Melltoo Pioneer Social Classifieds Towards A More Sustainable Economy in the UAE

Like most startups, the process of going to market is never a straightforward one. We started out with what we thought users wanted and ended up in what users actually want. Since then, we’ve built a business and a community platform whose primary offerings are trust and convenience.

We call it, the no-meetup classifieds. A community classifieds that comes to you on a technologically robust mobile app (more than just a retranscription of a few web pages) with full shipping and return management (convenience), a dedicated customer service team, curated listings and vetted users (trust).

This is our story.

When we launched Melltoo, we made a cool mobile app with listings and a chat option. We dubbed it the mobile classifieds app. Soon after, we launched our own payment guarantee and shipping features transforming our platform into a marketplace. Our community grew to hundreds of thousands of people who come to our platform to buy second hand items, backed by a money-back guarantee.

Like with every new disruptive business, we focused on user education. We doubled down on using new terms such as “marketplace” or “peer-to-peer” which have become buzzwords in other industrialized markets, but had little resonance for users who simply searched the word “classifieds” and downloaded our app.

After a short euphoric period of hypergrowth which had its own challenges, we figured out that we can only best serve our users if we remain truthful to how we envisioned our product in the first place.

This is how we do it differently:

Product value

Trust 

When you go on traditional classifieds, you usually have no idea who you’re dealing with. That’s a problem for people who prefer not to meet strangers. In fact, people on classifieds usually have concerns about putting their contact information on a public platform. And you will certainly run into problems where people lie about their items as well as a variety of other scams.

Being the modern classifieds that we are, every listing sold on our platform comes with a money-back guarantee, both parties are protected. Users have ratings from previous transactions and are verified to make sure they’re “real” and physically present in the UAE at the time of the transaction. When an item is paid for by a buyer, the funds are held in escrow until the buyer receives and the item he purchased. Once the item is accepted by the buyer, funds are automatically transferred to the seller’s account. As a buyer, this means that your money will be returned to you if you don’t receive your item. As a seller, this means that the buyer’s payment is secured prior to you shipping your item.

Convenience

Melltoo leverages a network of third party logistics companies to ship items sold in-app without the need for users to meet in person. The logistics of meeting in person to trade items like strollers, used iPhones or furniture is the biggest hurdle to selling on classifieds.

Dedicated customer service

Two years into servicing hundreds of thousands of users and tens of thousands of transactions, we’ve built a strong customer service team to push our brand forward. We push for great customer support before technology. Our primary KPI’s are speed and success in solving user problems.

When users come to us with a problem, we try our best to fix their problems as soon as it happens. In the word of our COO, Sharene Lee, “Prioritize, prioritize! First priority is to solve problems.” And she couldn’t have said it better. As the no-meetup classifieds, we handle complicated cases of shipping and returns as well as cash collections and withdrawals. The problems that may arise are numerous and we strive to always put the needs of our customers first.

Morrad Irsane, our CEO, shapes and pushes this vision to remind us of what we stand for:

“We are product and customer focused. Customers are the focal point of Melltoo’s development and vision. All goes hand to hand. Without customers there is no melltoo. Hence the online – offline experience should be delightful from the “buy it now” button to last mile delivery. We are striving to make the process so enjoyable and easy for customers that it becomes a no brainer when it comes to selling your stuff.”

Who is our customer?

Advertisers vs users

Traditional classifieds make money from advertisers and paid listings. They are typically platform hosts to other companies’ media and promotional campaigns. When you don’t pay for a product, you’re the product. Classifieds serve advertisers first and foremost and users are the product that they sell to advertisers.

At Melltoo, we do things differently. We serve our users, buyers and sellers, who use our platform for buying and selling among one  another. We don’t sell ads, we don’t have advertisers. Our focus is on providing the best user experience and ensuring that each sale goes smoothly. Since we make money off successful sales, we are partners with our users (both buyers and sellers) and they are our priority.

This is reflected in our marketing campaigns where we invest our marketing dollars right into our users’ pockets. Through a combination of a referral program and promo code campaigns, we incentivise purchases so buyers get a good deal and sellers sell fast.

Social Impact

Melltoo is a business with a mission. This mission is to contribute to a sustainable future through facilitating resale and reuse. We strive to reduce our footprint on our planet by reducing the need for overproduction through responsible consumerism (buying used!).

