Site review: Carspring

I like cars. I like marketplaces. I worked at carwow. It’s fair to say that cars and marketplaces is a good combination for me. I was therefore very excited when I came across Carspring, a UK based marketplace for used cars. My initial thought was “why do we need another platform for selling and buying new cars, we’ve already got loads of those!.” However, I then looked into Carspring and this is what I learned:

My quick summary of the site (before using it): Another site where I can buy or sell used cars. Given that lots of people in the UK own a car, there are currently about 40 million cars on the UK roads, I’m not surprised to see another player enter the market for used cars.

How does the site explain itself in the first minute? – “A car for every journey” is what it says at the top of Carspring’s homepage. The strapline below that intrigues me though: “Hand-inspected, personally delivered.” This suggest to me that Carspring does more than just being an intermediary which connects buyers and sellers. It gets really interesting when I scroll down the homepage and see a section titled “How it works”:

  1. Choose a Carspring certified and inspected car – Carspring guarantees that all the cars on their site will have gone through a 128 point inspection by the AA and an additional inspection by Carspring’s in-house team before they arrive at the customer.
  2. Select a payment method (finance or buy) – Interesting to see that customers can apply for financing through Carspring, given that this service is heavily regulated.
  3. We deliver the car straight to your doorstep – This reminds me of Shift, a US based online platform for used cars which also does delivers cars to your doorstep. I listened to a talk by Minnie Ingersoll, coo-founder and COO at Shift talking about door to door delivery of cars to their customers.
  4. Relax with our 14-day money back guarantee –  Especially when it comes to buying a used car, I can imagine that customers will feel reassured by Carspring’s 14-day money back guarantee.

 

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Getting started, what’s the process like (1)? – After I’ve clicked the “Show all cars” button on the homepage, I land on a page which features a list of cars, with the top of the page saying “162 results.” I can see a “Sell a car” call to action in the top right hand of the page, which in my view could be more prominent in order to encourage more people to sell their cars through Carspring. There seem to be a number of cars that are “Coming soon” but I’m unsure as to when these cars will actually become available for sale. I believe Carspring could do a better job explaining what ‘soon’ means for each individual car and alerting the interested buyer as soon as the car has become available.

 

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Getting started, what’s the process like (2)? – I look at the product page for a 2012 Fiat 500, I’m presented with a rather large image of this car and a sticky footer encouraging the user to click on ‘buy’ or ‘finance’. There’s something to say for keeping the product page simple for the user to navigate, but the large picture and the footer feel quite overwhelming. As a result of the large image and the sticky footer, it’s not immediately apparent to me that this is a carousel which lets me see one more picture, that of the car’s dashboard. Having thumbnail images of the car e.g. its interior and exterior below the hero image would be more intuitive.

 

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I like how Roadster does its product pages, providing all relevant information at a fingertip. To be fair, the product page contains the same info that Roadster offers, but purely because of the way this detail has been laid out I feel I have to work harder to get to this information before deciding to buy the car.

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Getting started, what’s the process like (3)? – The filtering function on Carspring works well; the filtering options are clear and I can see at a glance the number of available cars per filter. However, because the supply of certain makes and models is still relatively small, filtering and sorting doesn’t feel as helpful as it could have been if there had been a larger number of cars on offer. For example, when looking at BMWs I started with 7 models and finished with 2 cars after I’d done all my filtering.

 

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Getting started, what’s the process like (4)? – Given that Carspring is a two sided marketplace it’s just as important that the seller of a car has a good experience. For me, Carspring’s biggest differentiator is that it inspects and grades your car. As a buyer, this gives me confidence about the quality of the car that I’m buying. As a seller, the process needs to be transparent and this will come from Carspring inspecting and grading your car upfront, providing sellers with a guaranteed sale price.

 

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How does Carspring compare to similar services? – Carspring does feel very similar to its US counterparts in the aforementioned Shift, Carvana, Beepi and Vroom. The points of differentiation between the various used car marketplaces seem minimal. For example, Vroom offers a 7-day money back guarantee and Beepi does the same within 10 days. What I liked about Beepi is the ability for the consumer to get in touch with person who’s certified the car in question.

