The evolution of our trusty smartphones has changed the way we do things in our everyday lives — from buying groceries to catching a ride somewhere, getting lunch, booking travel, you name it. And one industry in particular has hit its stride: mobile shopping. According to eMarketer, mobile commerce (through smartphones specifically) is expected to hit almost $334 billion by 2021, making up a whopping 80.5% of total mcommerce sales. And that’s up (significantly!) from only $38 billion in 2015.
One commerce platform we’ve kept our eye on with regards to mobile is Spring, the digital shopping destination featuring more than 1,500 brands with a “single-cart experience,” a majority of sales of which come from mobile. The company has been on the move this year, bringing in $65 million from their Series C fundraising round, a newly updated app, and plans for increased personalization on their newly launched app.
We caught up with Marshall Porter, President at Spring and one of our esteemed speakers at TAP next month, where he provided his perspective on the brand and thoughts on the mobile retail industry overall. To put it simply, according to Porter “Spring marries the two most important things to fashion shoppers: recommendations that align with their style and preferences, as well as curated and editorialized collections to help them stay ahead of the latest trends and looks.”
Read on for more insights and be sure to join us at TAP here in NYC next month, September 28, to hear more from some of the brightest minds in mobile.
Mobile has been a focus of Spring’s since it was founded nearly three years ago. Why was the emphasis on mobile versus desktop? And how has this helped differentiate the brand from others in the space?
MP: A core thesis in Spring is that the future of commerce is going to be heavily mobile. The user experience isn’t there today for broader adoption of mobile commerce in fashion in the US, but we see strong traction globally and in marketplaces. Consumers want a great user experience, the context of mobile shopping is different, so discovery and the transaction flow have to be different, and we believe the right experience is multi-brand: if we look at the top 25 ecommerce sites, 22 are multi-brand. Consumers, especially on mobile, want a single destination where they can find all their favorite brands in one place, and with the full assortment for those brands. Spring is reinventing shopping by focusing on building that experience and by making it personal and curated to each individual shopper.
With the app’s recent redesign, what were the most important aspects to change and/or keep in place to enhance the user experience?
MP: Spring’s greatest value to our users is the breadth and quality of our merchandise. We carry over 1,500 of the top brands, 200,000+ products, all within one app. This, in and of itself, is a huge convenience to users. But with so many choices, it can be challenging for people to discover new brands and products that appeal to their style.
By applying advanced machine learning and computer vision technology we can now surface to users the brands and products that most appeal to them. However, while personalization has a profound impact on user relevance, we also believe that for fashion, human curation is equally as important. Not only do fashion buyers want access to the items that appeal to them, they also want insight into the latest trends, occasion based products, and unique collections curated by fashion experts. Spring marries the two most important things to fashion shoppers: recommendations that align with their style and preferences, as well as curated and editorialized collections to help them stay ahead of the latest trends and looks.
“From a design standpoint, our philosophy is one of usability and simplicity.” — Marshall Porter, on the importance of design in the brand’s new app.
Visually we want to showcase the brands and products. Ideally the UI should go unnoticed by the user. Functionally, we want the entire user journey to be as seamless and friction-free as possible. Despite the vast catalogue people should be able to find what they want quickly and painlessly. Personalization allows us to decrease choice, which makes decision making easier for the fashion shopper.
You also recently announced personalization will be coming to the app to provide a better experience for shoppers. What aspects of personalization do you feel are most important on mobile?
MP: To be clear, personalization has already come to the app. We released the new app in mid-July. Good personalization is about creating an assistive experience and reducing the complexity of choice. To use an analogy, the size of our catalogue and the quality of our brands is not unlike a digital version of a high-end mall. Personalization is like having a personal shopper. Instead of having to wander around looking for something appealing, your personal shopper outfits a room with the items she knows you’ll love. While having a personal shopper is a luxury few can afford, we can bring a far more sophisticated and efficient version of the same principle to everyone.
When a user logs into our app, the first thing they see is a personalized feed of brands, products and collections that match their preferences. A simple, discovery-based feed such as this is particularly well suited for mobile.
“It’s like window shopping using just your thumb.” — Marshall Porter
While we also have a search based interface for the shopper looking for something specific, typing with your thumbs to search for something is less well suited for a touch interface.
Spring now has over 1,500 brands in the marketplace, and growing! What are the challenges of having a marketplace this size and how does Spring address them?
MP: Interestingly, Spring has turned down thousands of brands — we’re building a shopping destination of the best brands today and the best brands of the future. Even with that lens, we have 1,500 brands and over 200,000 products, and that creates a classic discovery dilemma for consumers. We’re using advanced AI and machine learning to build a unique experience for each consumer based on their style, size, and favorite brands and products (explicit), their behavior and engagement with the app (implicit), and combining that with human curation to make sure Spring is a place to find the things you love, and where you can be introduced to new loves.
U.S. retail mobile commerce sales are growing exponentially, expected to $335 billion in 2020. What trends do you foresee taking precedence in the mobile shopping space?
MP: It’s incredibly exciting to see a new wave of brands and shopping destinations that aren’t encumbered by infrastructure of the past. More brands are going direct to consumer, more brands using physical as an experiential extension of the brand rather than just a sales channel, and the rise of marketplaces that really change the dynamics and empower brands and consumers in ways that retail hasn’t to date.