What Depop Can Teach Associations About Attracting the Next Generation

If you haven’t yet heard of Depop, the social shopping and resale app, you will. In the United Kingdom, one-third of all 16- to 24-year-olds are on Depop. After raising $62 million in funding this year, Depop foresees attracting the next generation of Americans too.

Depop is best described as a mix of eBay and Instagram. Users can set up a Depop shop and upload photos of clothes and accessories they want to sell. Or, they can set up a profile page and browse Depop shops. Like other social platforms, users can follow, like, and message others.

10 lessons from Depop for attracting the next generation of members and learners

90% of Depop’s active users are under the age of 26. “This company is for the next generation,” said Rachel Swidenbank, vice president of marketplace at Depop. Depop has many lessons to share with associations about attracting the next generation of members and learners.

#1: Entrepreneurial generation

“You can now start a fashion business from your bedroom,” said Maria Raga, CEO of Depop. The oldest members of Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2019, are now entering the workforce, and, according to an Ernst & Young study, they’re more entrepreneurial than previous generations. Another study found that 72% of high school students and 64% of college students are eager to start their own business.

Gen Z has been called the “side hustle” and “bedroom entrepreneur” generation. Many of them are starting their own businesses instead of taking an uninspiring entry-level job or waiting for the job market to improve. The gig or freelance economy makes it easy for them to monetize their skills and knowledge and find clients. On Depop, some sellers pull in up to $300,000 in yearly sales.

Take a look at your industry or profession and imagine if this entrepreneurial generation decides to change “business as usual.”

•    How might employment and workforce practices change in your profession or industry?
•    Are entrepreneurs already providing new products or services to your market? Could they?
•    What type of education will a new generation of solo practitioners or freelancers need to succeed in your marketplace? 

#2: Mobile is everything

A report from the Center for Generational Kinetics found that 55% of Gen Z spends at least five hours a day on their phones. Depop says the average daily user opens their app several times a day to browse and comment on items, check in with people they follow, message contacts, and buy and sell. 

Gen Z manages all aspects of their lives on their phone and other connected devices. Your association competes for attention with apps like Depop, not just other educational providers. Your marketing messages and learning experiences must be compelling enough to convince someone to click away from Depop or Instagram.

And, when they do click away and come to your website, most likely they’re doing it on their phone. They’ll only stick around if you provide a user experience that meets their expectations—and those expectations are set by brands like Depop. 

Your learning platform’s navigation, search, registration, and payment must be designed for the mobile user. Microlearning is the best educational design and delivery method for the generation who turned to YouTube whenever they wanted to learn how to do something. 

attracting the next generation

#3: Cost-conscious 

Depop offers clothing at a wide range of price points. Since many of the items are secondhand, prices are affordable. Low prices appeal to Gen Z who, according to Ernst & Young, are more cost-conscious than previous generations. 

With college debt and a tight job market, it’s no surprise that finances are a chief concern. Nearly half of older Gen Zers worry about their career and future. 

Make sure you offer enough programs at a low price point. Market your programs as a solution to career anxiety.

#4: Purchasing decisions

The social aspect of Depop adds to its appeal and success. A study found that 80% of Gen Z and 74% of millennial consumers are influenced in part by social media to buy a product. 

Social influence has a huge impact on Gen Z’s purchasing decisions, but that’s not where it ends. They also use social media, including social apps like Depop, to promote and criticize the products they buy.

Testimonials are a powerful marketing tool, especially when the “review” comes from a fellow Gen Z member or customer. 

#5: Fluid sense of ownership

Why buy when you can rent? Millennials and Gen Z aren’t as willing to sink hard-earned money into products they can barely afford or rarely use. They rent furniture from Furnish and camping equipment from REI. They’re more likely to borrow a dress from Rent the Runway than purchase one elsewhere. But, if they do invest in a dress, they can wear it for a season and then sell it on Depop.

Think about how these consumption habits might affect your association’s bottom line. 

•    Will they want to buy expensive legal handbooks to prepare for your certification exam, or would they rather rent them?
•    Will they prefer monthly auto-payments for membership, or the annual dues invoice?

#6: Low barrier to entry

On Depop, it only takes a few minutes to set up a profile, take a photo of the top you want to sell, upload it, and add a description and price. 19-year-old Depop user Celia Hodgson said, “That’s what the appeal is. It’s not daunting, it’s just like, OK, I’ll try it.”

Besides offering educational programs that are affordable—overcoming the biggest barrier to entry, price—your programs must appeal to the limited patience of the on-demand generation. Make it as easy as possible to get started. Talk to younger customers to find out about any barriers to the learning experience. Don’t assume you know. Their perspective may be very different from yours. 

attracting the next generation

#7: Building community

Depop hosts regular workshops where sellers can get sales advice and meet fellow users. Online learners want opportunities to meet fellow learners. You could do that in real life at local meetups and national conferences. 

You can also provide that experience more regularly online by integrating your LMS with a technology like Zoom. Seeing the faces of fellow learners on the screen makes a big difference. 

#8: Social responsibility

85 percent of Gen Z prefers doing business with socially responsible organizations. Sustainability is a focus for this generation, which may explain why they’d prefer to recycle clothes with an app like Depop. 

When marketing to this generation, differentiate yourself by making them aware of your mission-driven, not profit-driven, focus—unlike your for-profit online learning competitors. 

#9: Empower influencers

Gen Z has grown up seeing their peers become rich and influential on their own YouTube channels. The top sellers on Depop have become influencers on YouTube and Instagram by getting sponsors, starting their own brands, and partnering with existing brands.

Completing a learning pathway or earning a certification may not have the same cachet, but you can give learners the tools to show off their new accomplishments. Provide digital badges that can be displayed on social profiles and shared with potential employers.

#10: Seek partnerships

Keep an eye out for the young influencers in your market. You may even want to collaborate with some of them to develop educational content together—that’s better than having them compete with you down the line. 

These influencers can also help you spread awareness of your programs. It might be time to turn the tables and spend some of your marketing budget on sponsoring an influencer.  

One of Depop’s investors recently said, “We are incredibly excited to be investing in Depop as it looks to capture the huge opportunity ahead of it. In a short space of time the team has developed a truly differentiated platform and globally relevant offering for the next generation of fashion entrepreneurs and consumers.”

Differentiation and relevance matter just as much to the next generation of learners and members as they do to investors. Gen Z has grown up in a different world than your existing members and customers. They have different perspectives, expectations, and preferences. Take time to understand the world they live in—it might be very different from yours. 

generation z
member engagement
professional development
young professionals
continuing education
Ready to learn more?