Does Facebook Marketplace want to be like Swapit?

Facebook just introduced Marketplace. They describe it as:

[…] today we’re introducing Marketplace, a convenient destination to discover, buy and sell items with people in your community.

facebook-group-settingFacebook has had Facebook groups for many years. People liked to meet up there, post their stuff for sale, arrange meetups and so on. We at Swapit have been using it and the experience was horrible to finally get to the point to buy what you really wanted. Facebook must have realized that a while ago and did start to introduce “buy and sell” features into Facebook groups. When operating a Facebook group, you could then choose the type of that group and as you can see in the screen shot, facebook-sell-postthe “Buy and Sell” type adds certain functionality to that group. In particular, this adds extra fields for people to enter, like “price”, “title” and “location” (e.g. city). It looks like on the screen shot on the right.

Yet, these were all Facebook groups, which you had to manually navigate to, or you would get to their listings if you’re a member of a group and other members of the same group post items — because it would show up in your Facebook feed.

In Facebook’s recent announcement they specifically mentioned this one improvement that will change the way people on Facebook will interact:

To visit Marketplace, just tap on the shop icon at the bottom of the Facebook app and start exploring.

So Facebook added a little icon at the bottom tab par of the app, so you can easily access such “marketplaces”. Of course, there are other improvements like categorization for example. Yet, it is nothing overly dramatic at this stage. Furthermore, they’re only launching in four countries at the moment (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand). More will launch soon, I am sure.

Why did Facebook introduce Marketplace?

According to Facebook the launched Marketplace because they realized that:

More than 450 million people visit buy and sell groups each month[…]

My personal belief is, they’ve also realized the spam that was associated to those 450m people buying and sell. Let me explain.

All the traffic in those buy and sell groups, all the posts and comments, started to pile up and clog up each user’s Facebook feed. Personally, I am doing a lot of research in terms of trading on Facebook and for that purpose I am a member of 100 groups on Facebook – most of which are buy and sell groups. The sheer number of posts that are flowing through my Facebook feed daily is just way too much, and the vast majority of those are buy and sell posts. Almost all of those buy and sell posts are not relevant to me, nor are they anywhere near any location, and therefore, I personally consider them actually spam. To improve that experience and only present relevant sale posts to potential buyers, we have created the Swapit mobile app.

Facebook has been great over the years, to realize the pain points of their users and improve their product to remove friction. So I believe, by introducing “Marketplace”, Facebook wants to carve those massive amounts of buy and sell posts out of people’s ordinary Facebook feed and bundle them in a dedicated place just for trading.

As a Facebook user, I think this is a great step for Facebook to clean up my feed and make sure I only see relevant information from my friends and family, which is what I use Facebook for mainly.

What does Facebook’s Marketplace mean for the industry?

While all of that sounds very much like direct competition to Swapit, it is much more a direct competition to other players in the market. I particularly like TechInAsia’s take on this: Facebook’s Local Market could be Carousell and Tokopedia’s worst nightmare

And that might in fact become true.

Carousell, Tokopedia, Rakuten, Shopee, letgo, Shpock, OfferUp, you name it; are all traditional marketplaces operating on a traditional classified model. Their way of connecting buyers and sells with each other is rather passive and driven by buyer initiative and mostly actually by luck. Let me give you a quick example: As a buyer, you go onto Carousell and search for “Green Sofa”, but you don’t find one. Yet, you really want a green sofa! (who doesn’t want a green sofa?) So what do you need to do? You have to come back and search for it again — hoping that time you will find one. The Facebook Marketplace is not different. It’s basically, the Craigslist model brought into the mobile world with a beautiful layout and pretty pictures. For Facebook, though, it comes with very strong social connections as well.

So yes. Facebook Marketplace may be the biggest threat to our competition as there does not seem to be any key differentiator between them and Facebook Marketplace — except for the fact that Facebook has by far the largest active user base — in the world.

swapit_screenshots_1-13-2-3_4_map-distribution

Central Hong Kong

How is Swapit different?

In one word: hyperlocal. From the onset, Swapit has been built with the mindset to efficiently connect buyers and sellers, who are nearby each other in real-time. Every single item posted on Swapit has a highly precise location attached to it, which can be mapped precisely on a map.

