Product review: Pinduoduo

Pinduoduo is China’s second largest shopping app; the company has only been around for 5 years but is already following closely on the heels of Alibaba which dominates the Chinese market through apps like JD.com and Taobao. For me there are four aspects of Pinduoduo’s product and proposition which make it stand out: team purchase, mini games, daily check-ins, and price chopping.

Team purchase

Pinduoduo adds a new spin on ‘social commerce’ motivating customers to form teams around a desired product. Consumers from groups in order to receive discounts directly from supplier. Pinduoduo users can proactively create an audience for a product that they want to buy or join an existing team. This all happens on relevant social media platforms, mostly on WeChat which is China’s most popular messaging app. The network effect thus created around a product or brand, driven by the customer, naturally carries a great appeal for suppliers and Pinduoduo’s customer-to-merchant (‘C2M’) model.

 

From: Pinduoduo

Alternatively, customers can buy a product individually and pay a higher price for the product compared to when they’d joined a team. In the example below, the user can buy this infant formula as an individual shopper for ¥59 (about 8 USD), or they can for a team with other shoppers and get it for ¥35.5 (5 USD) instead.

 

From: Clark Boyd on Medium

 

Mini games

Another social element of Pinduoduo’s app is the heavy focus on multi-player games. Take ‘Toto Orchard’ below as a good example.

 

From: UI Sources

The inclusion of games to kill time or play with others is not a groundbreaking concept. What I find interesting is the direct link with shopping and rewards. For example, see ‘Duo Duo Orchard’ below, which feels like Farmville except that players will receive real physical products as rewards

The game is simple: A user creates and nurtures a virtual fruit tree until it yields a real box of fruit, which would then be shipped to their address. The more they shop, the more water droplets they receive to grow their tree. Duo Duo Orchard now has more than 11 million daily active users.

From: Pinduoduo

Daily check-ins

Simple but effective. By clicking on the daily check-in icon, a user starts accumulating rewards. The rewards each time are small, but like all rewards they do add up 🙂 and I can see how checking-in can become a habit for Pinduoduo users.

Price Chopping to Zero

As long as you get a big enough team it’s even possible to get a specific product for free. If a user goes to the price chop section in the app, they can select products that they want to get for free, which will set of 24-hour timer. Within this timeframe, the user must then share the product link with as many friends as possible. The way it works is that each friend who clicks on the link, the person who started the chain will get a discount, with this user only getting the product for free if the price has been driven down to zero within 24 hours.

From: Pinduoduo

Main learning point: In this brief review I’ve deliberately not explored potential downside of their product and proposition, such as stimulating addictive behaviours or promoting counterfeit goods. Instead, I’ve mostly zoomed in the social aspects of Pinduoduo’s ecommerce model since some of these aspects haven’t permeated more ‘traditional’ ecommerce models yet in my view.

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.techinasia.com/pinduoduo-rise-social-ecommerce
  2. https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/26/the-incredible-rise-of-pinduoduo/
  3. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/22/what-is-pinduoduo-chinese-ecommerce-rival-to-alibaba.html
  4. https://www.voguebusiness.com/consumers/lessons-on-chinese-shopper-from-discount-app
  5. https://www.sekkeistudio.com/blog/pinduoduo/
  6. https://www.uisources.com/china/pinduoduo
  7. https://blog.lengow.com/pinduoduo-chinese-ecommerce-platform/
  8. https://medium.com/@clarkboyd/pinduoduo-everything-you-need-to-know-about-pdd-chinas-third-biggest-ecommerce-site-38ac42086e47

Product review: Ray-Ban virtual try on

I was keen to try Ray-Ban’s recently introduced virtual capability to see if it helps in figuring out the best sunglasses for me:

 

 

I have to admit, it initially wasn’t obvious to me how I could try on this pair of sunglasses, the “try them on” call to action underneath the product didn’t stand out to me. When I click on this call to action, I’m first being asked to enable my camera:

 

The process of putting your head within the exact dimensions of oval feels a bit fiddly; perhaps it’s the funny shape of my head which makes it harder to figure out where to best position my glasses? As soon as even the tiniest fraction of my head appears outside of the oval, the “Is anyone there?” message appears.

