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/

Some good conversational UI examples to learn from

It was Dennis Mortensen – CEO/Founder of x.ai – who made me aware a few years ago of the concept of ‘invisible interfaces’. He talked about applications no longer needing a graphical user interface (GUI), taking “Amy” – x.ai’s virtual personal assistant as a good example (see Fig. 1 below).

hi-im-amy-xai

Fig. 1 – Amy, x.ai’s virtual assistant – Taken from: http://www.agilenetnyc.com/business/x-ai/

Since then, I’ve been keeping more of an eye out for bots and virtual assistants, which can run on Slack, WeChat, Facebook Messenger or Amazon Echo. Like “Amy” these applications can be driven entirely by complex machine learning algorithms, or can be more ‘smoke and mirrors’ and operated entirely by humans. Let’s just have a look at some relevant examples to illustrate where I think some of these virtual assistants and chatbots are heading.

Example 1 – Nordstrom Chatbot and Operator offering personalised discovery:

US based Nordstrom recently launched its first chatbot for the 2016 holiday season. If you’re already on Facebook Messenger or Kik, Nordstrom’s virtual assistant is only a click away. Users who engage with Nordstrom’s bot will be asked a number of questions about who they’re shopping for. The bot will then respond with bespoke gift suggestions based on the user’s responses.

nordstrom-v1

Fig. 2 – Nordstrom Chatbot – Taken from: https://chatbotsmagazine.com/the-complete-beginner-s-guide-to-chatbots-8280b7b906ca#.l5e2i887r

You can get a similar experience using Operator, which is driven entirely by human experts who’ll provide you with personalised advice on what to buy (see Fig. 3 below).

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-20-46-37

 

Fig. 3 – Operator’s experts providing tailored advice to its users – Taken from: https://www.operator.com/

Example 2 – KLM sharing flight information via Facebook Messenger:

KLM, the well known international airline, now enables customer to receive their flight documentation via Facebook Messenger. After booking a flight on KLM’s website, customers can choose to receive their booking confirmation, check-in details, boarding pass and flight status updates via Messenger. It’s built on a Messenger plug-in which customers only have to enable in order to receive ‘personalised’ messages from KLM (see Fig. 4 below).

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-20-17-33

Fig. 4 – Screenshot of KLM’s Messenger app – Taken from: https://messenger.klm.com/

Example 3 – Telegram using buttons for discovery and shortcuts:

As much as it’s great to have a very simple ‘single purpose’ conversational user interface, there are messenger apps and virtual assistants out there that do offer user functionality that works better with buttons to click. A good example is the Telegram app, which has buttons for specific actions and shortcuts (see Fig. 5 below).

telegram-v1

Fig. 5   – Screenshot of the buttons in Telegram’s messenger app – Taken from: http://alistapart.com/article/all-talk-and-no-buttons-the-conversational-ui

Main learning point: I’ll no doubt learn more about conversational user interfaces over the coming months and years, but looking at simple examples like x.ai, Nordstrom’s Chatbot, Operator, Telegram and KLM’s Messenger feels like a very good starting point!

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://alistapart.com/article/all-talk-and-no-buttons-the-conversational-ui
  2. https://uxdesign.cc/10-links-to-get-started-with-conversational-ui-and-chatbots-3c0920ef4723#.yqpfdz5re
  3. https://chatbotsmagazine.com/the-complete-beginner-s-guide-to-chatbots-8280b7b906ca#.l5e2i887r
  4. http://www.geekwire.com/2016/new-nordstrom-mobile-chat-bot-ready-help-shoppers-find-perfect-holiday-gift/
  5. https://www.techinasia.com/talk/complete-beginners-guide-chatbots
  6. https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/07/conversational-interfaces-where-are-we-today-where-are-we-heading/
  7. http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/30/11331168/klm-facebook-messenger-boarding-pass-chat-integration
  8. https://messenger.klm.com/
  9. https://www.operator.com/

Site review: WorldRemit

A few years ago I wrote about money remittance services like Transferwise and WeSwap. I recently came across another remittance service called WorldRemit and I decided to do a quick review and explore further:

