The mobile phone has impinged on retail in many different ways since the introduction of the iPhone. However, one innovation using its camera functionality is set to have an impact on ecommerce perhaps more profound than everything else so far. Could this be the end of the retailer as we know it?
A trial by eBay with two publishers – Time Inc and Mashable – could mark a seismic shift in what retailers do. The two trials involve the same idea: Time and Mashable make their content shoppable whenever a consumer points their phone at an item online or in a magazine, or clicks on an item in a Mashable or Time Inc story. In doing so, these publishers suddenly become the retail outlet, with the retailer relegated to a supplier.
How does it work? This new, immersive mobile shopping experience capitalises on Mashable’s role as the go-to source for all things new and next. Combining Mashable’s expert recommendations with the consumer discovery power of eBay, the partnership allows Mashable’s audience to use eBay to shop, browse and purchase products matching those featured on Mashable – all without ever leaving the Mashable site.
The companies have focused on a mobile-first experience that is as friction-free as possible for the audience and, so far, 65% of traffic to the widget has come via a mobile or tablet. Dan Burdett, head of eBay EMEA marketing lab, says, “We know a lot about how people shop on our site but less about how they shop off it. So we wanted to bring a simplified shopping experience that brings products to Mashable’s passionate audience, rather than expecting them to come to us.”
The Time pilot is the same, allowing consumers to ‘Shop the celebrity look’. Again optimised for mobile, the experience allows shoppers to buy direct from photos of celebrity influencers in bespoke fashion articles. These will feature shoppable images of each celebrity wearing the latest trends, all of which can be purchased on eBay. In this way, consumers can shop the exact items worn by the celebrity, or find similar items from eBay’s marketplace, depending on their budget.
Murray Lambell, vice president of UK trading at eBay, says, “Our latest pilot creates a simplified yet appealing shopping experience that brings clothing to life in a new and exciting way. We know celebrity-style shopping leads to high engagement and now, visitors will be able to shop the latest celebrity trends, brands and luxe items for less.”
According to Lambell, “By applying Time Inc’s exclusive content to eBay’s AI technology and inventory, eBay has created a unique and memorable shopping experience that speaks to its audience.”
The move with Mashable and Time adds to eBay’s growing roster of tie-ups with media companies that are starting to bypass search – and even using eBay directly – by creating a world where shoppers see something they like, point their phone at it and buy it from eBay. Retailers still have a role to play but if this sort of thing takes off, then the retailer will have to partner with whoever is partnering with the media company – in this case eBay.