 

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Did the site deliver on my expectations? – Yes. I can see Carspring’s model scaling rapidly, and I expect to see their car offering expand very quickly. The site lets users down in some places with usability issues that could be fixed fairly easily. I believe that the ultimate success of using Carspring won’t necessarily lie in the site’s experience, but will depend on the quality of the car delivered to a user’s doorstep. This ‘offline’ experience will determine whether people will come back to Carspring to buy their next used car and spread the word to their friends.

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/edmundingham/2015/09/10/can-tech-start-up-carspring-disrupt-the-42bn-used-car-market-in-the-uk/#7f2e331712f0
  2. http://techcrunch.com/2015/05/12/carspring/
  3. http://blog.carspring.co.uk/what-were-about/
  4. http://www.engadget.com/2015/12/02/what-are-the-chances-you-ll-buy-your-next-car-online/
  5. https://www.carspring.co.uk/content-disruption
  6. https://www.carspring.co.uk/england
  7. https://www.vroom.com/how

 

 

App review: Touchnote

When I was looking at Deloitte’s annual “Fast 50” 2015 winners, I saw that Touchnote, was ranked 9th, based on a 2312% growth rate (!). Touchnote was described as a “postcard sending service” on Deloitte’s listing, which made me curious to learn more about how a postcard sending service can enjoy such phenomenal growth. Let’s have a look at the app in more detail:

My quick summary of the app (before using it) – I expect an app which makes it easy for me to create and send postcards.

How does the app explain itself in the first minute – As soon as I open the app, a modal appears with a picture of a smiley couple wearing Santa hats. The description on the modal screen reads “Christmas cards – Turn photos into beautiful Christmas cards.” It’s clear that the app lets me take my pictures and convert them into postcards.

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Getting started, what’s the process like – By clicking “next” on the modal screens, I get a good flavour of the different cards and frames I can create through Touchnote. However, once I’ve seen the last modal screen and land on the main screen of the app, I’m not entirely clear about how Touchnote works. For example, I’m not quite clear about how Touchnote’s credit packs work and what the benefit is of buying credits instead of buying per card or set of cards. Also, I’m wondering whether I need to sign in or create a Touchnote account to use the service. However, it’s clear where I need to click to create a (Christmas) card or a framed picture.

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After indicating that I’m happy for the app to access the pictures on my phone, the process feels very intuitive and straightforward. For example, changing layouts felt very simple. As a user, the last thing I want to do with an app like this is fiddling endlessly with layouts and customisation.

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Again, selecting, rotating images, adding a caption and selecting an address – it all feels very easy and I end up with a postcard that I’m happy with.

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I’m now told that I need to buy 1 credit to buy (and send?) the card, but it looks like I need to sign up with Touchnote to be able to do that. Why can’t I use Touchnote as a guest? It would be great if I could sign up at a later stage when I’m clearer about the quality of the service and about how Touchnote works.

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Payment through Touchnote feels very easy, even though I would have liked to have know about the price of 1 credit prior to arriving at the payment screen. All in all, a very easy and seamless purchase process, followed by a nice confirmation email in my inbox.

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How does the app compare to similar apps? – Out of the similar apps that I looked at, Postdroid felt the least elegant. Apart from struggling to manipulate images, the thing that struck me most is that the first screen on the Postdroid app is a login one, which doesn’t make me feel particularly welcome to say the least. In contrast, creating a postcard through Postino felt just as easy as doing it through Touchnote, the main difference being that Postino lets you choose from a number of borders to add to the picture, so that you don’t have to have to worry about empty spaces or padding.