  1. How did WorldRemit come to my attention? – At a recent public session with a senior strategy person at Travelex, we talked about the marketplace for money transfer and currency exchange services. In this conversation, WorldRemit came up as a key player in the market for money transfers.
  2. My quick summary of WorldRemit (before using it) – I expect a service that enables people to transfer money abroad, at a favourable exchange rate and in the most transparent and easy way possible.
  3. How does WorldRemit explain itself in the first minute? – WorldRemit’s strapline on its homepage is as simple as it’s clear: “Send Money Online, Anytime, Anywhere.” Underneath this strapline there’s a simple “I want to send to / select country” call to action (see Fig. 1 below).
  4. Getting started, what’s the process like (1)? – Not hard at all. After I’ve selected the country and clicked on “get started”, I can enter an amount that I would like to send or receive. As soon as I then click on “send”, the amount I’m sending is automatically listed in British pounds. The only, minor, thing which threw me somewhat was that I thought I could select another service instead just of “bank transfer” because of the dropdown next to it. However, when I click on the dropdown, I just see “Select a service” and there aren’t other options to choose from.
  5. Getting started, what’s the process like (2)? – The bit about getting started with WorldRemit that I really liked is that when pressing “send” a popup appears to confirm critical info such as fees and the amount the recipient (see Fig. 2 below). It’s this kind of simple transparency that truly ‘delights.’
  6. How does WorldRemit compare to similar services? – When I think of competitors to WorldRemit, I think of the likes of Azimo, MoneyGram and Western Union. My initial perception that the main differentiators between these services are threefold. Firstly, the number of markets these services operate in. WorldRemit previously claimed to operate in twice the number of markets compared to Western Union and MoneyGram. Secondly, the overall experience and the ease with which people can transfer money is a key differentiator in my view. Azimo and WorldRemit feel quite similar in that respect, whereas Western Union and MoneyGram come across as two business who aren’t digital first (see Fig. 3-5 below).
  7. Did the app deliver on my expectations? – Yes. The process felt easy, intuitive and I felt I got a good rate. I really liked the experience and I’m excited about how remittance services like WorldRemit are disrupting the market and giving established companies like Western Union a run for their money.

 

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of WorldRemit’s “Send Money Online Anytime, Anywhere” call to action on its homepage

WorldRemit1

 

WorldRemit2

 

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of WorldRemit transaction form and confirmation 

WorldRemit4

 

WorldRemit5

WorldRemit6

 

WorldRemit7

Fig. 3 – Screenshot of the Azimo homepage

WorldRemit8

 

Fig. 4 – Screenshot of Western Union’s homepage

Westernunion1

Fig. 5 – Screenshot of MoneyGram’s homepage

Moneygram1

CommonBond, learning about marketplace lending

I recently came across CommonBond, an online student loan platform in the US, co-founded by David Klein. In a recent podcast, David explained how the idea for CommonBond came up when he himself had to get a loan to finance his Master’s Degree at Wharton Business School. When doing so, David discovered a few things: “rates were unnecessarily high”, “the process (of getting student loans, MA) was opaque and unnecessarily complex” and “the service was pretty poor.” Together with two co-founders, David founded CommonBond, which he describes as a “marketplace lending platform which to date has focused specifically on student debts.”

Marketplace lending is effectively the same as peer-to-peer lending; instead of a bank lending you money, it’s another user (this can be a person or a private company) lending you the money. Companies like CommonBond, Lending Club, On Deck and Kabbage all act as a marketplace, providing the technology to connect borrows and lenders.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 08.24.47

It was interesting to hear Dave talk about the two main goals that underpin CommonBond’s proposition. Firstly, to lower the cost for graduate students in getting a loan. Secondly, making the experience of getting a loan as easy and speedy as possible. Dave pointed out that the plan behind CommonBond is to eventually expand beyond student loans, supporting borrowers throughout different stages of their life.Currently, the lion’s share of CommonBond’s business comes from refinancing existing loans, but it aims to issue more direct loans to students in the coming months.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 08.48.22

In the podcast, Dave talked about marketplaces starting off with a single asset class e.g. mortgages or credit cards, and then branching out into multiple classes. His view is that there’s a shift happening from ‘unbundling banking products’ to ‘re-bundling banking products.’

