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.

No-Meetup Classifieds, an $8 Billion Market Opportunity in the Middle East and Growing

This is a condensed conversation with the co-founder of Melltoo, Morrad Irsane.

We’re discussing Melltoo’s beginning and ongoing strategy to become the largest “no-meetup classifieds” in the Middle East.

Ahmed Medien is a Marketing Aid and Customer Experience Manager at Melltoo.

The answers have been shortened for flow.

AM: Why mobile-first instead of building a mobile-responsive website?

MI: When we first started working on Melltoo in 2013, mobile-first was the only way to go. People were eager to download any new app and try it out. Today, in 2017, it is a bit tricky. People don’t want to download an app just to try a product. They prefer to try it on the web first and if it makes sense, they move on to the mobile app. If you are just launching a new product today, go with mobile-responsive web first, then launch an app if your product takes off.

Mobile-first, however, has a better user experience. The native mobile app experience is superior to the mobile-responsive web when it comes to realtime geolocation and push notifications which are very important in consumer-facing products. A mobile app keeps the product front-of-mind and allows a product to become part of a user’s daily routine, making habitual use much more attainable. A good mobile experience should make things easier for the user, hence the importance of both UI and UX for our business. Today’s users are pressed for time and impatient. We work hard to make Melltoo intuitive without a steep learning curve. We know people just want to buy and sell without complex signups, payment methods and other UI friction.

Why “social” classifieds?

A product will become a part of a person’s life only if it’s social. Let’s not talk psychology, but social interaction is a fundamental human need. My dream is to contribute to building a more sustainable world by making it easy for people to resell and reuse. To do that, we have to not only make it easy, but to make it fun, rewarding, and engaging as well. And nothing is more fun than interacting with people in a safe environment.

Classifieds is an inherently social experience. However, the traditional classifieds experience is fraught with risk and as much anti-social behavior as there is social behavior. At Melltoo, we set out to facilitate positive social interactions in buying and selling by being the referee and go-to if things break down. In some ways, we are creating a safe social arena where people build relationships on the basis of their roles as buyer and sellers; for lack of a better term, a social network for buying and selling.

There are practical reasons for keeping things social as well, establishing trust. Part of the experience in Melltoo revolves around building an identity and reputation in the community. Knowing who you’re dealing with builds trust, which is important for successful transactions to take place. Ratings and reviews for previous transactions further solidifies credibility, especially in this day and age where fakes and counterfeits have become a global problem.

We want our users to be engaged in our community and to build relationships with one another. Features like comments and chats not only allow users to discuss and exchange product information, it’s also allows them to build relationships, creating stickiness in the marketplace. When you’re using Melltoo, you’re not just an individual behind a screen dealing with another individual behind a screen, you are part of a community. We are often asked whether the private chat is a leak for us, a way for buyers and sellers to take the transaction off-app to avoid paying selling fees. It probably does happen at times, but we believe that the service we are providing is valuable enough that people will prefer to keep things in-app. Not to mention the fact that transacting off-app does not help users build their reputations in the Melltoo community, which is a key element to successful transactions.

Why do you limit yourself to making money off transactions rather than other more available revenue streams such as selling media banners or premium listings to users?

Our model is purely transactional, we take a percentage off successful sales. Melltoo is not interested in selling mellsters’ data and personal information to advertisers for money. Nor are we willing to compromise the user experience with ads in our app. We have different aspirations. We value our privacy and want the same for our users. Paid listings is not something we do either, we want users to pay us only after they have derived value from the service, not before.

On Melltoo, users only pay us if their item is sold through the app. We believe this is the best way to make money for now. In future, we plan on introducing other paid services that bring value to users.

Why the insistence on remaining peer-to-peer?

