Guest Column | May 7, 2018

The Power Of The Platform: Why Marketplace Experiences Will Win The Retail Game

By Sarah Perkins, DesignerShare

Customer Experience Management

One of the biggest challenges for any retailer still lies around how to break through the noise and get customers through “the door.” These days, it’s rarely a physical door. Thanks to millennials, everything comes down to one thing: The Experience. We want to document, remember, and breathe in a brand from start to finish.

Go ahead and blame Marie Kondo for her decluttering method for decreased retail sales, but she is simply highlighting what we have all inherently known from the start: Experiences bring more joy to us than things do. The reason we hold onto certain inanimate objects is because of the memories and feelings attached to them — that one handbag that has traveled the world with you, the painting passed down from generation to generation. But another gut reaction is attributed to the sunk cost fallacy: “I spent so much on that, how can I just give it up?”

This is the emotion the sharing economy latches onto and utilizes to every fiber of its massively scalable model, from the average citizen’s vacation home to parking garages with unfilled spots. For fashion, this is where my company comes in. DesignerShare is a site that allows women to rent their designer clothing and accessories to one another. Instead of simply donating that Céline you’re tired of toting or consigning it for a fraction of what you paid, why not rent it out and know you’re giving someone else the joy of experience a high-quality piece that is simply taking up space in your closet?

On top of that, pay off that closet. If you’re in Chicago, for example, a one-bedroom apartment costs around $1,700 for an average of 750 square feet. Let’s say your small walk-in (if you’re lucky) is about 16 square feet. That means you’re paying around $36 a month just to keep your wardrobe off the ground. When you DesignerShare your designer items, that $36 is paid off in a weeklong rental of your item — and all you do is coordinate pick up and drop off times and open the front door.

This is where platforms truly are queen: Instead of housing these expensive items or buying them as a company, DesignerShare allows women to rent out the clothing and accessories they aren’t wearing from their own homes. No need for large warehouses or to be the largest dry-cleaning facility in the world like Rent The Runway — there’s a reason pipeline businesses need a lot of cash to operate. Like the Airbnbs, SpotHeros, and Lyfts of the world, we are a marketplace and logistics company, coordinating that perfect experience for our users through underutilized items.

Not only do we save our users money, we are able to turn a profit that much quicker by having lower overhead costs. Rent The Runway may have thousands of choices after many years in operation, but that also means a large number of pieces they have to plan each season for that simply sit around in New Jersey — DesignerShare only touches the garments and accessories when an item is in transit. The less touch points and ownership over physical inventory, the quicker the return on our model. On top of it, building a community like ours is a great way for women to network and connect about fashion in a way they haven’t easily been able to before.

eBay and Amazon helped pave the way for all of us marketplaces, but there is a next level element of experience that comes into the modern-day platform — and it’s all about service. From her first welcome email, to door-to-door delivery, DesignerShare focuses on making women feel their absolute best from the inside out. She deserves to take on her goals while rocking Valentino Rockstuds she borrowed for less — she’s just able to enjoy that once-in-a-lifetime meal even more, knowing she has the funds for it all. On the other side, our lenders can finally be rid of their buyer’s remorse — perhaps she heads to Paris with that extra income coming in from her wardrobe. And we implement that feeling of power, confidence and beauty every step of the journey with us.

Pipelines sell things — but a platform marketplace sells the experience that makes it possible to live your life to the fullest.