Polyvore: Review of a Popular Social Shopping Network

Polyvore home page

Polyvore is a popular social shopping service that started in 2007 and represents a blend of a social network and digital fashion magazine. The site is especially popular with home designers and clothing fashionistas, who love to use its tools for grouping related items visually.

What's fascinating about Polyvore and may be part of its growing popularity is how it blends the editorial sensibility of a glossy fashion magazine with the hipness and hive mind of a social network.

Its grid-design home page reflects that blend, with most of the tile images shown representing a fashion story of some kind. Some are created by the Polyvore editorial staff, while others are created by site users.

Each tiled image represents a collage of sorts, a "set" of items chosen by its creator. The presentation of items and their associated images as a digital "set" or collage is the signature feature of Polyvore, one that sets it apart from other social shopping services and networks.

Unlike Pinterest, in which each tile image typically represents one thing, Polyvore's tiled homepage images typically represent a group of related items and therefore often can tell a story in ways potentially more compelling than Pinterest. Sets can be grouped into "collections," too, allowing users to organize their saved material in interesting ways.

For example, Polyvore's homepage the day after Black Friday 2013 showed one set of items called 'Your Ultimate Black Friday Collection" and another called "12 Killer Collar Necklaces," both of which were created by the Polyvore team.

Two other sets, created by users, were called "Happiness" and "Classic Country Kitchen." The country kitchen set had been viewed more than 1,800 times, according to the Polyvore page view counter, and contained such items as a $22 hen print from Etsy.com. a $145 tapas wooden plank from Purehome.com and an $82 salad spin dryer from Connox.com.

Click on any of the items listed in the set and you're taken to the item page on Polyvore that describes the item, shows the price and links to the originating retailer's website where you can purchase it. Other options on the item page typically include "see similar items", allowing viewers to browse for similar types of products, and "tell me when this is on sale," which will send you an alert if the retailer publishes a discount.

Available on Desktop and Mobile Devices

Polyvore started life as a desktop or Web-based image bookmarking service, but it quickly added a lot of functionality in the early years and spread to smartphones, too.

In November 2013 it released a dedicated iPad app, which is something Polyvore users had been asking for since Apple's iPad made touchscreen tablet computing so popular. You can download the iOS app at Apple's iTunes store; version 3.0 is optimized for both the iPad and iPhones.

Today Polyvore.com is one of the Web's leading social commerce sites.

How Polyvore Works

Polyvore likes to say it is "democratizing style" by providing a platform for people to share their style preferences.

It's similar to Pinterest in that users find images of things they like all around the Web and then save them into Polyvore.

Then instead of "pinning" them one by one into image folders or "boards" as people do on Pinterest, on Polyvore users save the items into "sets" of related images which the site calls collages. These are usually limited to 50 images per set.

Users drag and drop images of items they've saved into a blank square area to create the collage image for any particular set. Users can customize the collage and arrange the images any way they want, allowing for more artistic creativity than most social shopping and image-sharing sites.

The site also has templates or pre-designed layouts a user can select and then drop their items into the boxes to make an artful design.

Users can do additional organizing of sets into collections, allowing them to sort their favorite items by themes or other concepts.

On the social and sharing side of Polyvore, users can connect in ways similar to most social networks. They can follow one another, and "like" each other's images. And of course, they can share items and sets they've saved to Polyvore on other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and others.

Activities and Shopping on Polyvore

Polyvore runs contests in which users can submit things and vote on one another's entries, with virtual trophies being awarded to winners.

Polyvore also offers meetups or ways for users to meet in real life at special events.

But of course the main activity on Polyvore is shopping, and the site typically collects a commission when users click through to a retailer's website and buy something featured on Polyvore.

Polyvore users actually appear to be spending more money on the stuff they see on the site than Pinterest users do, according to a 2013 e-commerce report from a market research firm called RichRelevance.

The study found the average purchase order from visitors who arrived at a retailer's site from Polyvore was much higher than orders placed by people who came via links on Pinterest or Facebook. Facebook users, however, generated a lot more purchases, even though their orders were on average a lesser amount than those from Polyvore users.