sprang up almost immediately, and so far, 20 seconds seems to be the sweet spot for sellers. It will offer a minimum length of just five seconds and a maximum of up to one minute.
In these and other ways, TikTok — which itself has expressed serious intent to pursue shopping features — serves more as inspiration than competition for Curtsy. Although both cater to younger, video-native consumers, the Chinese-owned platform tends to focus on big brands and new products, whereas Curtsy serves individual sellers looking to clear out their closets.
That makes Poshmark its most obvious rival. But even then, Oates seems unconcerned. “Poshmark is more for the mom of our customers, and they do more in luxury,” he said. “Their average order is a lot more than us as well. Our specialty is, like, Patagonia, Nike, Lululemon, Gymshark, so it’s a little bit lower-end and younger. Our core customer is between [the ages of] 16 and 24, and into the young millennial territory.”
That’s always been the essence of the business. Curtsy started out seven years ago as an app to help women on college campuses rent dresses, as a sort of lower-scale Rent the Runway, and it evolved into a resale app just before the pandemic arrived. An $11 million series A in 2021 has helped fuel growth, and while Oates couldn’t disclose specific figures, his sellers number in the hundreds of thousands, with gross merchandise value in the order of tens of millions.
Now that Curtsy is launching video, practically a native language for Gen Z users, there’s no telling where those numbers could go. Early signs look good, and if they stay strong, it could help cement video’s place in fashion resale.