Ecommerce discovery on mobile – no apps?

By November 26, 2014Mobile, Uncategorized

It’s been troubling me recently that at first glance the trend towards mobile and the trend within mobile towards apps mitigates against startup ecommerce companies. Amazon is one of the first apps I download whenever I change phone, but it’s the only ecommerce app that I have, and that’s because Amazon is the only place I shop frequently enough to be bothered to download an app. I’m not the best example customer because I don’t shop much, but generalising the problem I think there aren’t many categories of ecommerce where the interaction is frequent enough to merit an app. Grocery shopping is a weekly event for most people and that merits an app, and shopping for shoes is a monthly endeavour for many people, hopefully frequent enough for our portfolio company Stylect to prosper, but most shopping isn’t like that.

So it was interesting to read a great post from this morning about the End of apps as we know them. It’s one of the bests posts I’ve read in a while, largely because I think they may well have mapped out how mobile services will be designed in the future. The quick summary is that they believe engagement and interaction will shift from within apps to within interactive cards in a notification or ‘Google Now like’ stream. It’s a long post, but if you are involved with apps or mobile design you should definitely go read it (I linked to it twice to make it easy for you).

The idea that we will stop opening apps and live within a stream of cards requires quite a headshift, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Having pages of apps is highly inefficient and reminds me of browsing the web in Yahoo or AOL days – there has to be something better and a highly personalised and contextual stream of interactive cards sounds like a good answer.

Ecommerce discovery would then be through the cards of other services. As an example, maybe you find out about Stylect from within a Twitter card and then agree to receive regular cards direct from Stylect – that could be by downloading an app which sits in the background barely seen. Search will still play a role, but maybe a greater percentage of stuff we want is finding us rather than the other way around.

Getting discovered then requires getting a presence in cards, and to me that feels like social media advertising rather than search advertising. Perhaps unsurprisingly this muted shift from web to cards might be bad news for Google and good news for Facebook, Twitter, and whoever’s next.

Finally, for all this to work the personalisation and contextual targeting needs to be great. The cards need to be good enough that we want to read them. That’s different from some of the irritating notifications I get today.

  • I am a non executive director of Mallzee a start up developing a shopping app for discovering clothes from multiple retailers. I do think this is a fairly open area hence my investment in the company. I also agree that social is proving a more effective channel so far than ppc ads.

  • Thanks Kenny. Mallzee has similarities with Stylect. Interesting business.

  • I’m a founder at, a specialized mobile shopping experience site focused on new parents (soon to be app). I strongly agree that Ecommerce discovery is sorely lacking from mobile, it’s one of our main motivations at building Wyzli. I think that mobile represents a much more focused usage than desktop, and as great as Amazon is, it’s a one stop shop rather than an experience app. Interesting insights about the cards and notification shift, but I can’t see how that could fully replace the immersive experience an app can provide.

  • Thanks Steve. I guess you are right. Notifications/cards won’t fully replace apps, but they might take a number of use cases. Thinking through some examples, most games will remain primarily as apps, Amazon will remain as an app, but content oriented services like Twitter and Buzzfeed might see most of their engagement through cards.

  • I agree. I already use Twitter like that 90% of the time, and as you note it’s probably most important for Discovery apps. Maybe better search will also make it’s way into notifications, by giving me serendipitous “results” (probably what Google Now is trying to accomplish). I do see both a unification of apps/os happening on mobile, but also a clear need for the specialized experience some apps/users/uses require.

  • Yes, makes sense.

  • I operate in the games space and this opens up new opportunities (and potential exploits) in the competitive free-to-play space. On one hand, bite-sized gameplay can be shortened further with a quick interaction on the card/notification, (ex. feeding your crop every hour with a tap on the notification card) which might encourage even more slot-machine-style game design for F2P games. On the other hand, an instant messaging style communication with players and between players allows for new type of social games. Turn-based multiplayer games will benefit hugely from it. Creative game developers will find a way to make notification cards interesting and fun, and players will be able to engage in more games than the ones they see on the home screen. Brilliant!

  • Pingback: Google and Product Search()

  • Dorian N.

    is now the hot trend and I want to catch this trend by building a mobile
    website for my e-store. SimiCart is a Magento Mobile Shopping
    builder platform developed by Magestore – top 3 Magento
    extensions provider. SimiCart will automatically build a native app for
    your online business within the information you provide in just 3 minutes
    without technical knowledge. Now, let’s try and enjoy !

  • Franklin Robert

    Thanks for this very useful information.