In that light, it was interesting to learn that CommonBond recently secured so-called “warehouse lines” from established financial institutions like Barclays and Macquarie Capital. The term “warehouse loan” refers to a loan made and would be repaid as it was securitised and bundled into a broader portfolio that is sold in secondary markets like the New York Stock Exchange or London Stock Exchange.

Main learning point: When looking at the CommonBond site and from listening to Dave Klein, it strikes me how CommonBond is really making an effort to make applying for a loan as simple and as intuitive as possible. Klein refers to Nordstom and Zappos. I love how CommonBond aims to disrupt the traditional way of obtaining loans, starting with student loans but looking to roll their approach out to other loan types in the future.

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.pmifunds.com/defining-marketplace-lending-peer-peer-lending-crowdfunding/
  2. http://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2015/09/75152-what-does-the-uk-think-of-the-us-marketplace-lending-sector-they-tell-us-here/
  3. http://blog.zopa.com/2015/12/29/zopa-meets-lender-anne-from-kent/
  4. https://www.fundingcircle.com/blog/2016/01/2015-a-revolutionary-year-for-marketplace-lending-december-industry-news/
  5. http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/05/commonbond-picks-up-275-million-in-new-lending-capacity/
  6. https://www.zopa.com/lending/risk-management
  7. http://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2015/02/05/commonbond-boosts-its-student-loan-refi-footprint-with-150-million-investment-from-nelnet/
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_market
  9. https://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/15517012-how-nordstrom-made-its-brand-synonymous-with-customer-service-and-how-you-can-too

 

Coravin – great tech even if you’re not a wine drinker

I’m a teetotal and I don’t have the faintest clue about drinking wine. However, I was intrigued by a new technology called Coravin. The problem that Coravin intends to solve is that once you uncork a wine bottle, and unless you finish the bottle in one go, the quality of the wine is likely to deteriorate. The technology that Coravin uses keeps the cork in the bottle, where it’s been since the bottle was sealed. As a result, you will be able to “pour glasses whenever you like, and know that instead of oxidizing, the remaining wine will continue to age naturally.”

 

 

These are the main components of the Coravin technology, which I took from the Coravin website:

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 08.21.33

 

Main learning point: Last year, Coravin decided to temporarily stop the sales of their product, after receiving reports of 13 wine bottles breaking under pressure, even resulting in a two chipped teeth and a cut that needed stitches … Coravin dealt with this serious  issue by halting all sales, only resuming business as usual after it had sent a repair kit to all existing Corvin owners. I haven’t tested the technology myself, but I’m very excited about the idea behind Coravin as it provides a very innovative solution to a well-known and longstanding problem.

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.producthunt.com/tech/coravin
  2. http://www.coravin.co.uk/#product-details
  3. http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2014/06/coravin-recalled-immediately-back-on-market

 

How made.com connects online and offline

Made.com has been around for a good few years and has made a name for itself by offering designer furniture online. However, I hadn’t realised that apart from their online platform, Made.com also have 2 showrooms (in London and in Yorkshire respectively). Keen to find out more about how Made.com combine a user’s online and offline experience, I went to their London showroom to see for myself:

  1. CloudTags – When you enter the Made.com showroom, you will see a stand stacked with white tablets (see Fig. 1 below). These devices enable you to scan individual items in the showroom. You can scan visual “Near Field Communication” (‘NFC’) tags on each item. Scanning these tags with your device will get you more information about a specific piece of furniture and create a list of items you’re interested in. Made.com can then email you the list, which enables you to do further research on the items that you’ve looked at (see Fig. 2 below). This also provides Made.com with valuable data on its users .
  2. Product discovery – I really liked the product pages that came up on the handheld device as I was scanning CloudTags on products. For example, when I scanned a “Landsdowne Upholstered Bedside Table”, I got a product page which was clear, visual and which encouraged me to look at similar products (see Fig. 3 below). From this product page, I found it really easy to look at the bedside table in different colours and to explore different products by type and collection respectively. Also, the email that I got from Made.com included both the item that I’d looked at as well as “recommended products” (i.e. other items in the Landsdowne collection).
  3. Don’t forget about the iBeacons – Based on my in-store selections, I expect Made.com to be able to build up a good profile of my furniture preferences. In addition, Made.com uses iBeacon technology in-store which, in combination with the tablets, generate data on e.g. customer dwell time. Made.com can then use this data to personalise its marketing and showroom merchandising strategies.

