When Wen Lu, a 27-year-old who works in finance in Shanghai, purchased four pairs of Yeezy boost 350 V2 sneakers (White, Sesame, Asia Exclusive, and Zebra) on Poizon, the viral streetwear app that’s currently ranked 26th in China’s app store, he paid over 10,000 RMB (about $1,500). “It wouldn’t be too hard to buy them from other channels,” Lu said. “It’s just that I won’t know if they are real or fake.”
In five short years since its inception in 2015, Poizon has taken off and is now valued at $1 billion. In April 2019, the Shanghai-based startup closed its latest round of funding led by Digital Sky Technologies, two months before the global Internet investment group put money in the American resale app StockX.
What sets Poizon apart, however, from local and Western competitors such as Yoho! (有货), Shihuo (识货), Stadium Goods, and StockX is its authentication service. In a market where the counterfeit culture — driven by e-commerce platforms and the sizable number of authentic manufacturers reproducing products out of scraps (known as “Pu Tian shoes 莆田鞋,” named after the factory town in Southern China) — becomes more prevalent than ever, consumers like Lu feel more comfortable purchasing from a verified source.
But this doesn’t mean that Poizon customers have blindly trusted the app. In fact, on Heimao Tousu (黑猫投诉), a third-party customer service platform under tech giant Sina, Poizon has received nearly 19,000 complaints to date. Many doubted whether the app’s human verifiers made accurate assessments, with some asking for a refund on defective products.
“Haters gonna hate. There’s no problem with Poizon’s authentication service,” said Wu, a 29-year-old from Zhejiang Province. As a civil servant by day and an active buyer and reseller on Poizon by night, he has sold over 100,000 RMB (around $15,000) worth of goods on the platform and has spent a lot more on purchasing from other users. For Wu, who refuses to disclose his full name because of his occupation, Poizon is “both a marketplace and a community.” He frequently uses it to look for styling inspirations or to answer all of his 18,000 questions, such as, “Can you give me your rank of these colors?” “I wear Air Jordan 1 in 37.5, what size would I wear in a Yeezy 350?”
On the first day of the new decade, Poizon announced that it now wants to be called “De Wu” (得物) or “Get Things” instead of Du (毒), meaning “Poison” in Chinese. “Millennials and Gen-Zers are the consumption powerhouse in the new decade,” said Yang Bing, the company’s CEO. “After they fulfilled the basic needs, their next go-to is consumer goods with culture value.” The name change, they hope, will help transform the app from a niche sneaker online forum to an e-commerce platform for luxury and streetwear, with a zealous crowd.
Poizon is also looking to offer more brand diversity on the platform from resellers and official channels. It’s website currently lists brands like Kith, HUF, BEAMS and Vetements. Also, as a means to boost its credibility, Poizon has forged a strategic partnership with the China Certification and Inspection Group Luxury Identification Center, a state-owned third-party verifier, in August 2019, to combat any remaining doubts about Poizon’s authentication service.
Currently, users can find streetwear items along with luxury accessories and beauty products from mostly resellers, but this is starting to change. Last September, Louis Vuitton announced that it planned to join Poizon. Moreover, Poizon is positioning itself as a smart starting point for Western streetwear and luxury brands interested in testing the waters before investing fully in the China market. As the app readies itself to take over China’s mass audience, those who share the same mission should ride on the wave.