 

 

Even when it seems that my dimensions have been grasped – indicated by the “Good, stay still while fitting glasses” – as soon as I move my head, the the “Is anyone there?” message appears again.

 

 

Perhaps I should set my expectations more realistically, but it feels that the sunglasses are simply slapped onto my face, and I feel I’m not getting the best sense of how these glasses would look on me (in real life).

Adjusting the frame or changing the colour of the glasses, involves going through the process of the virtual mirror capturing my dimensions. I expected this process to be a one-off exercise, making trying on new glasses, in a variety of colours or with frame adjustments, more seamless.

 

Main learning point: While the experience of trying on sunglasses virtually feels a bit clunky and unrealistic at times, it still provides a good first indicator of which sunglasses could be a good fit for the customer.

Product Review: North

Ever since I reviewed Warby Parker last year I’ve been intrigued by companies that aim to disrupt the experience of buying glasses. So when I heard about a company called North, my ears perked up and I decided to explore their product further:

My quick summary of North before using it – I expect a value proposition similar to Warby Parker, with North offering a simple way to discover and buy new glasses, perhaps a novel take on the “try before you buy” concept.

How does North explain itself in the first minute? – “Focals. Smart glasses that put fashion first” is the strap-line above the fold on the homepage of https://www.bynorth.com/. The combination of the word “smart” in this strap-line and the picture of a Google Glass like pair of glasses tells me that this site sells glasses that display information in a hands-free fashion.

 

 

When I scroll down the page, there is a further explanation of what “focals” are:

 

 

Getting started (1): Clicking on “Shop Focals” takes me to a product detail page, which includes a price point – starting at $599 – as well as styles and colours to choose from.

 

 

 

Getting started (2): “Premium holographic lenses” is the only bit of information on this page that I’m not sure about. It’s at this stage that I realise that I can’t buy the glasses online, but that I need to book a “custom sizing” appointment first.

 

 

Getting started (3): I decide to take a step back and learn more about Focals are. Clicking on “Focals” on the top navigation of the homepage takes me to a very useful “Explore Focals” page. I’ve never had a pair of Google glasses, but I don’ think they could be customised to the same extent that Focals can be tailored to the wearer’s needs.

 

 

Main learning point: I’m not yet convinced whether smart glasses will catch on. Perhaps the likes of North will make a difference, because their “focals” will look and feel like regular glasses. The customisation aspect of North’s product definitely resonates, and might just be the difference between North failing or being a runaway success.

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.bynorth.com/focals
  2. https://www.modernretail.co/startups/systemic-issue-the-customer-acquisition-challenges-dtc-brands-face-goes-beyond-cost/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eO-Y36_t08
  4. https://www.digitaltrends.com/wearables/north-focals-news/

Product review: Poshmark

My quick summary of Poshmark before using it – All I know is that Poshmark is a fashion site which has enjoyed phenomenal success recently and is rumoured to IPO later this year.

How does Poshmark explain itself in the first minute – “#1 way to buy and sell fashion” is the main strap-line on Poshmark’s homepage, urging people to sign up and “join millions of people on the largest social marketplace for fashion.”

How does Poshmark work? When I scroll down the Poshmark homepage, I see a “Brand Spotlight” which highlights the most popular brands available on Poshmark this week.

 

Clicking on one of the most popular brands listed, Banana Republic, takes me to a dedicated Banana Republic page, showing available products sold by Poshmark community members. “Just in” is the default filter that is set.

When I click on an item, I land on a fairly standard product listings page. Because of the seller – I presume – wearing the product, viewers can get a better idea of size and fit. One of the thumbnail images on the left hand side gives a good idea of the heads size appropriate for this hat.

Did Poshmark deliver on my expectations? Yes. Sellers on Poshmark can upload any new items very quickly and easily, uploading an image onto their ‘closet’ right from their phone. The process of discovering and buying products seems to be pretty simple. My only question mark would be around the ease of returning items. Since I haven’t tried returning an item, I can’t yet judge that part of the experience.