Peer-to-Peer is the most difficult business model to build and sustain, yet the most rewarding when you succeed. Think any classifieds, airbnb, Uber, eBay (in the early days), etc. There is no peer-to-peer transactional platform in the UAE and the region. We are tackling secondhand items with fulfillment for the first time in the region. What is amazing about the peer-to-peer business model is interchanging user roles: buyers become sellers and sellers become buyers. This is maximally engaging since users can participate on both sides of the marketplace seamlessly. It also means that peer-to-peer businesses are high-impact businesses since participation is afforded to large segments of any given population.

From a strategic perspective, there are many other businesses doing B2C marketplaces, Amazon/Souq.com, eBay (today) and others. We follow Peter Thiel’s school of thought that prefers to avoid competitive industries and instead focus on achieving monopoly status in our space. In terms of user acquisition, a peer-to-peer marketplace is a notch more difficult to establish than B2C or ecommerce. For this reason, competitors are few. And the good news is that once we establish network effects, Melltoo will be highly defensible and enjoy monopoly profits in the region.

From a personal standpoint, my goal is to be an enabler, to enable people to help make the world a more sustainable place through resale and reuse. In this, power lies with the masses and hence the only way to do this is peer-to-peer.

What is the growth potential in the UAE and the region?

The average UAE household has about USD $2000 of unused consumer goods (e.g. an old iPhone, TV, furniture, toys and clothing) in storage in their homes at any given time. These can be resold and will inevitably get replenished as households continue to purchase. The population in the GCC and Levant is about 160 million or about 40 million households. Assuming about 10% of those households sell their stuff, that’s an $8 billion a year opportunity. If we succeed in our mission of making buying/selling second nature, we can increase the participation rate and the market opportunity will grow.

As you know, Amazon recently announced that they will be acquiring Souq.com. While this deal is great for the region in many ways, it is particularly important in validating the market demographics. We’ve had more than one outside VC questioning our market size. Compared to India, China, Brazil, etc, 160 million souls scattered across multiple countries seems small. However, about 40 million of these people are already online consumers and smartphone penetration is among the highest in the world. Currently, ecommerce represents 2% of total retail spend and the region boasts the youngest populations in the world, which means growth potential is huge. Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to founders of large Indian startups who find the region more lucrative than India in certain categories (restaurant, travel etc). While there may be many more Indians, online consumption among Indian consumers is still low. In addition, per capita income in the GCC countries are among the highest in the world.

I have lived in the region for over 12 years. This is my home and I have no plans on leaving. I’m committed to the region and I’m bullish about it’s growth potential. When I first moved to the UAE, the population was 3 million, today, it’s 9 million (tripled in 12 years). Where there were 30 skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed road when I first arrived, today I’ve lost count, including some of the world’s tallest buildings and 25-star hotels. All signs point to growth.

How have you managed to grow and develop your product, your company and your team over the past 3 years while so many other startups die after barely launching?

Baraka (roughly translate to blessings), hard work and a low burn rate. In this game (startup) the only thing that is not forgivable is to run out of money :). Having said that , we have a great team that works with passion and determination. We all know that we are building something fantastic, something that will make a difference in our world, and that our time will come … We have the right product, in the right place, at the right time. These things are starting to align and we are seeing progress everyday.

It is also incredibly important to be aware of your surroundings and the context we are in. Knowing the users, the socioeconomic context, the funding environment, investor sentiment, other products making waves…these things are important in the decision-making process. A lot of founders just focus on internal data and metrics, that’s really not going to give you enough information to make good decisions. For example, we have the ability to grow very fast. However, considering the current economic and funding environment, growing too fast will mean that we shorten our runway at a time when fundraising is difficult. So these external considerations need to be accounted for when making internal decisions.

What is most important to you right now?

Our users have been and continue to be the most important thing to us. We are continually working to improve the user experience, be it via technology or operations or customer service. To this end, we need to execute fast and to keep ourselves on top of the game. It is all about pleasing the user by building the right features and improve operations to increase new users while retaining old ones.

