Peak Design makes adventure-ready goods built to last. The brand launched on Kickstarter 10 years ago with the aim of making the best travel and photography gear using durable materials and sleek, utilitarian designs. So durable, so timeless that their community was already buying and selling their products used! Noticing this behavior, in 2020 they joined forces with Recurate to launch the Peak Design Marketplace — a sophisticated, branded resale platform. Thanks to their creative marketing campaigns and robust community, the Peak Design Marketplace is thriving.
We caught up with Adam Saraceno, Peak Design’s Head of Marketing, to talk about the success of their holiday campaign, why a peer-to-peer resale model was a natural fit for their community, and how they’ve made resale a core part of their business.
When did you start thinking about resale as a next step?
We started kicking the idea around a couple of years ago. We’ve always had a decent secondhand market for our products. We had already set up a process for refurbishing open-box and returned items and reselling them on eBay or using them as media samples. Our CEO had floated the idea to me of creating a site where our customers could buy and sell used Peak Design gear with each other. I was like, “that sounds great, but it sounds like a pain in the ass to build ourselves! We’ve got enough stuff on our plate right now.
Out of all the resale models you were considering, why was peer-to-peer the right fit?
There were a couple of different types of services that would warehouse used products and would manage resale, but they were exorbitantly expensive. It also felt like a waste to have people ship an item somewhere so that it can then be shipped to another place — it felt like an unnecessary middleman. And, I think a third portion is the community that it fosters. We’re a company that started on Kickstarter, and we have this really strong, loyal community of customers. Having peer-to-peer sales felt more in line with who our customers are.
Can you tell us about the building and launching of your marketplace? What was it like working with Recurate early on?
At the time, Recurate had only a handful of clients, and they were small clothing brands. We sort of jointly saw it as an opportunity to do something special that we hadn’t done before. For us, it was the opportunity to build out this peer-to-peer sales platform with people that seemed really smart and already had a working solution. For Recurate, it was an opportunity to bring on a larger brand and work with a customer to take our requirements and build a more robust offering. We were like, This feels right, let’s do it!
Honestly, when we met [Recurate co-founders] Adam and Wilson, they fit the profile of partners that we have had the most success with in the past, which is new, startup type company, people that we really just personally get on with really well, very knowledgeable about the space, really hungry to grow, and willing to work with us. We were really in cahoots about being focused on customer experience and trying to see things through the eyes of the customer and wanting to make it a buttoned-up and delightful experience for people. It’s been a very warm, friendly, fun relationship from the get-go.
When you launched, was it hard to get customers to adapt?
No, it was a pretty smooth experience. We started in beta, and it was essentially a private invite where we started with about 500 of our top-tier VIP customers. We sent out an email invite. We made a video of us explaining how to use it, and very seamlessly, people used it and got it and sold stuff and bought stuff. And it was like, Wow, I guess we should invite a lot more people! So the first email went out to 500, and the second went out to 10 000, then the third one went out to 30 000. That’s really all it took to get it up and running. It was seamless and easy, and people got it from the start.
Did you have any concerns at the start?
Going into this, I talked to a lot of other brands that all had the same question: Does this cannibalize new product sales? It doesn’t. There are no downsides. Once we ripped the band-aid off and had people using it, we were like, Oh, this place maintains itself. We have done fairly minimal advertising of the platform, aside from periodically sending out emails and building out email journeys for customers who have purchased things in the past. And we’ve incorporated links in our regular website to the Marketplace, so whether you’re looking at a product or you’re in the super nav, you see there’s a place to buy and sell pre-owned products. The result has been — with minimal marketing effort — it just hums! Things sell, people are continuing to list new stuff.
How long did it take for your resale platform to really take off?
It feels like there’s still quite a bit of opportunity to bring people onto the platform. Yet, from the get-go, from the moment we sent out those first beta emails, people immediately understood the value, people started using it, and they started liking it. From that point forward, it never felt like there was a really huge effort to get people to use it and use it repeatedly. From the start (according to my definition of successful) it was successful.
How does resale fit into your broader business?
There are a number of ways it does. There’s the sustainability piece, highlighting the fact that our products are built to last, and they have a lifetime guarantee. And that we’re taking out the middleman and making a faster, easier way to get your unused product to the next person who would be happy to own and use it. And then there’s the community: There’s the brand and peer-to-peer aspect — the person-to-person contact is part of our brand.
The most important thing is it helps us communicate to our customers in a deeper way that our products are investments — that you’re buying something that is durable and built to last, and if you buy it and you end up not using it, that’s fine, it still retains most of its value, and you can easily turn that back into store credit or cash. At the end of the day, there’s a business reason behind it, and it’s to make people feel more confident in buying our products.
You added a “shop pre-owned” button to your new product pages. What was the thinking behind this?
It was a way to drive sell-through on the Marketplace and prove to people that it’s a great way to get rid of their products. I guess we never had too big of a concern that we would be cannibalizing new product sales. I think a big part of that is understanding our customers and knowing that these are premium bags, and people buy them because they like really nice things. I think a lot of our customers want brand new, but we also know there’s a lot of folks that would jump at the chance to buy used. We’ve obviously seen Amazon, and plenty of other places do this as well.
How have you thought about the sustained marketing of your resale platform?
A lot of it has been putting into place automated email journeys that are either encouraging buyers or encouraging sellers. We put into place these product anniversary campaigns, so it’s like, Congratulations, you’ve owned your backpack for one year. Happy anniversary! We hope you’re using it, but if not, here’s something you can do with it. On the seller side, we use it in some of our cart abandonment campaigns, where if it’s a higher dollar item and they’ve abandoned the cart, part of that series will be like, Hey, if the price is an issue, check out what we’ve got on the Marketplace. You can get these bags for significantly less if you buy used. It’s stuff like that where you set it up, and it just runs. We are, in theory, reaching out to people at a point at which we know, or we think we know, they might have a reason to be interested in the Marketplace.
Can you tell us a bit about the 2021 holiday campaign?
Yeah, it’s a promotion where if you list a product on the Marketplace [in the week before Black Friday/Cyber Monday], we’ll give you an extra gift card on top of the proceeds of your sale that you can then use for holiday shopping. It’s a three-part email series. It’s going out to our top echelon of 20–30k customers who have bought the most over their lifetime. The goal is to both seed the Marketplace with more products and also get these folks primed for holiday shopping. What I’ve learned so far is that the bottleneck seems to be getting people to list their products for sale. Because once they’re up there on the marketplace, they sell pretty quickly. Maybe part of it is that people just like their products and don’t want to sell them, and that’s totally okay with me! In short, we’re still learning what we should expect.
By the Numbers: The Peak Design Marketplace
- Peak Design saw a 3x increase in listings ahead of the 2021 holidays after a week-long marketing campaign aimed at encouraging customers to sell their pre-owned items.
- 79% of Marketplace customers are either new to the brand or re-engaged (62% new, 17% re-engaged.)