Swapit Update: Follow Sellers and Build Your Social Graph for E-Commerce

swapit-blog_downloadWe’ve just updated Swapit with these key changes:

  1. FOLLOW sellers for new items they post
  2. User profile re-design
  3. Minor bug fixes and performance improvements

Get Your Update Swapit Today: http://get.swapit.la/now

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While the “follow” feature sounds like an easy and simple addition at Swapit — and it was technically easy and simple for us — the following of other Swapit users catapults the Swapit platform into the universe of social media or more so, social e-commerce.

CREATING A NEW DISCOVERY CHANNEL

When buyers start following sellers, all of a sudden, a new channel for product discovery is created. Sellers with more followers will have a higher chance of selling their products faster.

BUILDING A SOCIAL GRAPH FOR E-COMMERCE

Swapit’s great and engaging community can now connect directly with each other and follow each other on a 1:1 social connection. Through that, Swapit will be able to build up a social graph based on the user to user following that allows us to better serve both our sellers and buyers on the Swapit platform. In the future, we will be able to provide more targeted content to buyers compiled from their following profile, combined with the items they like and the categories they have been posted in. Traditional classified media are not able to do this. They will lose in relevance over time because they can not provide targeted content to their users. This simple “Follow” feature is one key part to provide very targeted content to our Swapit users. Stay tuned for more changes on that front.

swapit_screenshot_beta_1-14-8-2_2_mockupMAKING IT DEAD SIMPLE

As always, we only add a new feature to Swapit if it is super easy to use. At Swapit, we aim for a “zero-learning-curve” product, which can be used out-of-the-box without the need for reading any user manual. Our latest “Follow” feature is no exception to that. In any user profile you can now easily hit the “Follow” button and you’ll be following that user from now until you unfollow that person. It’s really that simple.

LISTENING TO FEEDBACK

Besides the fact that we had this feature on our roadmap from the onset, the great feedback we collected from our loyal Swapit users via surveys and other channels, has led us to raise the priority for this feature. As a result, we’ve added this now and not at a later stage. Our roadmap for product improvements to make our marketplace even more efficient, is almost endless. We constantly receive feedback and suggestions from our user-base, which is extremely valuable to us and is always put into consideration when we make adjustments to our roadmap. Therefore, thanks a lot to everyone who has provided their feedback thus far. We trust you will keep it up and we love you for it!

Have you tried Swapit yet? Give it a try, it’s free: http://get.swapit.la/now

Swapit Update: Quick Select & Post Title/Description Translation

swapit-blog_downloadWe’ve just updated Swapit with two key improvements:

  1. Quick Select popular categories and filter settings
  2. Translate Post Title and Description to and from 100 languages.

Get Your Update Swapit Today: http://get.swapit.la/now

We’re constantly improving Swapit and all changes Swapit introduces are based on our user feedback and demand.

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This new update is already available on Google Play and will soon also be available on the Apple App Store.

HOW QUICK SELECT WORKS

We’ve added a small horizontal bar at the top of our list where you can now quickly select popular categories and filter settings. Here is how it looks like:

The top left image shows the standard way our Swapit product browse list looks like. After clicking one of the pre-defined “quick select” buttons, you can now quickly narrow down the content that’s shown to you. It’s easy, useful, and works like charm.

One of the reasons, why we introduced this feature, was that people didn’t realize – at a first glance – that there is such way to narrow down and filter the choice of products you see. From the onset, Swapit has some quite sophisticated filters, which allow you to only show what you’re interested in. However, many people don’t discover that at their first use of Swapit. As a result, they see a lot of items they might not be interested in right now, and as a result of that, they believe Swapit is not for them.

It’s that psychological compartmentalization, which then puts Swapit as an app and marketplace into that corner of the user’s brain where it might be useful, but is not at this moment in time. Swapit got used less because of that. In order to reduce this behavior, we’ve introduced our Quick Select bar. On purpose, we want Swapit to require as minimal or best no education on its usage at all. It just simply needs to work out-of-the-box and feel natural to our users.

Anyhow, just give it a try. We’re sure you like it.