As the CEO, I don’t do the actual work and all credit goes to my team. However, my job is to build an organization where everyone can achieve their objectives and goals unimpeded. I focus my attention on supporting and building the organization and creating a work environment where talented people can do their thing. Borrowing a page from one of today’s most successful CEOs, Jack Ma, if we take care of the customer and the team, everything else follows.

The New Shopping Trend: Mobile Shopping

mobile-first - mobile shopping experience - Melltoo Marketplace
Worldwide, 30% of ecommerce site traffic came from mobile in 2013. Souq.com, the Amazon, of the MENA region recently revealed that 40% of its sales (and growing) come from mobile. They predict that mobile will be the main way to shop by 2015. All over the world, all eyes are turning to mobile, with Facebook declaring itself a mobile-first company along with their acquisition of Whatsapp (a mobile-only messaging platform) for a whopping $19B. If you’re still not convinced that mobile is the way to go, then you should stop reading.

There are already many on the cutting edge who have taken to Instagram to set up their m-stores. And you know what? They are doing great. But Instagram is a photo-sharing app, not an m-commerce platform. And I can hear others now proudly boasting about their mobile responsive website. Sorry, but responsive just doesn’t cut it. Consumers prefer native apps, enough said. And an icon on their phone reminds them to go shopping, while a web browser on a phone takes the user everywhere but to your responsive website. Mobile is the best shopper experience.

How is the mobile shopping experience different?

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An example of Shopper experience by SAPEnterpriseMobile

 79% of smartphone owners reach for their mobile to research products, compare prices, and get recommendations. Capture consumer mindshare, and combat showrooming, with SAP Shopper Experience. It’s a personalized and engaging app that makes shopping fun and rewarding before, during

 
Shop on Melltoo app today
 
 

The Instagram Shopping Experience Explained

What in the world is the Instagram shopping experience?

Have you heard of Instagram shopping? If you were born before 1985, chances are you’ve probably never heard of it. Instagram shopping is a phenomenon that’s taking the world of under 30s by storm. And this is particularly so in the developing world, a huge hit in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But isn’t Instagram a photo-sharing app? (Yes.) Did they pivot to become an m-commerce app? (No.) Instagram is a social network based on photo-sharing. They don’t offer an m-commerce platform. So what exactly is Instagram shopping?

The Explanation

Instagram shopping experience is the fine art of ‘discovering’ beautiful and ‘exclusive’ items for sale by other users of Instagram. It is based on the #hashtag system, which originated on Twitter, but now is ce-commerce_report_bangkok_startup_04ommonplace across social networks. Shoppers begin by searching certain hashtags, such as #dubaifashion. The infamous Instagram wall displays all publicly shared photos tagged with this hashtag. The majority of these are personal photos by individuals; but mixed in are photos that showcase a certain brand (Instagram marketing) and photos of items that people have posted for sale (Instagram shopping). Interested users can take a closer look at these product photos, ‘like’ the photos and ‘comment’ on the photos. If users wish to purchase, the next step is to contact the seller who posted the photo, typically through Whatsapp (Whatsapp numbers are posted on seller profile pages). Finally, goods and money are exchanged either in person or through courier service. That’s it in a nutshell. So what’s the big deal? What does Instagram shopping offer that traditional e-commerce doesn’t?

Answer: The Web 3.0 Experience

Mobile-first, mobile-only

First off, Instagram shopping is mobile-first and mobile-only. If you don’t know the difference between m-commerce and eCommerce, then you should read this. Instead of going shopping, shopping goes with you. A mobile-first, mobile-only platform means that users are always online. Unlike the computer, you don’t really log-out of anything on a smartphone. This means that users of a mobile-only platform are always connected. This is what makes mobile social interaction so engaging. It’s always on. Visually-pleasing Users today EXPECT a visually-pleasing experience. Instagram shopping is a visually-pleasing experience. As opposed to traditional e-commerce photographs that showcase products functionally (think amazon.com, souq.com, gap.com etc), Instagram product photos are whimsical, exotic, glamourous (think magazine photo shoot). Instagram product photos (not all, but the good ones) are content themselves, not a means to an end. On the other hand, traditional e-commerce product photos are a means to get buyers to click “add to shopping cart”. Instagram shopping is true “online window shopping”, because browsing Instagram product photos is enjoyable in and of itself.