Main learning point: I really like how Made.com are combining the online and offline user experience. When you go in-store, their combined experience feels intuitive and seamless. I’m curious to see how Made.com will continue to build on this combination of online and offline touchpoints, and how it will use the data which it generates in the process.

 

Fig. 1 – Handheld tablets as used in made.com’s showrooms – Taken from: http://www.essentialretail.com/news/article/53be97c7361cb-in-pictures-madecom-showroom-trials-tablet-shopping-experience

Made_com using Cloudtags tablets in showroom 2

 

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of the email confirmation screen of Made’s tablet

IMG_2667

 

Fig. 3 – Screenshot of the Landsdowne bedside table on Made’s tablet

Made 2

 

Fig. 4 – Screenshot of the email I received from Made.com following my visit to their showroom

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Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.made.com/about-us
  2. http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/07/10/madecom-attempts-connect-offline-and-online-store-product-scanning
  3. http://www.essentialretail.com/news/article/53be97c7361cb-in-pictures-madecom-showroom-trials-tablet-shopping-experience
  4. http://www.cloudtags.com/
  5. http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?12024
  6. http://www.cityam.com/214513/intelligent-design

 

Site review: Carwow

“Be a happy car buyer” is what it says on the homepage of http://www.carwow.co.uk/. The promise here is that people will “Experience new car buying without any of the hassle or uncertainty”. Carwow’s proposition is effectively a reverse marketplace; enabling users to specify the car that they would like to buy and attracting offers based on their specifications. Once a user has specified things like a car’s make, model, features, etc. they receive offers directly from dealers.

Users can compare offers by price, location of the dealer, reviews by other users and what’s actually in stock, all done in a very transparent fashion. It’s then up to the buyer to decide whether to contact a dealer based on their offer, either by anonymous messaging through the Carwow platform or by giving the dealer a call. This all sounds very promising, let’s have a closer look at http://www.carwow.co.uk/ :

