This is the second part of a two-post story about peer to peer marketplaces for second hand items. You can find the first part of the story following this link.
Wallapop is a second hand marketplace, but more than just that, it’s a company that has deeply understood the problem they are aiming for before jumping right into the solution. Second hand marketplaces represent already a huge, crowded space, but as I noted in my previous article, this doesn’t mean the problem is properly solved.
The opportunity for second hand marketplaces is not new and has always been both interesting and obvious. That’s why most of the players were born in the pre-mobile era. But just because of this some of them still carry around a lot of weight from the "desktop" web, and those were my main complaints about eBay inheritance.
Wallapop founders noticed that, too, and saw the opportunity right away. The product feels like it has been designed not to be mobile friendly, but mobile only. It has cleverly borrowed some cues from great and well stablished services (like Instagram or Pinterest), and it shows. But I'll argue that's not a bad thing, because they've bundled it together to make the experience of buying and selling stuff great.
Publish your article in four easy steps
Instead of the endless form you were presented in eBay’s page (that resembled of some governmental site), Wallapop presents a simple four step approach to publish your article.
- Take some photos. Each smartphone happen to have a camera, how come you are not going to use it? It makes a lot of sense. Take four photos right from your smartphone and the rest of the job is done behind the scenes. Compare this with the old (flash based, really) eBay uploader. It takes almost 10x times more.
- Write a title and a short description. This is a clear example of how a delivered constrained design leads to a more focused and cohesive experience. If you browse some articles on eBay you’ll rapidly notice a disparity of layouts, ugly fonts and confusing information. You never know what you’ll find in the description, and because of the publishers are not designers, the final result is not always beautiful.
Wallapop has taken the opposite approach: plain text and ridiculously small editor. It forces you to be brief and concise, while it gives a cohesive look across posts.
- Set the price. Just type a number and it’s done. eBay’s fields instead are crowded with drop downs, ways of payment, kind of auction, when to publish… it’s a mess.
- Choose a category. Eight categories. Plain and simple. Think about what people has to sell, almost 80% of the stuff people has to offer will fit in one of those categories. If it doesn’t, hit other and get over it.
Well… and of course, Publish. It’s done. As easy as it gets. Of course is not feature rich as eBay, but if you miss any of those features Wallapop might not be the right tool for you. Wallpop has shamelessly followed the classic startup playbook: build something that appeals to a narrow segment of users (non-business second hand sellers), optimize for them, solve their problem like any other can, and from here, grow with the adjacent channels.
The same way publishing has been optimized for a particular user, discovery has also been rethought for a mobile experience. Once the items are listed, discover them is delightful. By default, a Pinterest-like navigation is shown with a location filter that shows you the items that are closer to your location. That helps keep the flow of offers at a reasonable pace and also facilitates the transactions because you know the seller is not far away from you.
This focus helps the user discover items because of the huge photos and the infinite scroll navigation that is begging you to slide one more time, because you might be one scroll away from the desired item you were looking for.
It might sound like obvious, but this navigation mode is only possible because of the nature of the whole service itself. The supply of items you are presented with is always determined by your location, so designers could made delivered product decisions that enhanced this behavior.
In case you know what you looking for, you can search by name or use the category filters mentioned before to limit your scope. There are also filters to constrain your search by price and other useful variables. The interface for the fine tuning is well presented, but it is hidden under the top right button and is clearly aimed to "power" users.
Almost all the points I'm making here are important, but this one is specially relevant today. Online trust is the foundation of the modern web. Nicknames were huge in the 90s, but as the internet has become more social and interactive you want to know who you are dealing with.
When you install the app, first thing you are encouraged to do is verify your phone and link your social profiles in order to show the world that you are a real human.
The profile is accessible and forthright. In a glance you can see all the reviews from the user, what she's bought or sold and all the deals she's made. It's not deep, it's not full of stars and metrics, it is just the information you need to know.
Here's where Wallapop really shines from a usability point of view. Texting is the new thing. Is unobtrusive (to a point...), direct and understandable. I can't think of a best way to communicate among peers in order to get more details about the product or ask further questions.
Focus helps here, because Wallapop assumes that their customer is not a huge store, and therefore it won't be displaying one thousand items. They clearly leveraged the opportunity and thus, can make design decisions around this assumption. In this concrete environment chat becomes the simplest and easiest way to communicate between parties.
The chat is of course private, it doesn't expose you to read receipts and also has built in useful core functionalities like counter offer. The experience of chatting with the seller is unmatchable, because it gives an illusion of proximity to both parties and that enhances trust among them. This direct communication makes both sides feel more secure, and while it doesn't guarantee a succesful transaction at the end, it's a great start.
This point is tricky. Wallapop don't charge you for transaction. The experience is build around the peer-to-peer transactions and they don't hide it, all the opposite, they even market the by-hand exchange as something key to the experience. On the other hand, eBay markets the ability to send the package and thus disconnecting the transaction from the parties involved, so you don't need to know who is your customer. But this is also a cue from the past internet.
But the core assumptions Wallapop has build around forces the product to behave in a certain way and it has implications in almost all business layers. Because the transaction is done in person, the exchange of money is also done there, too. This has two main consequences: 1/ leads the users to pay in cash, and 2/ it also means that the company is not able to monetize on top of your transactions in an easy way. We are not entering into their business model here, but it is obvious that they don't yet have a clear idea of how to make money in the long run.
At the moment of this writing, there are no commissions for using the service. It is completely free. But not only is commission-free, it also is shipping free because the way the exchange of goods is done. This of course limits your scope of potential customers, but as Ben Thompson would say "given a certain number, percentages don't matter, absolute numbers do". Well presented and structured content helps more in order to place your item than an infinite list of links does. In other words, if you live in a city, the number of potential customers is already "big enough" and the key factor is to appropriately present the content to the right people.
As I mentioned before, Wallapop is trying to solve a problem for a narrow segment of users, and that's a good thing. It might not appeal to everybody, but that's the entire point of their strategy. The service is leveraging this constraints to enhance the experience and optimize for their target user.
Buying and selling feels more personal, more connected, and that builds trust, the foundation of peer-to-peer transactions. The product has also "outsourced" to the users almost all the friction points, like payments and delivery. This works two ways, the user feels more in control and the company becomes more lightweight and has to worry less at the crucial moment of taking off.
The experience of selling a product with Wallapop is unmatchable and is no wonder how much traction the platform has gotten. It is a good lesson of how understanding the problem first and only then delivering a thoughtful solutions, always leads to the best products.