HOW POST TRANSLATIONS WORK

Again, we’ve built this in the most easy way possible. If an item post is in a language you do not speak (check your profile settings), you will see a simple “See Translation” button in it. By clicking that button, the post’s title and description is being translated into the language your phone is set to.

The translation might take a second or two as we are using cognitive background processing to ensure a close-enough translation of such text.

Have you tried Swapit yet? Get it from: http://get.swapit.la/now

Swapit Update: Chat Across 100 Languages with Instant Translations

swapit-blog_downloadSwapit is all about bringing people together. We’ve always been about removing barriers and with this release, Swapit buyers can chat with sellers across 100 different languages. It’s easy, instant, helps sellers close their sale and buyers get what they really want.

Update Swapit today: http://get.swapit.la/now

We’ve created the easiest way you can imagine, to communicate with someone who does not speak your language. It’s a free feature in Swapit and has just been rolled out across the globe in our iPhone and Android apps.

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How Chat Translations Work

When you receive a chat message in a language you do not speak, you will now see a small “See Translation” button right next to that chat message. When you tap it, we translate that chat message into your own language and show it to you. This is how it may look like:

Furthermore, let’s see how it looks for different chat partners.

The translations are not perfect, but they are sufficient to get the gist of it. They help buyers to communicate with sellers who do not speak their language. It’s something many of our users have asked for and we really like to listen and act on our user feedback. Thanks again to all of our loyal Swapit users! You really rock!

More Information While You Chat

In any chat window you might have with a buyer or a seller, you now see a re-designed header, which shows you the item the chat is about and your chat partner. At the same time, we now also show you whether it’s an item you’re selling and what languages your chat partner is speaking.

Languages which you speak and your chat partner speaks, are highlighted. So it’s easy for you to determine, that you two can actually communicate in the language you have in common.

swapit_screenshot_beta_1-14-3-5_chat-translate_1_smudgedHow Swapit Knows About My Language

We introduced a new language setting in your user profile. When you launch your app for the first time, Swapit reads the language you have set your phone to, and sets it in Swapit as a language you speak. That’s the language, chat messages will be translated to when you hit the “See Translation” button.

In your profile you can also add additional languages you speak. That will help us identify matches between the languages you speak and your chat partner speaks. There is no upper limit to the number of languages you can add here. So even the Pope with his 7 spoken languages can join us!

Sale Posts In Your Language

In fact, we did not just improve chats. We’ve also added a more flexible setting when you’re posting items for sale. Up until recently, it was only possible to choose manually whether the item you post is in Chinese or in English. Now, you can choose any language you like. Similarly, the first time the post item screen opens, Swapit reads the language setting from the phone and sets that as a default language for the item you’re posting. We just assume you also post in the language you are using in your phone.

This language setting helps us sort through content on Swapit on a global scale.

swapit_screenshot_beta_1-14-3-5_chat-translate_6_croppedFilter Items By Languages – Globally

Swapit is being used in dozens of countries and many different people with different nationalities who speak different languages are using it every day. When you open Swapit, you’ll automatically a list of items listed and you can jump right into them. Due to our standard search order setting of “by Distance”, all such items were posted nearby, which makes them most relevant to you.

Yet, in Swapit you’re also able to filter those items by language. Especially in multi-cultural cities like Hong Kong or in border areas, this is a very useful feature. Personally, my Chinese reading skills are very limited, so I do prefer item posts in English or German. So I can adjust this to my liking and only the items where I can read the title and description.

We’ve built a smart filter in this, though. Instead offering users to choose their languages of the item list out of the 100 languages we support, we offer you exactly the choices of languages, which are actually available by the current list of items. For example, if there are only items in the current result list, which are in English or Chinese, then you’ll be able to choose only between those two languages in the filter setting. It’s a quick one-tap switch to switch one language off.

Have you tried Swapit yet? Get it from: http://get.swapit.la/now

The Acceptance of the New Swapit Startup Dialogs

Ever since we gave you the License to Kill, our newest startup dialog architecture and design is online. About a month ago, I explained our reasoning behind that and why we are looking for the best user experience.