  1. How did this site come to my attention? – London-based Carwow recently secured additional funding in a Series A round, led by Balderton Capital. This bit of news drew my attention and I searched for Carwow’s site.
  2. My quick summary of the site (before using it) – I expect to be able to compare prices from different car dealers, and I expect to be able to read reviews of what other people think of a particular car.
  3. How does the site explain itself in the first minute? – I love the uncluttered design of Carwow’s homepage (see Fig. 1 below). Rather than trying to cram as much info as possible into prime real estate, Carwow has gone for a parallax design which works really nicely. The copy used on the first screen could be a tad more self-explanatory in my opinion. It currently says “Be a happy car buyer. Experience new car buying without any of the hassle or uncertainty”. However, it would be good to spell out the user benefits more clearly, outlining why people should be using Carwow over the tons of other car sites out there. I’ve drafted some alternative copy suggestions in Fig. 2 below.
  4. Getting started, what’s the process like (1)? – I start the process by clicking on the “Choose car” button (see Fig. 3 below). I then choose a make. Whilst doing this I was thrown slightly by the fact it also mentions “next choose a model”; I wasn’t sure whether I needed to click on this (it turned out to be non-clickable) or whether this was just a signpost, meant to give an indication of the next step (see Fig. 3 below). Indeed, once I’ve chosen a make (Toyota), I need to choose a model (see Fig. 4 below). I then select an engine (petrol or diesel) and a gearbox (automatic or manual), after which I’m presented with a screen through which I can indicate which models I’d like to receive offers for (see Fig. 5 below).
  5. Getting started, what’s the process like (2)? – After selecting the model that I’d like to receive offers for, I can then choose a colour and any additional features. I’m then presented with a recommended retail price (‘RRP’) (see Fig. 5 below). Perhaps a minor point, but I think it would be good if some of the abbreviations used throughout the process were explained or if there was an easy way for me to find out about things like ‘RRP’ and ‘MPG’. I can imagine that the average user of Carwow is familiar with these terms, but it would nevertheless be good to make the experience as intuitive and self-explanatory as possible. Finally, I enter my post code so that I can start receiving offers from local dealers (see Fig. 7 below).
  6. How easy to use was the site? – Very easy. ‘Assembling’ the car that I wanted to receive offers for was very quick and easy. I felt that the progress bar (showing the steps from model to compare offers) could be a little clearer and appear more consistently throughout the process. Apart from those minor things, I was clear on the process and its outcomes.
  7. How did I feel while exploring the site? – Soon after submitting my request for dealer offers, I got access to my personal Carwow dashboard (see Fig. 8 below). This, I felt, is the best bit of Carwow. With a clear design and just the right amount of information, it’s easy to view and compare the different dealers’ offers (see Fig. 9 below). I always find it very reassuring to see that there’s a customer support chat function, which I promptly used to ask some specific questions in relation to one of the offers (see Fig. 10 below). The only suggestion I’d make is to create a simple comparison table, which outlines and scores the different offers based on: customer feedback, service guarantee, discounts, delivery time, etc. That way, I could compare offers at a glance.
  8. How does this site compare to similar sites? – Most car broker and comparison sites don’t seem to be as user-centric as Carwow. One can see from the examples in Fig. 11-12 below that these sites purely enable to the customer to compare models or prices, but provide limited opportunity for the user to indicate features and other preferences. Dealer information is the other main aspect which seems lacking. Once I’ve compared models or prices, there doesn’t seem to be a way for me to access offers from local dealers or to get a sense of how reliable the different dealers are. In contrast, Carwow’s proposition is all about dealers “giving their best price on the cars you want” and “buying direct from a main UK dealer with reviews from previous buyers”.
  9. Did the site deliver on my expectations? – Yes, no doubt about it. Carwow provided a clear price comparison and useful dealer information. From the signup process to the offer comparison via the Carwow dashboard, it all felt very intuitive and transparent. The product person in me thought of some simple new features or improvements to add, but the site as is already delivers on its key promise: “Experience new car buying without any of the hassle or uncertainty”.

 Fig. 1 – Screenshot of the homepage on http://www.carwow.co.uk/ :

Carwow1

Fig. 2 – Suggestions for alternative copy regarding the key benefits of using Carwow:

“With Carwow, you decide what your dream car looks like (and what it costs)”

“Avoid having to haggle for your new car with the help of Carwow”

“The easiest and most transparent way of comparing car prices and features”

Fig. 3 – Choose a car and a make on Carwow:

Choose a car

Choose makeFig. 4 – Select a model. engine and gearbox on a Carwow:

Choose model

Choose model 2

 

Engine

Fig. 5 – Select a model that I want to receive offers for through Carwow:

Select a modelFig. 6 – Choose a colour and any extra features through Carwow, followed by a recommended retail price:

Colour

Options

Fig. 7 – Entering my post code on Carwow to receive offers from local dealers:

Post code

 

Send email

How it works 1

Fig. 8 – Screenshot of my Carwow dashboard with offers received:

Dashboard

Fig. 9 – Screenshot of “Offer A” received:

Offer A

Fig. 10 – Customer support chat on Carwow:

Customer support

Fig. 11 – Screenshot car comparison on http://www.whatcar.com/:

Whatcar

Fig. 12 – Screenshot of http://www.broker4cars.co.uk/:

Brokers

Fig. 13 – Screenshot of Carwow email:

Email

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/23/carwow/
  2. http://techcrunch.com/2014/12/14/carwow-fuel-injection/
  3. http://www.creativebloq.com/web-design/parallax-scrolling-1131762
  4. http://www.crunchbase.com/organization/carwow
  5. http://www.balderton.com/news/-zoopla-for-cars-carwow-raises-seed-investment-from-balderton-capital-alex-chesterman-598
  6. http://www.smarta.com/blog/2014/9/60-second-start-up-carwowcouk/
  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/11/young-entrepreneur-carwow-james-hind