Based on that small yet important piece of information, our Swapit trading platform looks for potential buyers who are nearby the seller’s location and are interested in the item you are selling. See Swapit Alerts for more on that.

As opposed to our competition (including Facebook Marketplace now), Swapit does 3 essential things better:

  1. Timely Sensitive
    Swapit reaches out to buyers in real-time, right when an item becomes available. It’s snappy, it’s quick, it happens when it needs to happen; right now. That’s exactly what our on-demand society wants today.
  2. Location Specific
    Swapit connects only people who are nearby each other. I am not talking about “same city” like Facebook mentions. I am talking about “within 500 meters” (approx. 5 minute foot walk). It’s truly nearby and the item can be reached right now.
  3. Contextually Relevant
    By only presenting items the buyer is really interested in, all of a sudden all automated communication from the Swapit trading platform to the buyer ends up to be contextually relevant. Swapit cuts through the clutter and provides only that kind of information buyers are really looking for.
swapit-blog-immediacy     swapit-blog-location    swapit-blog_request

 

Why being Hyperlocal is such an Advantage

The world is changing. Today, more than 50% of the world’s population lives in an urban environment and that number is projected to increase over the decades to come (according to the World Bank). As a result, more and more people are moving to cities, which as a result become more and more densely populated.

The Swapit team is based in Hong Kong – one of the most densely populated places on planet earth. We believe, to some extend, Hong Kong is some kind of blueprint for how metropolitan cities will look like in the future. More people will take public transport, or Uber their way without an own car. More and more people will live in smaller and smaller apartments to preserve space and costs in cities that have limited space. Socially, the way of life will become more and more anonymous, to the fact where you don’t know all of your neighbors or even in years of living in the same building, you’ve never even met each of them at least once.

Swapit has been built and is continuously being improved for that very way of life. We are building a product for the future that has already started to happen. We are not stuck in the traditional classifieds model, but we embrace the connectivity and on-demand culture of our time.

Swapit is hyperlocal and no one else is.

Do you want to trade hyperlocal too? Get Swapit from http://get.swapit.la/now

Smartphone Shipments to Grow 5% in 2016 -APAC is Leading the Way

According to Canalys, global Smartphone shipments are set to grow by about 5% in 2016.

smart20phone20shipments-20apple20annual20decline

The great news about this report are the following growth projections for the APAC region:

  • China: ↗️ 13%
  • India: ↗️ 21%
  • Philippines: ↗️ 26%

Smart phone penetration in these markets remains low, meaning there is a big opportunity for vendors. Growth in established markets is harder to find[…]

Source Canalys Report on August 15, 2016.

 

THE SWAPIT PERSPECTIVE

swapit_marketing-chart-growSwapit is a true Asian startup. We’re based in Hong Kong – Asia’s World City – and we’ve launched here locally at first. From the onset, we’ve made it very clear that Swapit will go out of Hong Kong and into other markets. Swapit now supports 148 currencies, multi-locations, Android and iPhone and shows phenomenal growth locally in Hong Kong. Yet, we will definitely go out of Hong Kong and into other densely populated markets.

Smartphone growth rates in China, India and the Philippines are extremely encouraging for us. They clearly demonstrate that there is still a lot of growth left in those markets.

MOBILE ONLY … is the Swapit way to success.

swapit-blog_238-mobileFrom the onset, we wanted to build a truly mobile marketplace. We never even considered to have a full blown desktop website to publish your items, browse items and purchase them. We just believe the world is changing. While “web” is still in people’s minds and many people do like browsing website on a desktop computer (myself included), we also believe that the young generation out there will be truly mobile. Hong Kong for example has a smartphone penetration of more than 200%.

Think of it this way: In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Everyone born in the 90’s and 2000’s are now in their teens, 20’s and some are soon reaching their thirties. They have never experienced a day on this world without the Internet.

In many parts of the world like the above mentioned China, India and Philippines, people’s first – and probably only – contact with the Internet will be on their mobile phone. Many will probably won’t never own a proper desktop computer – maybe a laptop at some point, but pretty much all will own a smartphone. They are using it day in and out with extremely high engagement rates on their favorite apps.