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Did the app deliver on my expectations? – The whole process of creating a postcard through Touchnote felt incredibly easy, and I wondered whether Touchnote are looking to apply this seamless experience to personalising and sending other items such as mugs or plant pots (yes, plant pots). Given how easy the Touchnote app was to use, I was wondering why the app doesn’t work harder on explaining early on how pricing works or why it doesn’t let customers purchase cards as a guest. But yes, all in all, the app definitely did deliver on my expectations.

What’s happening in ‘content commerce’?

Last week I wrote about Grabble and reviewing their app spurred me on to look at other apps in the ‘content commerce’ space. In essence, content commerce is about obtaining revenue from your digital content, irrespective of the form the content comes in (e.g. blog, film, music, etc.). These are some of the content commerce examples I looked at:

The Hunt

The Hunt‘s strapline reads “Style & Shopping” and that’s exactly what you get. Very much image driven, the user can search for fashion and styling ideas. I didn’t find the app the easiest to use, and I wasn’t sure about the ‘return of investment’ I was getting on the effort I had to put in to find a piece of clothing ‘similar to this’ (see Fig. 1 below). I can see, however, that The Hunt does help users discovering new fashion items and sharing these with their friends for input.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of an exact match for Dark Maroon Nike’s – Taken from: https://www.thehunt.com/the-hunt/dhXw8s-dark-maroon-nike%2527s

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Gilt

Gilt is a member’s only community which offers products from the world’s biggest fashion and accessory brands with discounts of up to 70 percent. I can imagine that Gilt acts as a trusted style adviser in the eyes of its community members and I can therefore imagine its curated ‘top picks’ section to get a higher clickthrough rates than similar sites (see Fig. 2 below).

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of ‘Top Picks’ on Gilt – Taken from: http://www.gilt.com/

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Spring

Spring is another good example of an eCommerce site with a strong curated feel about it. Spring offers an Instagram-like photo feed of products to purchase, with a curated community of brands that includes luxury labels and emerging designers. The collections displayed have been curated by influencers and editors (see Fig. 3 below). Spring has no shopping cart. After users have initially filled out credit card and shipping info, they just swipe beneath an item to buy it. And after users like an item, the relevant seller can send them push notifications.

Fig. 3 – Screenshot of collection on Spring – Taken from: https://www.shopspring.com/

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Product Hunt

Product Hunt is one of my favourite places when it comes to finding out about new gadgets and technologies. The combination of a dedicated community curating the products shown based on votes and related conversations between community members works really well. I know that the good people at Product Hunt are looking to expand into non-tech areas, and it will be interesting to see if and when they’ll be able to build up a community around fashion for example.

Fig. 4 – Screenshot of ‘products’ screen on Product Hunt’s iOS app

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Mumsnet

If we take the definition of content commerce at its most basic level, then I would say Mumsnet is a great example. Mumsnet is a large community and acts a go-to place for lots of mothers and mothers to be. Below example of a page where users can read trike and ride-on reviews as well as engage in ‘discussions of the day’ is a really good example of how you can combine relevant content with eCommerce (see Fig. 5 below).

Fig. 5 – Screenshot of Mumsnet product reviews page – Taken from:http://www.mumsnet.com/reviews/on-the-move/trikes-and-ride-ons

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Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/78916-13-Innovative-Mobile-Commerce-Apps
  2. http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/38837.asp#multiview
  3. https://stacksocial.com/
  4. http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorikozlowski/2014/02/05/where-content-meets-commerce-apps-gadgets-and-drones-all-hand-picked-by-humans/
  5. http://www.ebaypartnernetworkblog.com/uk/2014/03/06/ebay-launches-collections-follow-passion/
  6. http://content2commerce.com/agenda/
  7. http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/Resources/Defining-EContent/What-is-Content-Commerce-80914.htm
  8. https://branch.io/content-analytics/
  9. https://gigaom.com/2010/10/26/419-why-content-and-commerce-is-a-marriage-made-in-heaven/
  10. http://skimlinks.com/features
  11. https://www.shopdirect.com/
  12. http://www.diagonal-view.com/

