As mobile devices become our de facto medium for online commerce, more and more companies are seeking to invest in their mobile technology. Popular marketplace eBay is no different, even going so far as to make the decision to actively focus on mobile over desktop devices. And it is pretty difficult to argue with this reasoning, considering eBay turned over more than $5 million USD in mobile transactions last year, and expect to at least double that figure this year.
Demonstrating that companies can easily straddle the divide between mobile websites and mobile apps, eBay seems to be operating comfortably on both platforms, with over 100 million downloads across its native app range at the time of writing this. eBay offer specific apps for niche markets, such as fashion or electronics, in addition to the ‘Red Laser’ app which has barcode scanning functionality, enabling entire stores to be run from a handheld device.
Continuous app improvement is a core component in eBay’s strategy. Red Laser has undergone a recent upgrade which allows retailers to be found by shoppers via geo-fencing technology, enabling easier delivery and collection of purchases. Customers can also now receive same day shipping from local retailers, using the newest app ‘eBay Now’, and efforts have also been made to produce a more streamlined, user-friendly version of eBay-owned PayPal’s iOS app.
Additional developments, we are promised by eBay’s head of mobile devices Steve Yankovich, include optimising existing mobile functionality. For example, Yankovich expects that phone cameras will eventually be used to identify products through product recognition, and there is a lot of interest in making use of voice technology to make the purchasing process as seamless as possible.
eBay is also eager to catch up with their peer Amazon in terms of the personalised service they offer to their users: Amazon makes roughly 30% of their sales from products found through its recommendation algorithms – that’s around $3.9 billion in recommendations in the last quarter alone. Last year, eBay acquired Hunch, a taste graph service which will enable the site to more effectively mine customer data and offer tailored recommendations. A more recent eBay acquisition is Setify, a Pinterest-style product which lets its users track and flag their favourite items. At the moment, Setify is limited to specialist “limited edition” products such as comic books and coins, but is expected to broaden its scope in time.
By incorporating personalisation into its new strategy, along with mobile technology, eBay will soon be able to offer a bespoke, contextual service – for example, users will be able to access insightful product recommendations based on their immediate location. Now let’s see Amazon top that.