We are building Swapit for that future. A future where mobility is everything, where consumers do all their major transactions on and with their phone, where online-to-offline (O2O) transactions are as common as buying a bottle of water at 7-eleven.

 

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

 

Hong Kong’s Unfair Advantage: How Pokémon Go helps Swapit – The Hyperlocal Marketplace

Screenshot_20160726-090257I admit, I am hooked to Pokémon Go. It launched yesterday in Hong Kong and some in the Swapit team went along and downloaded it. Personally, I really wanted to know what all the hype is all about. After all, I tried Ingress (from the same developer) and wasn’t particularly impressed by it. Yes, it looked nice and had some Augmented Reality (AR) components, but it just felt way too complex.

Pokémon Go on the other hand feels simple enough, so I can actually handle it. It’s not a game you have to play constantly, but it is one that pulls you back in and you want to play it constantly. You quickly feel that urge that you have to check if there’s a Pokémon nearby that you don’t have yet. It pulls you back into the app and I have utmost admiration for that. Creating such kind of addiction level for a game, is really hard to achieve.

Hyperlocal Awareness

Like Ingress, Pokémon Go is based around our real world. Items, monsters, Pokéstops, gyms are all placed at real locations. So you have to physically go there to get access to them. Only nearby Pokémon can be caught. So in the end, digital information that rests in your mobile device is being combined with your current physical location.

Perhaps that’s what it takes? Perhaps it takes a game like Pokémon Go, so people realize how important location is in our life. Through this game, people are sensibilized to the whole topic of location and what’s happening all around you. By playing Pokémon Go people become more and more aware of their surrounding and the place they are actually located in. It’s also a great way to teach you spatial understanding, which is something many people lack in.

Swapit Hyperlocal

Swapit has been built with the very same core idea of Pokémon Go or Ingress: Your location is at the heart of what you can do. When you post something for sale on Swapit, people nearby your location will receive an alert; i.e. potential buyers nearby will receive an alert. We connect buyers and sellers who are nearby each other right now.

This allows a trade to happen really quickly. People nearby can seamlessly communicate with each other and meet up within minutes to close a deal. That’s all made possible because they are closeby each other and Swapit connects them based on their locations.

Property is big business in Hong Kong and everyone in the property business knows:

It’s all about location, location, location!

That’s exactly what Pokémon Go is all about and that’s also what Swapit is all about.

Hong Kong’s Unfair Advantage

Hong Kong has an unfair advantage over most parts of the world.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

In the case of Pokémon Go, our players here have the advantage that they don’t have to leave their comfy office chair to catch new Pokémon, collect some new balls, fruits, accessories or go to the gym. I’m referring to the Pokémon Go gym here 🙂 All of these are nearby and because we have so many people in close proximity to each other, they put a Lure there and Pokémons just come by for us to throw some balls at them.

Here are some impressions of Pokémon addicts in Hong Kong:

You can read more about that on the Pokémon Blog: Pokemon GO arrives in Hong Kong, and it looks like everyone there is already playing it

What happens after the Pokémon Hype?

That’s a very good question. Firstly, I assume this game will take a lot of screen time away from other games in Hong Kong. In the long run, though, I believe it’s location aware aspects will educate people. It will make them more aware of the possibilities of using your location to your advantage. It will make them understand how powerful location and information combined in a smart way, can be.

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

 

Photos of Pokémon Go players in Hong Kong by Nash Jenkins.

The Progression of the Swapit Feature Graphic on Google Play

We’re constantly iterating through our mobile app(s), backend, website, microsites, pitch deck, investor proposal and also the presentation of our app on the app store. So yesterday, we uploaded our third iteration of the “Feature Graphic” on Google Play.

swapit-google-play-feature-graphic-v3What is the Feature Graphic?

On the Swapit listing on Google Play, the Feature Graphic is the #1 item every user sees first. It is placed right at the very top of the screen and takes up the whole width. When you have a video for your app (like we do), then you’ll also have a grey / translucent play button that shows on top of the Feature Graphic. By clicking that play button the video starts playing. However, the Feature Graphic is still the most important image in the app store listing on Google Play. Therefore, we have now improved that Feature Graphic to properly communicate Swapit’s purpose and message we want to get across. Let me explain the contents of the image in detail.

