9 m-commerce apps you need to see

It used to be that gaming was the.. err… name of the game in the mobile app business. However, while games continue to be incredibly strong players in the battle for app mindshare, retailers and other direct selling businesses are gaining traction in the app space. One reason for that growing success is the creativity and inventiveness being shown in app development. Many such “m-commerce” apps are leveraging the power of the medium to enhance and even transform shopping and buying, right there on the small screen.

Making shopping more appealing is what it takes to be a “need to see app” in my book. Whether that’s in thinking of new ways to merchandise, or simply eliminating the friction points in m-commerce, a must-see m-commerce app sweats both the big stuff and the small stuff to make mobile shopping more of a joy.

Here then are nine apps that are changing the face of selling in unique an inventive ways — ways that are definitely worth a looksee.

The Hunt

Why it’s a need to see
The core premise of The Hunt is to leverage the eyes and ears of its very passionate community of tog-forward users to help you find specific fashions. For example, here’s a search that one person posted for a must-have iPhone case:

Users can ask for help finding “this exactly,” “similar to this,” or for those who are feeling particularly fashion-challenged, send a “style me” plea that asks users to find them items for a particular occasion or an overall makeover.

I’m thinking that there are like 19 million different ways for the creators to make money on this concept. But what I like most about it is the sense of purposeful community. It gives people a chance to connect over things, show off their eagle eyes, and even create their own flavor of “celebrity.” That, and it takes impulse purchases to a whole other level.

Ralph Lauren

Why it’s a need to see
Now here’s a brand that knows how to leverage its extensive content to great advantage. The Ralph Lauren app created a rich brand experience by showcasing its goods in the context of total looks, runway footage, backstage vids, and other content features that keep you reading, watching, and wanting more.

All of the different flavors of Ralph Lauren are interwoven here, as well, and distinctive features like a focus on craftsmanship add to the sense of quality and luxury. What was most appealing about all this intermingling of content is that it really gives you a sense of what is possible in terms of brand immersion, and why interactive media is about so so so much more than the ability to “buy now.” I was a bit skeptical about the need to visit a mobile site to buy, but to its credit, the app does a great job making that transition as seamless as possible.


Why it’s a need to see
When I first saw, I remember thinking that I’d be hard-pressed to find a more addictive shopping experience. The premise is in the name there WAnt, NEed, LOve — where users can explore the products of more than 350,000 sellers and get fed “like” products based upon their passions and preferences. The Pinteresty web experience is well suited to a mobile app, which uses a Tinder-like swipe right motion to record your likes. My own penchant for dress shoes, for example, was instantly rewarded with lots of related eye candy. And this community is plugged in and participating — it isn’t unusual for them to leave thousands of comments about a popular item.

Shopping is a snap once you add a payment card, and the range of goods offers something for virtually every price point. Members can create feeds of their liked merchandise and achieve a sort of celebrity by creating a signature style that others wish to follow. It’s fun to follow friends’ feeds, as well as feeds of people who have that certain je ne c’est quoi. Trending items are also particularly addictive feature area, where you can restrict the items shown by price point. The Wanelo mobile experience isn’t so much different on mobile as clearly intended for it.


Why it’s a need to see
I’ve been a fan of the Gilt app for a long time because it captures the spirit of that property so well and provides so many avenues in to buying — and buying more. The basic premise of Gilt — a member’s-only community where you can get the world’s best brands for up to 70 percent off – is enhanced with many paths to purchase. I like the rich designer previews it offers before each sale, and how well the app performs in all areas. As we all know, the performance bar is very high in the app arena, and Gilt always delivers.

Another great thing about the app — Gilt knows when rich production values enhance an experience, and when they would just get in the way. It calibrates things just right.


Why it’s a need to see
RueLaLa also uses the private sale model and has a distinctive look and feel that is both inviting and intuitive. Its navigation system also quickly gets you drilled down into the right product categories without your losing a sense of where you are in the overall experience. Buying is extremely fast, easy, and clean. RueLaLa has also prominently built sharing and calendaring into its functionality, and its “boutiques” section helps simulate that “couture floor” of retail department store shopping.

Barney’s NY

Why it’s a need to see
What stands out about this app is that its boiled down the browsing process and product information to its minimum “essence.” When you explore products, the information and product shots available are attractive and intuitively organized. Most products have multiple views, and detailed sizing info is available almost everywhere. My suspicion is that this app will be expanding to include a lot more content in the coming months, but in the meantime it’s created a really tight and “frictionless” buy process. It’s just delightfully simple. While I focused on examining the iPhone version, the iPad version debuted to strong reviews as well.


Why it’s a need to see
The premise of Peach is built around nine-minute auctions that offer a significant savings over retail on luxury goods. Users place bids and get immediate feedback about their bid rank in this fast-paced environment that takes the eBay auction and adds plenty of drama for everyone involved, not just two people tit-for-tat outbidding one another. That “democratic” tension keeps more people plugged into the auction, I expect, as must the incredibly short duration of the offer versus traditional online auctions.

The experience is sort of dreamy and fluid, and the imagery and product information first rate — as befits a high end goods seller. One of my favorite touches is its expression of the spend more save more mantra of the power shopper. Every time you adjust your bid you get immediate feedback on your savings, which — not that I know myself you understand, but a friend, yeah that’s right, a friend — tells me it keeps you bidding even when the remaining savings aren’t huge.


Why it’s a need to see
What’s compelling about this app is the brilliant interweaving of expert and community reviews, and the ability to get wine recommendations based upon the wines that you know you already like. It knows what you like because you build your cellar in the same way GoodReads has you build a shelf. Ultimately it’s a store, but you’d never guess that by your experience wandering its many sections, features, and reviews. You can also make purchases through the app for home delivery.

Being able to scan your own collection gives you an easy way to demonstrate the sorts of wine you like quickly and easily, so the service can provide great value right from the outset.

Neiman Marcus

Why it’s a need to see
Neiman Marcus has captured the spirit of its ultra-affluent variety-seeker clientele by weaving merchandise into really compelling original content. I also love how it uses the app to better connect customer with associates, with experiences like an ability to FaceTime your favorite store personnel and even get your dressing room pre-stocked with goodies you want to try. For a seller on commission, this must be a godsend. In short, they do a fantastic job of weaving app features into real world shopping, providing an additive experience on both sides of that equation. I’m also really impressed by their blog, inside reports from designers, runway vids, and more!
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