Photo: bananniekins on Poshmark
There was a time when e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar stores existed in separate worlds. Then came high-speed wireless and powerful smartphones, and the retailing world has never been the same.In the past, an example of online-offline crossover might be researching a purchase online and buying it in a store. But mobile apps that scan barcodes or recognise book and CD covers have turned that behaviour on its head, creating a “showrooming” trend where people browse in physical stores and then buy from an online store. And some online retailers, especially innovators like Fab and One Kings Lane, are reporting that anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent of their sales are done on mobile devices, depending on the time of year.
Retailers have fought back against showrooming, but there’s more change coming. Person-to-person commerce from startups like Poshmark and Yardsale, enabled by smartphones’ cameras, location features, and the trust provided by social-network connections, are upending established e-commerce players, prompting a big response from eBay.
As we survey the new landscape of commerce, shopping apps that are catching fire with consumers provide a window into fast-changing consumer behaviour.
This app allows you to scan an item's barcode and see Amazon's price for the item--while also feeding the price data back to the online retailing giant. It created a huge controversy on its release, with some retailers declaring it 'evil' and fighting it with lasers that interfere with barcode scanning. Other retailers, like Target, have fought showrooming by asking suppliers for special versions of products that won't be sold elsewhere.
The impact: Made showrooming a hot-button issue.
With Poshmark's mobile app, your closet becomes a discount-fashion warehouse. Real-time 'Posh Parties' bring the limited-time-sale urgency of daily deals, but with a social flavour.
The impact: By making clearing out your closet easy and fun rather than a tiresome, once-a-year chore, Poshmark is bringing entirely new inventory into the world of online commerce.
Like Pinterest, Fancy lets you post and browse good-looking objects. But Fancy does a far better job of driving you to buy. The latest twist: Fancy now assembles boxes of surprising and delightful goods for a $45/mo. subscription, making it easier to fill your apartment and office with quirky fun. American Express recently put money in, and we've heard other investors are circling.
The impact: Brought shopping as entertainment in its purest form to mobile devices.
Starbucks pushed the limits of mobile payments early on, turning its prepaid store card into an app that lets you leave your wallet behind.
The impact: The success of the Starbucks app has exposed millions of consumers to the idea of paying by phone. And by teaming up with Square, Starbucks is now extending the mobile-payments revolution beyond its own stores.
eBay was in a rut when CEO John Donahoe took over. One of his early bets was developing a range of mobile apps for buyers and sellers, including specialised apps for cars and apparel. Now mobile is a big part of eBay's turnaround story.
The impact: Lifted revenues by 15 per cent--in part by making us believe shopping on eBay could be fun again.
The iconic white-plastic card reader isn't the most amazing part of Square: It's the ability to pay by saying your name, after checking into a store with the app.
The impact: Created a brand name that consumers and merchants recognise and associate with innovation in payments.
Replicating the early community vibe of eBay and Craigslist, Yardsale brings local people together to swap goods for cash.
The impact: Uses mobile devices and social networks to put trust back into person-to-person commerce.
Go ahead and showroom. Target now offers Wi-Fi in stores to make it easier to use apps--in the hopes that you'll use the Target app, too. Features like wedding and baby registries and unique merchandise make the Target shopping experience hard to replicate online--while the mobile app makes them even easier to access.
The impact: Showed how offline retailers can respond to online competitors.
This mobile-payments app is geared towards ordering ahead and picking up at restaurants--a feature other payments-oriented apps have yet to match. It shares investors with Square, and picked up the architect of Starbucks' mobile app as its product chief.
The impact: Showed that there are more problems to solve in mobile payments than just processing credit cards.
Walk into a store, get rewards. Shopkick's simple premise--it verifies shoppers as they enter a store, and then lets them collect 'kicks' for discounts--drove $200 million in sales for its retail partners last year. The startup now says it's profitable.
The impact: Showed a way for retailers to link foot traffic with Web and mobile browsing.
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