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GUEST COMMENT How retailers need to join their customers on a mobile journey to thrive

Information and reassurance are key to selling high-ticket items online. Image: Fotolia

The global mobile revolution has changed the retail sector almost beyond recognition. Our phones used to stay in our pockets whilst we trod the high street; now it is no exaggeration to say that mobile has become the primary platform for 21st century shopping.

In fact, data released recently from App Annie found that the first half of 2018 was the largest bi-annual growth period for global shopping apps, with over two billion downloaded across both iOS and Google Play combined. Perhaps surprising to some, the report showed it’s not traditional retailers that are most successful in the app stores but marketplaces.

The marketplace sector occupies three of the top ten ranks for shopping apps in the UK by both demand (downloads) and engagement (monthly active users). For downloads, eBay is at number three, Shpock number four and Gumtree at number seven. For monthly active users (MAU), eBay is at number two, Gumtree number five and Shpock at number six.

One of the reasons that marketplace apps have become so popular is that they leverage many of the inherent advantages of today’s smartphones. So much so that it was as if the smartphone was designed specifically for them. Whether an iPhone or a Galaxy is your handset of choice, they will have cameras to take photos of products, geolocation services to find buyers and sellers nearby, secure messaging to coordinate sales and easy access to check bids and monitor for new items.


The importance of local

Whilst the move to mobile was a logical progression, we were swift to morph our offerings. It is important that traditional retailers are also agile enough to change. The die is cast. Consumers now spend more and more time shopping on mobile than in-store or through desktop. This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future either. Today’s consumer is increasingly time-sapped and subscribes to a ‘want-it-now’ mentality. Classifieds markets fit into this ideal perfectly because users can quickly find something in their vicinity faster than they could on a desktop due to the geolocation features in apps. This isn’t just the domain of marketplaces though, many other popular ecommerce businesses, from ridesharing companies to flat rental services are also based on the importance of local proximity.

Time is money

Whilst the average time spent on mobile worldwide is up to a staggering three hours a day (iOS and Google Play combined), because much of that time is spent in social apps, the competition for attention is fierce. Having said that, time is money; retailers must monitor just who the active consumers are and who may have become dormant.

Two key measures we use are how often users come back and how much time they spend in the app. The number of new downloads of the eBay app is certainly of interest to us and helps to show the attractiveness of it, however it should always be seen in the context of the aforementioned KPIs. If a user downloads an app, opens it and does not reuse it, we want to understand why so that we can capture greater mindshare moving forward.

Of course, one key difference between classified marketplace apps and high street shopping apps are the measurement of revenue from sales commissions and direct incomes (shopping apps) and in-app purchases to prominently feature or highlight your item (classifieds markets).

Happy customers

One thing that remains true across all retail apps is that the customer always comes first. By moving into the mobile realm, it doesn’t impact upon this. In fact, with customers able to post their experiences – both good and bad – instantly to social media, in many ways ensuring customers remain happy is more important than ever before.

A mobile app experience needs to provide a fresh and exciting perspective on the customer experience; one that is an evolution of the traditional web experience and, before that, the type of interaction that used to occur on the shop floor. For an app to succeed you need a combination of top-quality design, industry best practice and cross-sector learnings you can integrate into your app to ensure maximum positive impact to your bottom line.

At eBay, we have used insight and industry tools to ensure that the customer remains right at the heart of our operations. It is always about understanding customer needs and actively addressing issues – without this, the user will move on to a competitor. We prefer to measure feedback through online surveys, the evaluation of customer queries to our support team, usability tests and App Annie’s ratings and reviews feature.

Joining a mobile journey

Marketplace apps continue to be top players in the mobile shopping arena. Apps like ours have become highly sophisticated platforms that leverage the benefits of mobile to successfully achieve their wider business goals. They offer an alternative to traditional e-commerce and rank among the largest retailers for downloads and monthly active users.

Retailers should take note. As competition emerges from the new breed of mobile-savvy digital-first retailers entering the fray they will need to be agile enough to morph their mobile offerings to not only survive but thrive. By its very nature, technology will always continue to evolve. For example, it is expected that the likes of virtual and augmented reality will likely play a bigger role in the next few years. Therefore, make sure that you don’t sit still and learn from successful apps around you so that you too can join your customers on their mobile journey now and into the future.

Image: Fotolia

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