Although mostly known as a resale platform for sneakers, StockX has evolved into a worldwide marketplace for products ranging from streetwear, watches to electronics. The site is aimed at a young audience, Generation Z, with an interest in culture and fashion. The newest category of products comes in the form of NFTs, that are tied to unique real products. "We are connecting the real and digital world."
StockX has launched this summer its global brand campaign 'Own it', anchored in the idea of owning current culture products. Streetwear, sneakers, NFTs, you name it. Owning a product is a celebration of self-expression and inner confidence, the company states. "We have fostered a community rooted in access and inclusivity where people can play to their passions and express themselves freely. It is a platform through which you can find confidence, claim your identity, and truly own it, whatever your 'it' may be," says Deena Bahri, Chief Marketing Officer at StockX.
Who are the people buying and selling on the marketplace? One of them is Parisian collector Tonton Gibs, who was attracted by hip-hop culture and is now an ambassador for StockX in France. He knows why the platform is becoming increasingly popular. "The explosion of sneakers and streetwear is just phenomenal, thanks in part to the era of social media where information is available to all and everything goes faster," he explains to Complex magazine. "The street is on the catwalk and in all inspirations. Fashion – in general, but especially streetwear – is always evolving."
Organization and business model
StockX's platform connects buyers and sellers of products from around the world using dynamic pricing mechanics. The platform features hundreds of brands such as adidas, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, collectibles from many artists and electronics from manufacturers like Sony, Nvidia and Apple. The company collects transaction and payment fees. All products go through one of the authentication centers to be sure they are original. The company employs more than 1,500 people across offices in cities such as Detroit and London and authentication centers around the world.
Dual marketing to buyers and sellers
What does the company do to attract buyers and sellers to the platform? "From a marketing point of view, we don't treat them the same way. Most of our time is spent on buyer marketing. When we focus on the demand side of the equation the supply side will show up. If you have a big robust base of buyers, sellers are going to want to tap into that. So, most of our content partnerships are targeted towards the buy side," says CMO Bahri in the Marketing Today Podcast with Alan Hart.
"Then we partner closely with the seller team that thinks about seller policies which is marketing in its own sense. How do we incentivize sellers to behave the way that we want them to behave on the platform? They focus on seller acquisition and seller account management, almost what you could consider like a B2B marketing function. So, we do have two pretty different notions of marketing: one that really addresses the buy side and one that really addresses the sell side."
Global and local marketing teams
Marketing includes a core team with deep knowledge of general marketing techniques and smaller teams in the target regions. Just one central marketing team will not work. "While a lot of our strength comes from being a global platform, there is still a lot of value placed on local creators. It is so important to be relevant in the local markets," Bahri says in a video talk to Morning Brew. Take Japan as an example. "This is an incredibly influential country in current culture and the customer has a lot of expectations about us as a brand. Really knowing and respecting their own culture, their local creators, their local holidays and local calendar, and so on. We blend the global center of excellence marketing team with the local on the ground teams."
Vault NFTs: bridging the digital and real world
This year StockX is entering the virtual world with the creation of Vault NFTs (non-fungible tokens). "We thought we can do this in the StockX way. Vault NFTs are unique in that they are a digital asset that's tied to a physical product," Bahri explains in the Speed of Culture Podcast. The physical product such as a rare sneaker (as depicted on the NFT) is stored in a high-security vault. They are tied one to one via the blockchain. "So, we are enabling customers to invest in an asset that's backed with a physical pair of shoes or collectible item and yet there is a token that allows it to be traded more easily and more dynamically."
Buyers can also exchange the token for the real product that will then be delivered. The company highlights the advantages of the system. "Vault NFTs will help unlock new trading opportunities. By bridging the physical and digital worlds, we are able to provide a more efficient trading experience anchored by lower costs and storage capabilities."
Attracting Gen Z
One of the strengths of the platform is that it focuses on a specific target group. "Gen Z in particular is seeking these culturally relevant investments that align with their personal values and passions. They could invest in stocks, but the fact that what we offer on our platform converges with their interests makes it even more attractive to them." Generation Z is defined by their age, but it is also the way they think and feel. "It is a mindset around defining your life, around your passions, your values and wanting authorship over the outward expression of those values. It is a fun generation to watch, they have high expectations and they want to sponsor brands or patronize brands that are aligned with the things they care about."
But also Gen Z wants to be sure they are buying the real thing and not a counterfeit product. How does a buyer know that a rare sneaker is a real and not a fake one? Sneakers represent a $72 billion global market, according to The Washington Post, and the counterfeit sneaker market last year is estimated at $450 billion. So, StockX has authentication centers around the world, promising buyers that sneakers resold on their site are certified. Authenticators examine hundreds of shoes every day. The process involves 25 elements, including the smell of a particular sneaker. StockX has been at the forefront of authentication, but even then, there is no guarantee. Recently Nike sued the online marketplace for allegedly selling counterfeit shoes.
In the campaigns of StockX storytelling plays a major role. "We have this network of influencers, musicians, athletes and all kinds of creators that we collaborate with to tell stories," Bahri explains in a video talk with Gary Vee. Sometimes StockX publishes long historical pieces. "We have someone on our content team who is a rap and hip-hop historian and writes these amazing long-form pieces about the history of sneakers through hip-hop culture. We have other pieces that are more SEO oriented meant to drive results. We have also been coming up with more sound bite written forms to just hear what it is like to be a creator in Barcelona or Toronto."
The recent 'Own it' campaign was created in partnership with creative agency Mojo Supermarket in Brooklyn, New York. In a video, the audience gets glimpses into the lives of various people in different places and subcultures. Their faces are never shown, but viewers are looking into their styles, hobbies, passions and artistic expressions. "When a person takes something that is uniquely theirs and really owns it, they ooze confidence. The items you find on StockX allow you to unlock that feeling," says senior producer Jake Herman.