The process of discovery

Instagram shoppers don’t typically go to any one “Instagram store” when shopping. The shopplist-item-for-saleing is an incidental occurrence of browsing photos grouped by a certain hashtag. For instance, I just searched for #Cairo and a wall of photos was displayed. The one that caught my eye was a picture of rows of yummy-looking cupcakes. I tapped on the photo and discovered that it was put up by “The #1 gourmet bakery in Egypt”. They have a whole wall of photos of colorful and delectable pastries that can be made to order. This process of discovery is what keeps Instagram shoppers coming back. Firstly, you never know what you are going to find, so there’s the thrill of the hunt. And secondly, there is a sense of exclusivity because the products aren’t always easy to find.

Social interaction

Instagram is after all a social network built on photo-sharing, so social interaction is a key component of the Instagram shopping experience. Here the ‘like’ and ‘comment’ features are what engages users. Buyers can see how many other users liked a particular item which triggers a “keeping up with the Jones” complex. They can also see what others are saying about the item and engage in the public conversation as well. When new comments are made, they get a push notification on their phone which keeps them coming back to the item. They can also share the item to other social networks and hopefully get their friends to engage as well.

The Problems with Instagram Shopping

So now you know what makes the Instagram shopping experience different from traditional e-commerce. And you might well be toying with the idea of becoming an Instagram seller. However, while Instagram is a great tool for socializing and marketing a brand, it really isn’t built for m-commerce and actual selling.

Problem 1: Keeping track of product listings/catalog, and finding specific items

Each user’s Instagram wall is just a bunch of photos listed in backward chronological order, with the latest photos posted first. Photos have captions that are searchable only by hashtags. As a seller, you can’t maintain a proper catalog because you can’t name items and there really isn’t a consistent place to put a price. As a buyer who isn’t in “discovery mode”, if you are looking for a specific item, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Problem 2: Keeping track of buyers and sellers

Buyers can search for sellers by username (if they know it) and retrieve seller info if they’ve “followed” a particular seller. Sellers can do the same with buyers. However, the complexity arises when users begin to follow a large number (hundreds or even thousands) of other users. At this point, it’s nearly impossible to figure out which seller was selling that particular item you wanted to buy without having to go through each user profile one by one. The same problem exists on the seller’s side: how to track down the interested/repeat buyer to offer a discount?

Problem 3: Communications and Logisitics

Instagram does not offer any private communication tools beside the direct photo-sharing feature. So sellers encourage buyers to contact them on mobile messaging apps like whatsapp. A typical conversation goes like this…

Buyer: “Hi, I saw your item on Instagram.”

Seller: “Which one?”

Buyer: “The shoes.”

Seller: “Which shoes?”

Buyer: “The sandals with the gold trim.”

Seller: “You mean the flats or the heels?”

You get the idea. More time is spent going back and forth trying to figure out which item is at stake than time spent on buying and selling. Can you only imagine if the buyer wanted to purchase several items at the same time?

The Future of m-commerce: Melltoo

mStore_StepbyStep
Press on the picture to learn more!

The Instagram shopping experience provides the blueprint for the m-commerce experience of the future. It is unlikely that the under 30s of today will continue to be satisfied with the current shopping experience offered by e-retailers. And yet Instagram is not optimized as a shopping platform. Melltoo was built to fill this gap. Melltoo is a mobile app that offers the Instagram-shopping experience with whatsapp built-in. Melltoo has reproduced the Instagram shopping experience by being mobile-first/only, visually-pleasing and by enhancing the process of discovery and social interaction. Melltoo also goes a step further to address the problems with Instagram shopping by providing a beautiful and intuitive interface to keep track of product listings, find specific items quickly and easily, and keep track of buyers and sellers. Melltoo also has a built-in private chat for ultimate social engagement, in-app payment AND delivery. Say goodbye to e-commerce 2.0. Welcome to m-commerce 3.0.   

