Amazon and eBay Prove There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Mobile App Strategy

In 2018, 53% of online traffic is driven by mobile devices. That means brands’ mobile experiences have to be in tip-top shape. One popular way to do that is with an excellent mobile app.

A few months ago, we researched the strategies and, where applicable, the apps themselves, of 100 retailers. eBay, which came in seventh in our rankings, had one of the stronger mobile apps among the brands that we researched. Amazon, which rose to number 17 in the rankings, also has a powerful app. Just how powerful can be seen by shopping patterns on Prime Day: Geographies with better mobile access and more app downloads showed superior results on Amazon’s self-declared shopping day.

But a closer look shows us that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile apps. Instead, Amazon and eBay appear to have vastly different goals for their apps, driven by their knowledge about how their customer bases differ and what will prove most useful to them.

eBay’s Powerhouse App

eBay’s app is, in many ways, more advanced than Amazon’s. That’s partly because there’s more that eBay needs to accomplish within its app. Like Amazon, eBay wants to support those who are buying on its marketplace. eBay also simplifies selling, allowing users to manage their listings without being in front of a computer.

ebay app

Because auctions are time-sensitive, there’s more of a need for an eBay app than there is for an Amazon app. The eBay app allows sellers to set bid prices, change those prices, list items, take photos of items for sale and upload them directly into their listings. Just as eBay uses their massive stores of data to personalize messages onsite and in email, they offer a high level of personalization in their app as well.

Betting on Alexa

There’s probably a good reason Amazon’s app isn’t terribly creative: Alexa. While we didn’t study Alexa in-depth for the research that led to the Personalization Index, there’s no doubt that Alexa is a game-changer for Amazon. Alexa can be seen as a substitute for a more advanced Amazon app. Alexa can already manage smart devices in your home, in addition to, of course, helping you shop.

And Alexa doesn’t help you shop the way most retail mobile apps do. Alexa is becoming more of a personal shopper than a mainstream shopping app. In most shopping apps, including Amazon’s, a search for “batteries” brings up every battery that retailer sells. That is not how Alexa works. When Alexa is asked to find batteries, it will only find Amazon-brand batteries. It will only help you buy Amazon-brand batteries. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a standalone Alexa app in the near future.

amazon alexa

Amazon and eBay illustrate that despite its market dominance, the “Amazon way” isn’t necessarily right for all digital retailers. In fact, eBay has found a number of creative ways to personalize its customer communications. This has resulted in strong connections and stronger engagement.

2018 Retail Personalization Index

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