We go to work with the understanding that the 3 R’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” are the only way ahead if we intend to keep inhabiting this earth. We are introducing a fourth “R”, resell. Reselling helps us reduce and reuse and is a necessary step before recycling.

The Difference Between M-Commerce and E-commerce on Mobile

Not so long ago, I was one of those who thought m-commerce meant e-commerce on a mobile. It seemed that the only difference was the screen size. Fortunately, I’ve come to learn that the difference lies in user experience and that both soft and hardware matter. Herein lies the difference between a responsive/mobile-optimized website (e-commerce on mobile) and a native app (m-commerce).

What is e-commerce on mobile (aka the responsive/mobile-optimized website)?

If you do eCommerce, meaning you sell retail on a website, then you have either already gone mobile or are thinking about it. If you aren’t thinking about it, there should be some alarm bells going off as you read this. The most obvious thing to do is to squeeze your website, and all its javascript bells and whistles, into the mobile device. So you get your web developer to optimize your website for viewing on the small screen. Now when someone opens your website on a smartphone, instead of the regular web view (which means everything is very very small), they get a version of your site that adjusts to the screen size such that displayed elements are comfortably visible. And that’s it, nothing else really changes. The user experience remains pretty much the same as on the website. Of course, conversion rates on the mobile are higher for responsive websites (than non-responsive ones) but that’s mostly because the user can actually see the “buy” button.

What is m-commerce (aka the native app)?

mStore_StepbyStep
Press on the picture to learn more!

A native app is something you download from the app store. It opens from an icon on the home screen of your phone, not through a mobile web browser like Safari or Chrome. Some websites, called dedicated mobile websites, pretend to be native apps. You download the “app wannabe” from the app store and open it; only to discover that it is in fact a mobile web browser that opens only one website. Essentially, what you’ve downloaded is a bookmark for a website. A true native app uses the hardware on your smartphone to deliver a mobile shopping experience that cannot be replicated on a mobile web browser. The m-commerce user experience is made possible by

Ubiquity and Ubiquitous connectivity (3G!)

Where is your smartphone now? Chances are, in your hand as you are reading this. Your smartphone follows you everywhere. You pull it out every time there is a dull moment in your day, while standing in line at the store, on the train during your daily commute, while walking, in a boring meeting, etc. Instead of “going shopping”, shopping now goes with you. Think about the last time you saw a pair of shoes, a toy, an electronic thingy, that you immediately wanted to buy. Where were you? Probably not sitting in front of your computer. You might have been on your way to lunch and eyed someone with a nice looking bag that you wanted. As soon as you arrived at the sandwich joint, you pulled out your phone and started shopping for that bag. You don’t do this on a laptop. And even if you had brought your laptop with you, what are the odds that there was available WiFi?

Push notifications

Why is your smartphone never far from you? Because it’s a pain to get up to go hunt for it when it beeps. And just as people would answer the phone while in mid-conversation with someone in front of them, they would certainly read the notification on their phone when it beeps. This is what keeps them coming back. How do you get people to come back to your web-store? Emails that they don’t read? Google ad words? If your app is installed on their phone, a push notification is much more enticing.

Real-time communication

The phone is a tool for real-time communication. You make calls with it, you text with it, you send emails with it. Sure, you do these things on your computer too, but your computer doesn’t follow you around, so it’s only real-time when you are in front of it. A good salesperson converts communicate with sellerwindow shoppers to buyers. So if the device you are
shopping with also allows you to communicate with a sales person in real-time, you are more likely to buy. Chat is a powerful tool for conversion. Shoppers are unlikely to call because of probable long wait times and email just takes too long. But chat is quick, low in time investment, and usually means instant responses from salespeople. Let’s put it this way: Can you have multiple phone conversations simultaneously? Well you can have multiple chat conversations simultaneously and nobody would even notice.

Conclusion

Above, I’ve highlighted the most salient features of a smartphone that makes the m-commerce experience unique. Smartphone technology continues to evolve and things like NFC (Near Field Communications) and Bluetooth LE are going to be pushing boundaries in the near future. But what we already have today in every smartphone, that native apps already know how to use, is powerful enough. e-commerce on mobile is no longer going to cut it. Time to go native, time for m-commerce. Download the Melltoo app and checkout how we have integrated all of these things to make m-commerce easier than ever in the UAE!