Mobile Marketplaces: Can The Mall Live Online?

Having things in all in one place is great and it’s this ease that drives people to shopping malls and department stores. With real estate prices rising and shoppers turning more and more towards online shopping, the physical mall is on a decline. It’s a lot cheaper for companies to host a website than it is to have permanent location in a mall, especially in the higher-end ones that are still thriving. However, this removes some of the convenience customers have come to expect. Sure, it’s easier to click around online then it is to travel to a mall or a department store, but that convenience is still missed. A few companies are trying to solve this issue and create premier marketplaces or more convenient online shopping options.

In early Fashion Is Your Business episodes, the hosts spoke to members of two different companies who were trying to solve the shopping cart / marketplace problem.

Heather Marie of ShoppableThe first was Heather Marie, Founder and CEO of Shoppable. Shoppable is an ecommerce platform and digital marketplace. The company’s ultimate goal is to make the entire web as shoppable as possible. They have a multi-retailer checkout so that a customer only has to enter in their information once to purchase all their items across multiple stores.

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Fashion Is Your Business also spoke to Cally Russell, CEO of Mallzee. The idea behind Mallzee is that it’s a Tinder for shopping. Though currently available in U.K. only, the brand has over 100 brands for customers to shop from. Customers can save items, favorite brands and be alerted about price drops. Since the debut of Apple Pay, many apps have mobile payment (or something similar) integrated into the purchasing process, making Mallzee all the more convenient.

 

Most recently, Fashion Is Your Business sat down with Alan Tisch, Founder and CEO of Spring, at the 2016 SHOPTALK retail and ecommerce event in Las Vegas.

Spring is an online marketplace for brands enabling users to follow the brands they love and purchase new arrivals, exclusives, and one-of-a-kind products. It’s arguable the largest online shopping mall with roughly 1200 brands having items available through the marketplace.

The major challenge in the process of making of these multi-brand online shopping sites and apps successful is convincing brands–especially major ones–and customers to be a part of them. Smaller and/or new brands want the exposure if they can afford, but larger brands might see it as yet another similar idea they’ve heard before and must be convinced that the benefits of being part of this mall exceed what they can do on their own. What Spring provides businesses is a lot of control: over their own data and their brand’s story. It also allows brands to be direct-to-consumer. They also get Spring’s branding, handling of customer service and shared distributions. This is all without having to pay rent or ridiculous fees.

Customers, too, must be sold into downloading another app in an age of app fatigue or signing up for another site. Spring provides a varied selection, but makes purchasing (they too have integrated Apple Pay) and customer service easy to deal with. They also made a smart move to not have Spring be a mobile-only experience by launching a desktop website for the marketplace.

During the episode, Alan is asked who the typical Spring customer is and he replies that it’s a millennial woman working and/or living in the city. This brings up a certain point on how Spring and other marketplaces may be segmented in future. Malls were in locations and attempted cater to various audiences in that area, although the malls that are surviving are gear more towards higher-end and luxury brands. Online marketplaces, though they will try to include as many type of customers as they can, might be segmented by audiences instead of locations. The size of the marketplace might influence how tightly curated they can get, with smaller marketplaces benefiting from being specific.

There’s a lot of potential for online marketplaces, especially since they are unencumbered by having, managing and pay for a physical store. (Spring has done events at stores they’ve partnered with but hasn’t made major plans towards having their own space.) Once two hurdles, the general trepidation of online shopping and the paradox of choice, are cleared, they can thrive. The only thing these malls can’t recreate is a place to hang out.

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Alex Tunney

Alex is Managing Editor of Open Source Fashion. His work has appeared in The Billfold, Lambda Literary, The Inquisitive Eater and The Ink and Code. Alex earned his MFA in Creative Writing from The New School.