Innovating and Marketing in the Collaborative Consumption Age

Aug 02, 2011 | Skip to comments » | Share | |

We had a family friend over for dinner last night, who is a local realtor, and the conversation naturally came around to the housing market and the economy, and the lifestyle shift that we are all experiencing these days as a result of the market bust.  I shared my theory that it’s going to become necessary to go back to a 1950’s way of life, with smaller, more affordable homes and vehicles (that are paid for), and a more self-sustainable way of living.  This will also naturally result in a greater sense of community, as we all become more reliant on our neighbors and friends. We are also now seeing coupon clipping becoming trendy (which would have been a horrifying thought several years ago in the “spend more, save less” era.) In fact, many reformed shopaholics like me are happily becoming “bargainistas.”

As we look at how this shift impacts the digital realm, is it any wonder that daily deal sites like Living Social and Groupon are becoming so popular, or that most of us look to the internet first for a bargain from those popular e-commerce sites like Amazon?  And what about the couponing websites a la Southern Savers that direct you to printable coupons for stores in your zip code?  How does an entrepreneur capitalize on this new reality and then market it?

Let’s take a look at, an exploding online consignment venue for kids clothing.  Browse the bios of the company’s founders and team and you will find a host of impressive degrees from Harvard Business School and the like.  But apparently the idea came from a meeting over a beer, and some notes on a napkin. 

The Need

Everyone knows that successful selling and marketing begins with identifying a need and finding an innovative way to fill the gap with a solution.  Essentially, it’s Know Your Audience 101.  In this case, in a down economy, more and more moms are turning to consigning to generate some extra income and to purchase kids clothes in a more cost-effective way.  As of 2009, when the idea for thredUP was conceptualized, your only option was to schlep all those clothes to the local consignment store.  There was no online resource.

The Solution

Create an e-commerce/social media swapping platform that connects moms, their resources, and the US Postal Service.  Easy.  They market it as an "easy as 1-2-3" kind of approach. Pick, List, and Send.  You can pick, list and send clothing with the click of a mouse at thredUP.  Browse a list of pre-filled boxes of kids clothes and toys, similar to Ebay listings, and have your selected boxes delivered to your door in days for just $5 + $10.95 USPS shipping.  You get a little over 10 items in each box for roughly $1.50 a piece!  Or, if you want to consign your kids’ clothes, have some boxes sent to you, fill them, and send free of charge when someone orders your box.  Just leave your box at your doorstep and USPS will pick it up.

The Genius

ThredUP capitalized on the needs of busy moms who need a little extra cash and who are eco-conscious.  They took it one step further by adding social media to allow moms to connect.  There is an integrated Facebook component, a chat feature, the “Daily thred” which is a blog of mom-worthy content, and as a member, you can also track your favorite sellers to keep an eye out for future purchases.  It’s no accident that they have about half a dozen staffers soley devoted to public relations, content and topic creation, and “mom marketing” pulled from an in-house resource of real-life moms.

Bottom Line

Entrepreneurs and Marketers take note.  There is a lot of opportunity out there right now among the Collaborative Consumption movement, and there are unique and obvious ways to capitalize via digital platforms.  Wikipedia notes that as of November 1, 2010, thredUP saved parents a total of $1 million and helped to recycle over 50,000 lbs. of kids clothing. 

Can we get some of that beer they were drinking?



Thank you for the article,

Thank you for the article, Meredith. I recently became interested in Collaborative Consumption, particularly with respect to the ways that it can be applied to the field of philanthropy. As you've covered ThredUP in this article, perhaps you might be interested in WebThriftStore? They're a startup that enables charities to accept in-kind donations in virtual thrift stores, and thereby not have to deal with the costs and inefficiencies of operating physical ones.

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