The Future of M-Commerce 3.0: The #Hashtag for Buying and Selling

The #Hashtag is to Social Networks What Search is to the Web

What would the web be like without search? You would open a web browser but wouldn’t know where to go. You would have to find out about interesting websites from offline sources (billboards!) and carefully type URLs into the address bar in order to access the website. You wouldn’t be able to find anything without knowing where it was to begin with. This is what social media would be like without #hashtags. The #hashtag, made mainstream by Twitter, is a way for users to find conversations, communities and shared interests on social media. Social media has become a crowded place and it can be very lonely if you can’t find others who want to talk about the same things.

#Conversation at parties and events

Imagine being in a crowded party and trying to find a huddle that’s having an interesting conversation. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a speech balloon above each huddle that contained “#ConversationTopic”? That would save you having to introduce yourself only to have to excuse yourself a minute later because the conversation is boring. That’s why #hashtags are useful for social media. With all the content to wade through, searching by hashtag is a quick and easy way to find topics and communities of interest. #Hashtagging your content is also an efficient way to insert yourself into a conversation or community. It makes the world of social media smaller and a lot more relevant, in the same way a neighborhood is to a city.

The #hashtag for social marketplaces

Online classifieds are huge places that people easily get lost in. Even though these are consumer-to-consumer buying and selling networks, they function as a directory service rather than a social network. At Melltoo, we have built a mobile social marketplace where the #hashtag plays an important role. At Melltoo, we know that social networks and marketplaces are big and messy places, so we use the #hashtag to organize our social marketplace. By attaching a simple #hashtag to your item name, you can identify your item as part of a store, a community, an event, and even a cause.

Hashtag Search iphone

How does it work?  

1. #m-store

If you are a small business, Melltoo offers you an opportunity to have a mobile store or mobile catalog simply with #YourStoreName. Why spend money on print brochures that are in the trash almost as soon as the customer walks out the door? What would you pay to have your catalog in your customer’s hand whenever he wants it? A catalog that updates constantly. And by the way, did you know that experts predict that by 2015, mobile will be the primary way to shop online? Here’s your opportunity to get ahead of the retail giants who are struggling to get themselves on mobile.

2. #CommunityGroup

Would you prefer to buy something used from a complete stranger or from someone in a shared community (residential community, college or school, book club, ethnic association, homeschoolers group, etc)? Imagine you are a college student and that you go to class daily (like good students do). Wouldn’t it be great to buy a used textbook from another student and pick it up on the way to class? The alternative is to buy it from a complete stranger and drive halfway across town to get it. By adding #CommunityGroup next to your item name, a quick search for this hashtag will display all items for sale in this community.

3. #LiveEvent

On any given weekend in Dubai, there are a multitude of live market events taking place in You can use #LiveEvent to identify your item for sale at a live event. the city. These events typically boast 50-100 different vendors in one place. As a visitor, you can easily get lost and miss out on items and vendors that you might otherwise be interested in. Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could search for items on sale right from your mobile as you are walking past the stands at the event? This is now possible on Melltoo. By grouping items for sale under #LiveEvent, attendees can browse through items for sale before arriving, at the event, and after leaving. If you still have stuff left over, you can share your Melltoo posts with friends on social media, so they know what’s still available. If you’re friends spot something they like, they can pay for it in-app and we’ll deliver  it straight to their front door for you!

4. #SocialCause

Charity sales are a great way to raise money for a cause. However, these tend to be tied to a physical event and are therefore geographically constrained. What if you want to conduct a charity sale that has no physical boundaries? You can do this on Melltoo. Get participants to use the hashtag #SocialCause identify items they want to include in your sale. In this way, buyers who want to support the cause can search for items under this hashtag when shopping, wherever they may be. It also gives organizers an easy way to keep track of seller participation and gauge proceeds from the sale.

Conclusion

The #hashtag is a simple, yet versatile tool that users can manipulate to organize buying and selling on Melltoo. Users have probably come up with ways to use it that we don’t even know about. E-commerce 2.0 was all about bringing stores online so that shopping became easier and more convenient. However, m-commerce 3.0 is all about user experience and creating a shopping experience that is engaging and social. The #hashtag allows users to engage in buying and selling on their own terms, in ways that can only be done on a social network built on buying and selling. Welcome to m-commerce 3.0. #melltoo

What the press says about Melltoo

Why registering as a startup in Dubai is getting easier

by Nina Curley, April 6, 2014

in5big

Lately, we often hear startups from Casablanca to Cairo asking us how they can get a foothold in Dubai, the market with the region’s highest smartphone penetration rate and largest e-commerce market.

read more : http://www.wamda.com/2014/04/dubai-s-in5-incubator-quietly-expanding-options-for-entrepreneurs-in-the-uae

 


 

Looking for a New Way to Buy & Sell

by Expat Echo Dubai, April, 2014

Bandeau Melltoo Beta Launch Event

When asked to describe what Melltoo is, Khaled Elsayed, an early adopter, replied: “Dubizzle on steroids”. Buying and selling is social, quicker, and easier on this mobile app for iOS and Androids. The key is the built-in instant messaging platform that allows buyers and sellers to communicate. No calls, no mails, just chat to buy and sell.

read more : http://www.expatechodubai.com/new-to-dubai/looking-for-a-new-way-to-buy-sell-in-dubai/#more-246283


 

 

Mideast Startup Accelerator Picks First

Batch of Entrepreneurs

by Rory Jone, Marsh 2, 2014

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A new startup accelerator program in the Middle East has picked its first batch of entrepreneurs that will receive an injection of cash and mentorship.

