When he was growing up in India, Manish Chandra, CEO and founder of online secondhand retail marketplace Poshmark, attended the Chandni Chowk market in Delhi with his grandfather. That inspired him to create a platform that would provide a social shopping experience. "It imbued the fact that socializing is part of how we shop, and it's not about just walking in this very sterile environment," Chandra says.

On January 14, Poshmark went public, with its stock more than doubling from its offering price and its market cap soaring to more than $7 billion. Earlier this month Chandra gave a virtual seminar during Fashinnovation in which he offered advice for business owners navigating the retail industry's future. Here are the biggest takeaways from the event.

Replicate the physical shopping experience 

Online retail experiences that replicate in-person ones are critical to success, Chandra said, citing as an example Poshmark's bundling feature, which lets users create outfits with items across various sellers. He also recommended retail business owners find a way to create the water cooler effect virtually. He equated the platform's Posh Stories feature--which lets users post photos, videos, and text about their Poshmark shops--to the coffee machine at the office, allowing for organic conversations and discovery.

"What we are trying to do is to bring back that human connection that you have in shopping," he said. "You can browse the stores as if you're in a mall or a boutique and have the conversation and discovery experience while bringing all the ease, scalability, and convenience of e-commerce." He added, however, that people's craving for in-person social interaction will cause a brick-and-mortar boom after the pandemic.

Expand into new categories

Poshmark started for women but slowly grew to include categories and products for men, kids, and just this month, pets. "Our goal has been to expand to all of the dimensions where you express your style," Chandra said, explaining that he saw pets as an extension of personal style and pet owners as a community built for a social marketplace. 

Now that communities can more easily come together online and create niches, Chandra advised, retailers need to expand their pallettes: "Think of different ethnicities and different body shapes, which can now gather together and create retail demand that was not possible prior." Expanding categories, he said, builds an ongoing conversation that will carry you into the future of more humanized online retail experiences.