After a short while of having our revamped startup dialogs in our public releases, I took a look at its metrics today. We can clearly see that the “Welcome” dialog, which shows to every new user when he launches the app for the first time, is shown to most people. Have a look:

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These stats are for Android devices only right now.

80% of people who see the Welcome dialog, do actually click the main action button in that dialog, which just basically dismisses the dialog and brings the user to the list of items. The remaining 20% probably click the BACK button to dismiss the dialog the usual Android-way. Generally, that’s quite a good ratio in terms of users clicking the main action button, which we designed to be clicked.

It is too early to interpret the effect of the other dialogs we’ve put in there. They do all have different triggers as to when and in which cases they show up. We will see what the future brings here, but our change has definitely helped lifting up conversions in terms of clicks here.

 

Have you tried Swapit yet? Give it a try. It’s free: http://get.swapit.la/now

Swapit Update: The License to Kill!

swapit-blog_downloadOur latest Swapit mobile app update is now available on Google Play and the App Store. We’re now giving you the license to kill!

Update Swapit today: http://get.swapit.la/now

We’re already working on the next version of Swapit and it is scheduled to be uploaded this Friday. Stay tuned!

Want to know more details on what we changed? Here are some insights in our work over the past weeks.

USER INTERFACE & USER EXPERIENCE

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been re-imagining our “Startup Dialog” and the everyday onboarding experience all of our users go through. Previously, our startup dialog was functional, but ugly. So we’ve beautified it and created a generalized structure to be able to communicate important information to the user right after the app launch. Just to give you some examples:

  1. Welcome: Beautifully greet users.
  2. Update Info: Inform users of significant changes.
  3. Suspended: Inform users when their account was suspended (e.g. due to posting items that violate our terms).
  4. Stats: Update users with some important statistics (e.g. 123,523 new buyers signed up in the last 24 hours).
  5. App Update: Let users know if a new app update is recommended or required.
  6. Referral: If users receive a referral reward, they get notified at launch.

… and a lot more. We’ve now identified 17 main cases and 12 sub-cases where such startup dialogs might show. They all now have the same visual structure and allow us to present such information consistently and beautifully.

LICENSE TO KILL (Apple)

swapit-blog_appleYou may now kill at any time! Just the Swapit, though! In our previous Apple app update, we’ve added the delivery of all chat messages directly to the app even if the app was killed before. Now with this release, all messages that can not delivered to the app while it was force-closed, will be automatically synchronized once the app launches again.

What is that? Do you remember my blog post “iPhone Users: Do you kill apps?” and “Swapit Update: Sell with your iPhone (second hand and new)”?

To be honest, the Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) has been and still is a huge pain in the ***! It is though, Apple’s recommended way to send push notifications to iPhones and iPads. They make it sound so fancy and cool on their website, but really elementary things are just not working. That was probably by design, but it is just not practical.

For example:

When you force close an app on iOS, that app ability to receive such push notifications gets stripped down to barely nothing. You must send all content you want to show in the iOS “Notification Center” inside your push message to the app. If such content is not there, nothing can be shown in the “Notification Center”. For chat messages for example, that is easy to implement. The sender’s message content can just be put into that Push notification and be sent to the device. Then the device can show such content even when the app was force-closed before. That’s what we introduced in our last Apple app update last week.

Now, we also send a lot of other push notifications, like:

  • New item nearby notifications
  • Someone likes my item notifications
  • Competing interest notifications
  • New comment notifications
  • … and many more.

Those Push notifications basically just send a status code (e.g. NEW_ITEM_NEARBY) and some ID (e.g. ITEM_ID like “1234567890”) to Swapit. That keeps our overhead and traffic very small and makes our whole infrastructure extremely efficient. Remember? We have extremely low cost of operating our infrastructure.

Now the texts of those notifications are constructed inside our app and then published to the iOS Notification Center, so the user can see them. The construction of those notifications does not work if the app was force-closed before. So all notifications, which come in when the app was foce-closed, could not be shown.