1. Real Products

Showing real products people can connect with, was important to us. We needed to make sure we demonstrate to people that Swapit is an app for them. Thus, with just this one image, we show exactly what kind of products can be bought on Swapit and what kind of products are being sold on Swapit. I believe we were able to show that.

2. Popular Categories

We chose to show 5 products from our top 5 product categories which are either the most popular ones or the ones we believe have the most potential. So we cover:

  • Mobile Phones & Accessories
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Fashion
  • Jewellery & Watches
  • Properties

Those product categories also have a rather general appeal. Properties might not be so appealing in other countries, but in Hong Kong they’re one of the essential second-hand items everyone is trading in.

3. Cool Stuff Sells

The items we show on this Feature Graphic are carefully chosen and represent the best of the best of the kind of products we know, do sell quickly on Swapit. People’s desire for the right products is essential for closing a sale. The high heels for example, are just a stunning piece of footwear and it is obvious, that those sold really quickly. Thus, we do suggest, to download Swapit as quickly as possible to make sure you never miss a quality bargain!

4. Beautiful Photos

Each photo is a beautiful piece of art that sets the expectation for the kind of product photos we would like to see on Swapit. We know that all phones (especially the Android phones) vary in terms of picture taking quality. However, good framing and proper lighting can be easily achieved with just a bit of effort. It is that expectation bar, that we set by showing such beautiful images on the very first image people see about Swapit.

5. Low Prices

When looking at the Feature Graphic closely, you’ll notice that the price for each item is very affordable – yet, not unrealistic. Those are actual prices such items are or were trading for on Swapit, but it is clear that the items are being offered at a very attractive cost base. By using price tags we also suggest a price “taggable” product and the corresponding range of pricing. Thus, the image in its entirety suggests again to be able to get a quality bargain at a very attractive low price.

6. Hinting at Features

We’ve also snuck in a “featured item” ribbon, which is one of our Premium Features. This lightens up the symmetry of the image a bit and helps to create a bit more of comfortable feel — at least to me that is. The size and alignment of the images is also important, as it resembles our standard list view which the user will see as soon as (s)he starts Swapit for the first time. Thus, the Feature Graphic already sets some expectation as to how the app will look like inside. Thus, I believe, it will emphasize the effect of the user feeling more familiar with the app when opening it for the first time.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps, I am interpreting too much into this one single graphic, but sometimes you got to go the long way and make sure you communicate the whole message you want to get across.

What do you think?

Visit Swapit on your Android phone or tablet to see the Feature Graphic in action: http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=la.swapit

 

The History of the Swapit Featured Graphic – thus far…

1st Feature Graphic (April 2015)

swapit_feature-1

2nd Feature Graphic (November 2015)

swapit_feature_v2

swapit_feature_v2_zh

3rd Feature Graphic (March 2016)

swapit_playstore_feature_v3

 

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

The #1 Goal Every Startup Founder Must Achieve

swapit_marketing-chart-growThere always seems to be a bit of confusion on what a startup (or any company actually) should focus on most. Some people think it is about building the best product, being first at market, having the best product/market fit, exploiting weaknesses of competitors, creating new market segments, solving a real problem, commercializing better than the competition, making your customers happy, raising the right amount of funding at the right time, building the best team for the job or simply having fun and enjoying what you’re doing. While those are all important goals to achieve, Continue reading

Building A Business Means Every Team Member Is Replaceable

When we are talking to investors, there is a lot of talk about “the team”. That is important, because only the right team, which is skilled, motivated and passionate, can execute a vision properly. In the end, most startups fail because the team stops working together. So it’s important to have the right team on board.

However, I truly believe: Every Team Member Must Be Replaceable

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to get key personnel on board. It is essential to have the right person for the right job. And it is very important to do your best to keep that talent in your company for as long as possible.

That being said, it is absolutely essential to build a sustainable business that functions whether you have this key personnel on board or not on board. At first, this might sound contradictory to the belief that key personnel is essential to the success of a business, but if you give it a deeper thought, it is actually in line with it.