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://poshmark.com/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bizcarson/2019/06/11/poshmark-selling-home-decor/
  3. https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/11/18659886/poshmark-home-market-app-seller
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/margauxlushing/2019/05/31/i-tried-shopping-sustainably-on-poshmark-heres-what-i-learned/
  5. https://www.mercari.com/
  6. https://www.tradesy.com/
  7. http://fortune.com/2018/11/15/dia-co-series-c-40-million-plus-size/

Review: Shift

Having worked on a number of online marketplace products, I’m always curious about other online marketplaces out there. So you might be able to imagine my excitement when I came across Shift, a US-based marketplace for new and used cars. Having bought used cars before, I feel that the used car industry is ripe for disruption and my hunch is that Shift is aiming to do just that.

I can see plenty of room to improve transparency and trust when it comes to buying and selling used cars and I’m keen to learn more about how Shift tries to tackle both areas:

My quick summary of Shift before using it: I expect a platform that enables consumers to discover, compare and buy used cars. Unsure whether cars are bought from dealerships or from Shift directly. Also, wondering whether I can get finance through Shift to help purchase my car.

How does Shift explain itself in the first minute? The landing page of the site shows two women, seated in a car and looking happy. The main strap-line on the site reads “Simplified car buying”, followed by “Great cars. Better prices. Test drives delivered to you.” The main navigation bar in the top right hand corner of the page shows “Financing” as one of the options for people to consider.

 

 

How does Shift work? Shift’s “Concierges” deliver test drives to customers on-demand. After a test drive one can arrange finance and purchase the car on the spot. Shift applies three driving principles to its business, as it aims to “bring trust and simplicity to the peer-to-peer used car market”: convenience, value and trust. Shift sees the Concierge as a pivotal actor as part of this experience as it’s the role of the Concierge “to be your guide. It’s not their job to sell you a car, it’s to help you buy one.”

 

 

When, for instance, I look at a used Mercedes GLE 350 to buy (see screenshot below), a few things stand out to me:

“No-haggle list price” – So there’s no room for a potential buyer to bring the price down!? From a peer-to-peer perspective, I can see how a fixed price creates a lot of clarity and trust for both parties involved in the transaction, car buyer and seller.

 

 

Compare price – I would have loved to compare prices for the specific car I’m interested in. When, however, I click on “Compare” for a a number of different vehicles on Shift’s site, I keep getting a message stating that price comparison info isn’t available.

 

 

Mechanical inspection – Would love to learn more about Shift’s process that precedes the mechanical inspection as shown for each model on the site. I deliberately looked for cars that didn’t just have a perfect list, i.e. all green marks, and I found one (see below). This Toyota Prius (2010) has three body related issues. When I click to see details, the three issue are being explained clearly, as well as their impact on both the exterior and the drivability of the car.

 

Wear & tear photos – For this nine year old Toyota Prius, Shift offers seven wear and tear photos so that I can see clear evidence of the body related issues listed in the mechanical inspection report. I can thus make up my mind – before arranging a test drive – whether I can live with these issues or not.

 

 

Having looked into buying car, I now want to see how one can sell a car through Shift:

These three steps involved in selling a car through Shift feel very similar to selling through Vroom:

 

 

Get an estimate – Getting a Shift estimate for a car to sell feels pretty straightforward (see screenshot below). My only question is how car sellers can quickly figure out whether they’re getting a good price for their car, and how this estimated price compares to what they could get elsewhere.

 

 

How and when do I get paid? Shift will initiate payment to the the car seller at the end of the appointment in which they evaluate one’s car to sell. This approach made me think of real estate platforms such as Opendoor and Nested. These companies will buy your property off you (Opendoor) or pay an advance (Nested) after they’ve thoroughly inspected and valued your home. The comparison with real estate made me wonder whether Shift refurbishes the interior of car or improves the exterior once it has bought the car off you.

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 09.18.27.png

 

Did Shift deliver on my expectations? Yes. Refreshing to see the level of simplicity and transparency into an experience which has traditionally put the (uninformed) car buyer or seller on the back foot.

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.autogravity.com/
  2. https://www.lingscars.com/
  3. https://www.vroom.com/
  4. https://shift.com/cars/
  5. https://www.drivemotors.com/
  6. https://broadspeed.com/