Three startups, in varying stages of growth, will each receive $20,000 of seed investment to help develop their businesses and leverage the network of Saudi Telecom and its digital media company Intigral.

read more : http://blogs.wsj.com/middleeast/2014/03/02/saudi-telecoms-startup-accelerator-picks-first-batch-of-entrepreneurs/

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!

(Arab News) ‘Instagram shopping’ a hit with young Saudi entrepreneurs

instagram_shopping

Instagram is a photo-sharing application that has grown to capture 150 million active users from all around the world.

Though Instagram has not enabled sales of advertisements yet, many companies and individuals already use it as a means to promote their services. It is not used for displaying pictures or expanding social circles only anymore.

Actually, Instagram is the prime tool for marketing products. Saudi users are no exception and exhibit various items on Instagram.

They include cosmetics, food and clothes for kids and adults and many others. Young Saudi female graduates who have not found a suitable job find it an ideal pastime.

Besides its financial returns, creating network connections that outlast the purchase is what makes working online a fulfilling experience.

Amjad Zarihan (known on Instagram as Fancyboutiqe) has over 2,780 followers. She is a recent pharmacy graduate who couldn’t find a job. Instead of staying home waiting for a job to come, she created her own. Amjad mainly trades in cosmetics but she also does business in other items.

“The products are displayed in my account on Instagram, but to place an order and agree on the best method of payment and time of delivery, I communicate with the customer on Whatsapp. It shows more seriousness and willingness on the part of the customer to purchase the item.”

“I am passionate about make-up, and I try most of the products myself before I sell them to the customers,” Amjad says. “Of course my work in trading through Instagram does not substitute a full-time job in a private or government sector. However, I am not planning to give up on it after I find a full-time job.” Commenting on how secure her work on Instagram is, Amjad says, “It is financially and socially rewarding. I now know a lot of people I would not have known had I not been on Instagram.”

Reem Al-Driwish, (known on Instagram as Make_for_beauty) has over 17,000 followers. She is a young Saudi business owner who is also interested in make-up products. She has a diploma in computer and interior design.

She says, “Most customers are interested in products which have famous brand names and are commercially known.”

“There are many replicas of make-up products that are sold as original. It is my responsibility as an owner of my business to gain the trust of my clients by selling them the original brands of products. Therefore, the websites I order from have to be trustworthy,” she says.

Saudi customers share various experiences about their “Instagram shopping.” AlaaManie, a health education coordinator in a government hospital says, “I had only one experience of buying from Instagram and that was not very encouraging. The product was different from the picture displayed. Now, if I need to buy anything online, I do it myself.”

On the other hand, Roqayah, a King Saud University faculty member, had a different experience to relate. “I had a wonderful experience shopping with Instagram. The product reached on time and the price was cheaper than the products online. I shall definitely do it again. However, you need to be careful about choosing a trustworthy salesperson on Instagram,” she cautioned.

The above is reproduced from Arab News at http://www.arabnews.com/news/507381

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.

Create your Melltoo M-boutique in 5 Simple Steps

Are you an Instagram seller who needs a real m-store? Or are you a brick & motar retailer who wants to sell your products on mobile? Here’s your chance. Set-up a Melltoo  m-boutique today in 5 easy steps. mStore_StepbyStep

mStore_Step1

mStore_Step2 mStore_Step3 mStore_Step4

Sell on Melltoo & Win “1 Million” by Paco Rabanne

Sell & Win

Sell & Win Instructions

SELL & WIN

Sell your stuff on Melltoo and win “1 Million” by Paco Rabanne!

How does it work? (see picture also)
1. Post an item (new/used) for sale on Melltoo
2. Tweet about your item from the ad details screen
3. Ask your friends to retweet your ad
4. The user with the highest number of retweets wins!

Terms & Conditions:
– To be eligible, user must post a NEW item for sale
– Retweets by same user only counts once
– Be sure to mention @melltoo_me in tweets
– Winner may choose “1 Million” or “Lady Million” by Paco Rabanne
– Prize delivered to location of user’s choice by courier
– Contest period begins on Sunday 16th March 2014 to Saturday 22nd March 2014.
– Winners are announced on 24th March here on Facebook and on Twitter (follow @melltoo_me)
– Winners will be contacted on the Melltoo app via chat, by email, and on twitter

May the best tweeter win!

To download Melltoo:


Final Launch Event in Dubai – Don’t miss it!

betaLaunch_theCribb2

Join us for our final private launch event in Dubai @ The Cribb. Be among the first to experience classifieds like never before.

Date: Wed, 19th March 2014

Time: 6:30 – 8:00 pm

The founders of Melltoo will share their startup journey of how a couple of non-tech people built a mobile app that re-invents the classifieds marketplace.

The event will also be an opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs in Dubai and to check out the co-working space @ The Cribb.

Be the first to buy and sell on Melltoo. Bring your smartphone (iOS/Android) and something to sell (or a picture of something to sell).

RSVP today for the event you wish to attend. Space is limited and is available on a first come first serve basis.

For directions, search The Cribb on Google Maps or call +971 4 319 7645.