Let me give you an example: I am German. I grew up in Germany and got my degree in Computer Science there, before leaving for China 10 years ago. In Germany the common Computer Science degree holder stays with the same company for an average of 11 years. That’s a quite recent statistic, by the way. Perhaps that’s related to the labour market in Germany or to the not so attractive opportunities in other jobs or it’s just the nature of the Germans; who knows. In Hong Kong however, the labour market is very flexible. There is a lot of competition here and we small startups compete for talent with large multi-national corporations that have deeper pockets. Furthermore, especially the younger generation is in many ways more flaky. They might leave 1 month, 1 year, 2 years after you hire them. What do you do then?

It doesn’t matter if you run a startup or an established company. You never ever want to be in the situation that the departure of some of your key personnel causes an implosion of your business. Remember? Most companies fail because their team stops functioning together.

I recently wrote a blog post about my thoughts on A Product Doesn’t Equal A Business. When you are working on building your startup into a real business, many pieces need to fit together. I believe, one of the most important pieces is: You must make sure, everyone in your business is (more or less) easily replaceable. That includes all employees, key personnel and even the founders themselves. You can not allow to end up in a situation where a key person leaves and your business suddenly can not function anymore. May that person leave due to professional or personal reasons or you have to let go of him/her or *knock-on-wood* due to health reasons. Who knows, anything can happen.

My goal for swapit is, to work with the best team for the job we need and want to do. It is also my goal, that every such team member is replaceable and swapit will continue to thrive anyway.

Wanna join the largest mobile marketplace for trading pre-loved items in Hong Kong? Check out swapit: http://www.swapit.la

Thoughts On: A Product Doesn’t Equal A Business

product-isnt-a-business

I noticed this post by Jeffrey on Facebook and the discussion that came along with it. I absolutely agree that a product does not equal a business. In fact, it is — or it should be — common sense.

I have been building products, thousands of products for mobile over the past decade. Of course, it’s not just me. There is always a great team behind that! Yet, I have been building only a few businesses and one of those has failed so far.

“It’s easy to build products.” one person said. I do agree, it’s easy to build a product – any product. But it is hard — very hard — to build an outstanding kick ass product. Because without that, you won’t be able to build a business around that.

I am a true believer that a successful, sustainable, scalable and repeatable business can only survive with an outstanding product that is built to solve a very specific problem of its particular target audience. If solution that product provides, adds enough value to its users, which they are willing to pay for, then you are on the right path to build a business around that product.

Yes, there are many folks out there, who just keep building a product and another product and another product, and they never really build a proper business around that. While that might not be economically sustainable, I do have huge respect for them. There is a passion that drives them to create those products which they feel very strongly about. Eventually, it’s got to pay off, though. Otherwise, you’ll run out of money and you won’t be able to pay the rent anymore.

Swapit is a Product First, a Business Second

At least for now. While swapit is gaining more and more traction, it is completely free to use. We don’t charge any fees for posting items, nor do we take a cut out of the transaction when an item is sold. For the foreseeable future swapit will remain like that.

Again, building swapit into an outstanding product first, is our main priority right now. While this includes, of course, features coupled with our unique value proposition, it does mainly come down to building a liquid marketplace. If you have an outstanding product, but no one is using it, how will you be able to build a business with scale around that?

If you take a quick look at two giants in the IT space today: Google and Facebook. Both have started with their product first and for quite a long time, both of them didn’t have a clue on how to monetize their product and build a sustainable business around that. For both it eventually came down to advertising and they are both now advertising giants in the media space — so they practically turned into media companies disguised as hip tech companies.

When I look at swapit, I can see many angles we could monetize it — even with keeping our promise of free trades through the platform. In my eyes, the right path of monetization makes the difference in a successful business plan. While we are currently not focusing on that (we’re in marketplace liquidity building mode), we have some very interesting and potentially extremely profitable directions we could go towards with swapit. Only one of those directions are premium service, which we will be charging on top of our free service in swapit will provide enough added value to our user to activate them and turn them into paying customers. We are absolutely confident we are on the right track to complete our product roadmap and exit our public beta with premium services and a sustainable business model in place. That’s the point where a decade of experience in building apps and businesses comes into play 😉

Tried swapit yet? Download for free: http://get.swapit.la