Polyvore, the fashion-focused social commerce site, added a new category on Tuesday that has been a long time coming -- stylings for the home.
The move is a bit of a full-circle story for the 6-year-old company, which is known for letting users curate and share virtual fashion and beauty collections. Although it's been patiently growing a fashion-forward community, Polyvore started because of a home design dilemma, according to CEO Jess Lee.
Cofounder Pasha Sadri, a former Yahoo engineer, was remodeling his home and after browsing through the hundreds of products, like doorknobs and fixtures, available, he built a tool to drag and drop things onto a canvas as a way of organizing his choices.
Lee said it was the community that ended up choosing fashion as Polyvore's focus.
"The idea has always been to make it a platform," she told CNET. "The users gravitated toward fashion. It's the category people shop on a regular basis. So we said, let's focus on this. Let's try to be known for one thing first."
The strategy seems to have worked so far. Its mobile app has been downloaded half a million times since June, bringing its total to 1.5 million downloads. The site has more than 20 million users, typically affluent shoppers who create visual collections, called sets, using real products. These products are linked to retail sites, and Polyvore gets a cut. Only 5 percent of Polyvore's community actually create sets, but these power users create about 4 million sets a month. The rest of Polyvore's users just explore the site and shop.
And they seem to shop a lot. The startup is cash-flow positive, which means it's not relying on investors to stay afloat.
Lee expects the community's participation in the site to increase with the release of the home and decor section. Users were already creating home sets even when Polyvore wasn't promoting the templates or products for it. The new section is really just Polyvore taking yet another cue from users.
Users can now create moodboards, which are simple collages that can include products, color palettes and inspirational images, or full room sets, which take a little more work to put together but result in more realistic compilations of a put-together room.
Lee said users equally like searching for specific items as they do browsing through sets and products, but the Polyvore team was focused on making search and discovery a quality experience. This means making sure it's harnessing the right data from products and users to surface relevant related products.
It's the difference between pulling up a chair and an ottoman, Lee said.
"That's the kind of thing that's under the hood but when you get them wrong, users notice," she said, adding that the company's constantly trying to improve is process. In addition to working on its search technology, Polyvore has also removed all its banner ads. In their place are native ads that look like they are a part of the site. Users can favorite promoted products like they do other products.
If the home section is successful, it will mean Polyvore can expand as a true platform for lifestyle shopping. The company plans to partner with more brands and retailers for home and decor products, but it's already looking at what's beyond. That includes expanding globally and creating mobile apps for tablets and Android.
As for what category Polyvore will tackle next, Lee already has few to choose from -- menswear, wedding and baby. Those are the categories users are starting to create sets for without help from Polyvore, and, once again, the company plans on listening to its users.Update, 6:43 am PT: Updated the number of sets created per month.