Multi-Language Complexity

Swapit itself is currently available in English and Chinese. The app automatically shows its menus and texts in the language your phone is set to. So we have packaged both English and Chinese language packs into Swapit.

To construct such notifications, we use those language packs to show the correct text to the user. If the app can not run to construct notifications based on such language packs and the phone’s current language setting, then we don’t have any text to use.

Now, similarly to the chat messages (which can be send in any case because they are just pure text which does not depend on the phone’s language, it’s the pure message that needs to be shown in the Swapit in-app chat), we could pre-process all texts on our server backend, which we want to show in the “Notification Center”, and send the ready-to-publish Notification via Push to an iOS device. That would however mean, that we have to manage all the same language packs we have in our Android and iOS app, on our server as well. That creates an additional level of content management for us, which adds overhead and costs.

At the same time, we would need to know (i.e. track) for each user and each of his/her devices, which language is being used there. So if I for example have an iPhone with English language and an iPad with Chinese language, we would need to know the language for each device, so we can prepare each notification for each device separately, so I receive a notification in English on my iPhone and a notification in Chinese on my iPad.

Soon we will add more languages to Swapit, which would make everything much more complex, require more processing power and increase costs dramatically with each language – if at the same time, we still want to maintain our requirement of real-time and send push notifications out within seconds.

Apple Push Notification Service APNS – A Long Way To Go

Now, all of these headaches were caused by the APNS. It is poorly implemented and is just not up to par when you compare it to Android’s Firebase Cloud Messaging FCM and even when you compare it to BlackBerry’s Push Notifications. I truly hope, Apple will hire some great Push engineers some day and build a really useful solution. We’d be the first ones to use it.

The Solution

Our current solution is far from perfect, but it works well enough given the limitations APNS offer us. Here is how it works:

  • Chat Messages:
    Push messages get sent “as-is” with the full chat message as payload to each iOS device. So they can be shown directly in the phone’s Notification Center; no matter if the app was force-closed or not.
  • All Other Push Notifications:
    Any other push notifications (e.g. new item nearby) will be synchronized the next time the user opens up Swapit, if the app was force-closed before. If Swapit was not force-closed, everything works as normal and Push Notifications get shown instantly in the Notification Center.It is impractical for us to send the full text of the notification along as payload in the correct language just for each iOS device – and only so it can be shown correctly int he Notification Center in the case the app was force-closed.

So to sum it up: No notifications will ever “get lost” again on iOS. No matter if you kill Swapit or not. So we now give you the license to kill Swapit.

MORE SWAPIT INTEGRATION

After launching the Swapit integration schemas last year, we’ve also added more schemas to integrate with Swapit. Some are still missing and I will blog more about the whole set of new schemas soon.

swapit_screenshots_1-14-1-2_6_homescreen_croppedBEAUTIFYING SOME PLACEHOLDERS

We’ve also updated our funky user profile image placeholder. It was bugging me for a while that our previous placeholder image was rather ugly. Some of our users are just lazy to update their profile image, so we need to show a placeholder image instead, which as a result actually shows up quite often. I am happy with the new one. What do you think? Is that something you like too?

UPDATING THE IOS COLOR SCHEME

On iOS, we are using a tab bar compared to the navigation pane on Android. Yet, the color scheme we used there wasn’t making very much sense. Especially when you consider the fact, that we’re actually mixing the functionality of the tab bar a little bit. The center button in that tab bar is the “+” button, which lets you post new items on Swapit. That’s significantly different from the other tabs there, which basically just switch the content in the screen above. So anyhow, the color scheme of icons in the tab bar and the “More” overflow list of that tab bar, were not very consistent. We’ve updated that to make more sense if it and have a much better UI/UX feel.

UNDER THE HOOD

Most changes above were fairly small changes, but they are quite visible to our users. At the same, the majority of our changes were done under-the-hood and on our backend. That’s how we’re preparing for some major releases coming in the next weeks to you. Swapit’s metrics a growing rapidly across the board and we are readying ourselves for upcoming uptakes on a massive scale. Stay tuned for more on that. We will surely write about them here on our blog.

Have you tried Swapit yet? You can get it from: http://get.swapit.la/now