If you haven’t come across Depop yet, think of this app as Etsy meets Instagram. The UK business first launched in 2013 and gained nearly 2 million users in its first year. While that growth may not be stunning compared to say, Snapchat, it’s gained considerable traction with millennials – the demographic that typically drives new channel adoption. Depop is chock full of vintage stuff (100,000 items at the last count). Mostly clothes, but plenty of shoes and a smattering of vinyl records.
It works because the app does everything a contemporary mobile experience should do. The Instagram-style layout is easy and familiar. It has a useful set of search tools that add to the product relevance. There are neat little buttons to comment, like and most importantly, to buy the items. It’s almost as simple to sell on Depop. Take a picture, upload it, add a price and off you go. The success of the app comes from this combination of an immediate, frictionless experience and a collaborative approach. Or as their CEO says, ‘it’s designed with the mobile in mind and is social at its very core’.
Depop has the opportunity to be distruptive in the retail space. However, collaborative apps are not without criticism. AirBnB rents more rooms the The Hilton Group, but they are not subject to the same taxes or regulations that a traditional hotel chain has (and I won’t even mention the controversies associated with Uber). They’ve also attracted not just those with a spare room for the night, but people investing and making a living from AirBnB properties.
Depop also appears to have commercial traders, but thanks to the strong social element, it retains a homely feel. When it comes to vintage retail, the market isn’t dominated by large businesses (unless you count Oxfam), nor does it have many of the regulatory issues that hotels or taxis endure. In fact, the opportunity for Depop is by bringing the vintage market into one neat place, right where their audience is.
There’s plenty of optimism for the app. They’ve already ironed out a few complaints about buginess. At the start of the year they gained £5m in VC funding, opened a New York office and hired Ex-Reddit GM, Erik Martin. Whilst Depop are not the only player in the vintage market, it looks as though they have the right UX for the right audience to succeed.
I’ve previously blogged some key data on UK smartphone user demographics. This handy infographic from Inneractive compliments that data with the split of app usage by sex. And what does it tell us? Well even in this enlightened age, women like entertainment and socialising. Men like sports, cars and games. Oh well.
We know that in SMS marketing, the timing is critical in driving engagement. In mobile web, we know that peak times are first thing in the morning (checking travel arrangements) or last thing at night (catching up before going to sleep). What about apps? This useful infographic from Mobclix highlights both when apps are downloaded (38% at weekends) and also when they are used. So what does that mean in practice? Brands should be looking to focus content or in app advertising towards the key activities that happen during those hours. Useful stuff.
A new report from PwC called Embrace New Revenue Sources: Living in an Apps-driven World, suggests that in the future just 50% of operator revenues will come from text and calls. The remainder of their revenues need to come from other sources such as apps. So how’s that going to work?
The problem for the operators is this:
They have little chance to increase their call/sms/data revenues. Most people are on the package they want, including their data, and don’t feel they should pay any more for it. They also expect a free (or cheap) new phone every 18 months. Yet, the operators are having to provide more and more service for that package. At the same time, their little extras have been eroded: inter-network calls, roaming charges and data charges have all been limited by legislation.
To some extent they have no choice but to get into other revenue streams such as content and apps. The problem for the operators is that they’ve already tried apps and it didn’t work. Contrary to some perceptions, Apple did not invgent the AppStore. The operators were at it a few years before Steve Jobs launched apps on iTunes. Stores such as Vodafone’s Betavine and O2’s revolutions put apps in front of their customers. The problem with them, however, was two-fold:
Firstly from the content provider perspective it was expensive. As one developer put it, ‘it would cost £1000 to get in there, and you had about one weeks’ visibility. Unless you had a major hit on your hands, you would lose money’. Apple changed all that with their appstore, going from a B2B to a direct to consumer model, where the developer received a revenue percentage rather than paying to be there.
Secondly, there is the problem of the consumer relationship. People don’t see their mobile operator as a place for content, but more as a utility company to provide calls, texts and access to that content. The operator portal was a classic of this: users tolerated it as it was the first port of call, but they only used it as a jumping-off point to the things they really wanted. When it came to promotion on these portals, if you weren’t on the first page (the Top Deck) you were basically nowhere.
The biggest problem that the operators now have to face is that the consumer relationship for apps and content is now with the operating system: Apple’s iTunes, Android Market, BlackBerry World and Nokia’s OviStore. Changing people’s perception of operators as a utility will be hard, if not impossible to achieve. In the long-term the only solution for content revenue is to create tie-in’s and joint ventures with the OS app stores.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but Color, the new photo sharing app hopes that it will be worth just 140 characters. The concept is simple; it’s a real-time photo sharing app for people in the same location. One example of how this works was at a recent LCD Soundsystem gig in New York. Here, 82 photos were shared by 26 people. The advantage of Color comes from the real-time photo and video sharing. These are not archived on a server, but streamed only to those at the event itself. There are options to share images via Facebook, Twitter, Email and MMS.
I’m often dubious about ‘the next big thing in mobile’ and it seems plenty of people are putting Color in that category. However it appears to have real potential for a couple of reasons. Firstly it’s all about location and proximity. There is plenty of evidence to show that when it comes to mobile, location is key. We know that 1/3rd of Google mobile searches have ‘location’ intent. We also know that location-based vouchering on mobile has a much higher redemption rate than those without. And of course there’s Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, SCVNGR … and many more. Secondly the combination of proximity and lack of archiving has an inbuilt privacy that other social networks fail to offer. There is often an assumption by social media networks that users are happy to share everything, however privacy is a major concern of many people. On the up side, as Color is restricted to friends in a specific location, it’s likely to reduce the annoying over-sharing that is prevalent elsewhere (‘here’s a photo of my lunch’). Thirdly, there is a strong social element due to the proximity, a feature to comment or ‘like’ and image, as well as the facility to share with other social media.
Color works for both large events – I can see it being used at large demonstrations – to small gatherings. There are also real opportunities for brand engagement through the app. The potential is there, but ultimately, technology can never drive consumer adoption. Only consumers can.
More from the people at Color here.