App review: Grabble

“Grabble: Buy Fashion and Shop With Style” is the tagline of the app on the iOS app store. I’m intrigued by the name of this app and its tagline. Is Grabble like Asos or Net A Porter, or is it more like Thread … Grabble is one of the few apps where I really don’t know what to expect. All the more reason to do a review and see what this app is all about:

  1. My quick summary of the app (before using it)?  I expect an app that will help me buy clothes that suit my style and budget. Fashion recommendations might well be the strongest point of this app; using my data and that of users with a similar style to make relevant suggestions.
  2. How does the app explain itself in the first minute? – When I open the app, I am immediately impressed by the great moving images (see Fig. 1 below). This first impression reminds me of the Audioboom app, I like the aspirational people and stylish items of clothing. There are clear calls to action at the bottom of the screen, making it easy for me to get started. But, at this stage I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be signing up to … a personal fashion adviser, a fashion eCommerce app or a mixture of both? I decide to click on the cross in the top right corner of my screen to see what happens.
  3. Getting started, what’s the process like? – This is good. By clicking on the cross, it seems that I don’t have to sign up straight away. Instead, I just need to indicate whether I want to shop for men’s or womenswear. After I click on menswear, I land on a screen which provides me with more clarity about what the app is all about: “your daily feed of great fashion, beauty and homeware. Every day our team of stylists find the best products online.” I now understand that if I sign up to Grabble, I can expect to receive daily alerts about the latest, carefully curated fashion and style tips. When I click on “next” at the bottom of the screen, I see a picture of an old-school gramophone and a green heart which says “Grab it!” (see Fig. 4 below). If I want to ‘grab’ this item, I just need to swipe to the right and I’ll be alerted as soon as the item goes on sale. I can always swipe to the left if an item doesn’t suit my style (see Fig. 5 below). Everything comes together when I land on a screen where I read that I can buy my “favourite Grabs easily and securely. And get free delivery with every order!” (see Fig. 6 below).
  4. How does the app compare to similar apps? – In terms of pure user experience, I feel that only Pinterest comes close. Adding, viewing and ‘visiting’ my pins are all part of one seamless and simple experience (see Fig. 7 below) however, the retailer integration on Grabble feels more seamless and intuitive. By contrast, when I first opened the Nuji app (see Fig. 8 below), which is a close competitor in the UK, I didn’t find the first image particularly welcoming. Better was the simplicity of Fancy (see Fig. 9 below), although this app doesn’t feel half as stylish and inspirational as Grabble and somewhere between the two sits Wanelo (see Fig. 10 below).
  5. Did the app deliver on my expectations? – Yes and no. Let’s start with the ‘no’ part. It took a while for me to understand what the app was about. Initially, I thought I’d be subjected to an experience similar to Thread where I’d have to enter my style preferences, physical attributes, etc. On the contrary, the effort required felt minimal and I got the sense that once I start ‘grabbing’ or buying more items, Grabble’s recommendations will be on the money, especially given the large number of brands – 1,500 – on Grabble’s platform. Once I got that, it felt like the perfect app, but I do believe the app can work harder on making that clearer upfront.

Main learning point: I can now understand why big fashion retailers such as Zara, Uniqlo and Asos are all on Grabble’s platform, as it provides such a seamless integration between product discovery and purchase. Apart from the fact that it took while to understand the app’s main purpose, I really like the way Grabble recommends products within different categories based on the items users either ‘grab’ or ‘throw’.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of Grabble’s opening screen on Grabble’s iOS app

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Fig. 2 – Screenshot of the “I want to shop for …” screen on Grabble’s iOS app

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Fig. 3 – Screenshot of Grabble’s first menswear screen on Grabble’s menswear iOS app

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Fig. 4 – Screenshot of an item that I can ‘grab’ on Grabble’s iOS app

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Fig. 5 – Screenshot of an item that I can ‘throw away’ on Grabble’s iOS app

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Fig. 6 – Screenshots of main landing screens on Grabble’s iOS app