 

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!

The M-Commerce Revolution

Remember ebay? Yes, that was a while back. When ebay first came on the scene, it was the e-commerce revolution! All the little guys could now sell online. Whether you were online or offline, you now had a platform for an e-store. You finally had an answer to all those customers that asked if you had an online store. And then came the e-commerce platforms that provided turn-key solutions for an online e-store. Just select a template, upload your catalog and you’re ready to go. Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but your e-store is no longer enough, it’s time to go mobile.

Why You Need an m-Store: Selling on Mobile

Worldwide, 30% of ecommerce site traffic came from mobile in 2013. Souq.com, the Amazon, of the MENA region recently revealed that 40% of its sales (and growing) come from mobiles. They predict that mobile will be the main way to shop by 2015. All over the world, all eyes are turning to mobile, with Facebook declaring itself a mobile-first company along with their acquisition of Whatsapp (a mobile-only messaging platform) for a whopping $19B. If you’re still not convinced that mobile is the way to go, then you should stop reading.

There are already many on the cutting edge who have taken to Instagram to set up their m-stores. And you know what? They are doing great. But Instagram is a photo-sharing app, not an m-commerce platform. And I can hear others now proudly boasting about their mobile responsive website. Sorry, but responsive just doesn’t cut it. Consumers prefer native apps, enough said. And an icon on their phone reminds them to go shopping, while a web browser on a phone takes the user everywhere but to your responsive website.

How is the mobile shopping experience different?

You might still be scratching your head and wondering: what makes the mobile shopping experience different? The answer is: the mobile phone. The mobile phone is with you everywhere you go. You pull it out of your pocket or purse at every dull moment in your day. You push the home button and you’re instantly connected. You can’t do this with a laptop. With the mobile, you can shop on demand; you can shop for the bag you just saw on a billboard as you whizzed by on the metro. You can do price research for the vacuum cleaner for which you are standing in line to pay for. The mobile is a tool for instant communication, it is always on and always with you. Imagine chatting with a salesperson as you browse his store catalog while sitting at the doctor’s waiting room. The mobile is a tool for social interaction, you take pictures and videos, share them with friends, comment on things your friends share with you on a plethora of different social networks right on one device. In the shopping context, you can ask your friends for recommendations and advice on purchases as you shop. Shopping on the mobile is an engaging experience that cannot be replicated on the web.

What should you look for in a m-store platform? 

So at this point, you see the need to start selling on mobile. Assuming you are not amazon.com, you probably don’t have the resources or time to devote to building your very own m-commerce app. Instead, you want a turnkey solution that will allow you to get started instantly. In order to leverage the mobile shopping experience to grow sales, here are some things you should look for in an m-store platform.

  • It’s a native app – Native apps use phone hardware like the camera, location services, and integration with other apps in ways that a “responsive website” doesn’t.
  • The app looks good and is easy/stupid to use – UI/UX is very important when your screen is only 4-5 inches long. If the app is not dead simple to use, say hello to the uninstall button.
  • The platform is social – By this, I do not mean that it has a share to Facebook button. Share button does not social make. When I say social, I mean that a community can be formed within the app because the app has “public spaces” for users to engage in. Often, this means an activity feed, comments, likes/shares, and follows. Think Twitter or Instagram.
  • It has a built-in chat platform – Nothing is more powerful than mobile chat, it is a medium of communication that has taken the world by storm. Don’t take my word for it, just think Whatsapp at $19B.

Download the Melltoo app and checkout how we have integrated all of these things to make m-commerce easier than ever in the UAE!

Go forth and sell on mobile. Welcome to web 3.0.