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The New Wave of Apps Rethinking the Mobile Shopping Experience

Young consumers are increasingly making shopping mobile, and new apps are tapping into social networking platforms and tactics to make the mobile retail experience even more appealing.

According to a Ypulse bi-weekly survey, 22% of young consumers say they shop frequently on their phones, with mobile shopping for males and females 14-29-years-old nearly equal. 25-29-year-olds are the most likely to shop on their phones, at 25%. It’s apps that are ruling the mobile shopping marketplace. According to Internet Retailer, “’App engagement’ is a new mobile commerce metric that’s critical for retailers to monitor, and one featured in the new 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, where 42% of m-commerce sales come through apps.” While branded retailer apps and discount apps like Shopkick and have become common, apps that truly make a boutique-like shopping experience mobile are rare. An MTV Style blog post from last month bemoaned:

“It’s sort of amazing—and by amazing, I mean amazingly depressing—that this is 2014 and there are still no great shopping apps. If you want to buy a great pair of black boots, you’re either going to have to go into a store or open up your laptop which is, OK, not that much work, but it’s still more work than it should be.”

But that is all changing. A new wave of apps is borrowing from social networking design, tapping into active mobile communities, and catering to young consumers shopping preferences to rethink the mobile shopping experience and take it to a new level. If they succeed, mobile retail could become even more ubiquitous among Millennials. Here are three leading the revolution:


The rise of Snapshot Marketing has made retailers’ presence on image-based social platforms a must. But turning likes and followers into profit is a trickier prospect. “Everybody is trying to hack Instagram.” That’s what Like2Buy’s cofounder says, and they’re finding ways to help retailers turn social media love into real sales. Target and Nordstrom are both using Like2Buy platforms that link photos posted directly to product pages to buy if they are interested. Nordstrom is keeping their traditional Instagram feed, where they have 529,000 followers, but are directing followers to this new platform that will give more opportunities to purchase. The hope is that the integration will provide a more seamless experience between browsing Instagram and shopping, and give young consumers the “speed and convenience” that they expect in all facets of brand interactions. Nordstrom’s director of social media told Businessweek, “This is the first experience of its kind…And it’s the closest thing out there—that I’m aware of—in terms of delivering a seamless shopping experience.” Like2Buy is a middleman that borrows Instagram’s look and functionality to make the steps to sales, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Instagram found ways to integrate the idea behind the platform into their own feed for brands in the future. 


While some brands are figuring out how to monetize social media activity, another app is borrowing from social platform design to create a new way of shopping. Spring gives users a visual feed of products, a la Instagram, which can be purchased through the app with a swipe, like dates are chosen on Tinder. Fashion brands upload their own looks, and users can follow any designer to create a customized feed of items they might want to purchase. The app also carried exclusive designs, making it the closest thing to a personalized and curated boutique in app form. The app’s CMO told MTV Style that Spring was created with mobile shoppers’ tastes and preferences in mind: “We are frustrated by downloading multiple apps and going to different sites and having a really bad checkout experience. We started to think about, from the consumer perspective, you know, just as shoppers, what would it mean to have a place to go shopping on your phone with all the brands that you love and you could also discover new ones all in the same place?” The result is a shopping experience that puts together the ease of tactile swipe interaction with the visual impact of an Instagram fashion feed, giving young consumers a combination of elements they already know and love, and way to escape downloading multiple (sometimes clunky) retailer apps. 


We’ve seen the merging of magazines and e-commerce in interior design and lifestyle tech, and now online magazine Need is targeting young males and catering to their clothes shopping tastes. The startup has raised $500,000 to build a mobile platform that speaks to how Millennial males want to shop, offering “fewer options and better story” by selecting a dozen high quality products each month that serve to generate and tracks new trends. Need is currently browser-based and has partnerships with over 100 brands. Each month, it curates eight to twelve products—from clothing to artwork to booze—that it presents in “magazine like” editorials on the site. The approach is meant to keep male shoppers from being overwhelmed, and to give them easy access to all of the products that they might want, without them having to think about it. The mobile evolution of Need will make that process even more turnkey by putting the editorials where they spend the most time: on their phones.