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Fig. 7 – Screenshot of my “Sneakers worth checking out” board on Pinterest’s iOS app

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Fig. 8 – Screenshot of the landing screen of Nuji’s iOS app

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Fig. 9 – Screenshot of Fancy’s landing screen on iOS

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Fig. 10 – Screenshot of Wanelo’s landing screen on iOs

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Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/festival-of-business/11423613/Grabble-app-raises-1.2m-from-high-profile-e-commerce-angels.html
  2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/edmundingham/2015/01/19/tinder-for-fashion-app-grabble-targets-1m-users-as-ecommerce-moves-to-mobile/
  3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2891194/Is-Tinder-FASHION-Swipe-right-style-matches-shopping-app-Grabble.html
  4. http://startupbeat.com/2013/10/16/grabble-targeting-fashion-forward-freshers-social-fashion-commerce-platform-id3507/
  5. http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/13/u-k-wanelo-competitor-nuji-launches-a-weird-app-with-an-interactive-woman-as-part-of-its-interface/
  6. http://www.businessinsider.com/pinshoppr-2012-5?IR=T

App review: WeSwap

It’s all about the “sharing economy” these days. Think Uber, Airbnb and JustPark. Sharing is starting to become a ‘thing’ in the finance sector too; TransferWise is a good example in this respect. I recently came across WeSwap, which is a peer-to-peer travel money exchange service founded two years ago. I decided to review the WeSwap app and these are some of my findings:

  1. How did the app come to my attention? – I recently read an article in the Financial Times, titled “Travel money venture cashes in peer-to-peer cash.” WeSwap got quite a lot of coverage in the article and that’s how I found out about it.
  2. My quick summary of the app (before using it)? – Similar to the model behind TransferWise, I believe WeSwap helps people to exchange currencies without having to pay hefty bank fees.
  3. How does the app explain itself in the firs minute? – Before entering the actual WeSwap app, I see a screen which states “WeSwap helps you save on your travel money.” This is followed by the explanation “by swapping your money with other travelers, travelling in the opposite direction (see Fig. 1 below).”
  4. Getting started, what’s the process like (1)? – Despite the app being a bit slow to load, the account creation process felt very intuitive, clean and nicely laid out (see Fig. 2 below). I did feel a little bit of confused as I thought account creation was going to be a 1-step process (see Fig. 3 below). However, after I’d submitted my email and and password, I got a screen which showed a 3-step account creation progress bar at the top (see Fig. 4 below). I then had to give up on the the account creation process, as I was doing this on the go and didn’t have personal ID files that I could upload, nor was I fully clear on why this was necessary to create an account (see Fig. 5 below).
  5. Getting started, what’s the process like (2)? – From the screenshots that I’ve looked at (see Fig. 5), the WeSwap interfaces and interactions feel very clear and intuitive. What I couldn’t test, however, was how self-explanatory the “swaps” and “loads” are. I believe that the ability to explain the currency ‘swaps’ to casual users will be critical to the success and adoption of WeSwap.
  6. How does the app compare to similar apps?Currencyfair and Kantox offer a service similar to WeSwap. However, they don’t seem to have a mobile app. Transferwise, another WeSwap competitor, do offer a mobile app. The TransferwWise app feels very accessible, and is focused on being easy to use.
  7. Did the app deliver on my expectations? – I feel I can’t really answer this question, having given up during the account creation process. The way the app presents itself in the first few screens feels very intuitive and simple, but I hadn’t expected the sign-up process to feel as onerous as it did. That could just be me and not the app, but it did stop me from using the app on the go.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of WeSwap opening screen (when using the app for the first time)

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Fig. 2 – Screenshot of account creation process in WeSwap 

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Fig. 3 – Screenshot of account creation process in WeSwap – Step 1 

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Fig. 4 – Screenshot of account creation process in WeSwap – Step 2

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Fig. 4 – Screenshot of account creation process in WeSwap – Step 3

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Fig. 5 – WeSwap screenshots – Taken from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.weswap.app

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