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Wish.com: the rise of mCommerce

mCommerce budget bazaar Wish.com sells a huge variety of cheap goods, mostly sold from China. It was set up by Peter Szulczewski, one of the founding engineers at Google and became the most downloaded app in 2017 and 2018, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. It has turned over $2 billion in revenue.

Using the app is the online equivalent of rummaging through a huge bargain bin: customers are confronted with a series of never-ending tiles featuring images of just about anything you might need (and an awful lot of stuff you don’t). “Our tagline is 'shopping made fun', and we want the experience to be entertaining,” says Atish Dipanker Bhattacharjya, head of regional strategy at the company.

The firm has a team of in-house developers and designers, who have drawn on the experience of a range of apps, including gaming sites. In fact, gamification is a key part of the consumer psychology, says Bhattacharjya. For example, customers are invited to log in and spin a wheel to unlock further discounts.

However, some users have complained the final product is not always what they expected (for example a size 16 petticoat that was so small it fitted a dog, and an oversized sex toy).

Glenn Lehrman, vice president and head of comms, says the company has seen a huge decline in customer issues since it cracked down on merchant behaviour. “We’ve now made it a zero tolerance policy - the merchant is responsible for adhering to the listing.

“We are also really reliant on our reviews and community. We get more than 500,000 reviews a day… and our algorithm does take into account the star ratings of a product. So if a product is consistently rated low, it will be given little to no impressions - meaning the user won’t see that product in the feed anymore. So anything generally, if it is rated consistently as a two-star product, we are not going to show that product anymore. So that helps in terms of narrowing down the selection for consumers.”

High street help

But Lehrman says logistics is the company’s biggest challenge. “We’ve been able to get people affordable goods by them being willing to trade off time. In other words, we’ll get you something and it will be very cheap, but it might take three weeks to get to you.”

In January, the company introduced Wish Local, as a way of reducing the time it takes for customers to receive their items. Using analytics of buying behaviour in certain areas, it predicts what items are likely to be popular over the next six months and partners with small shops such as newsagents to stock its merchandise.

It is currently partnering with around 6,000 stores globally, 2,000 with active inventory. In the UK, 250 are signed and 85 are currently active.

“Those local brick and mortar retailers have those items shipped over to their stores, they will warehouse them, the consumers will be able to go and pick up the items they purchased on the same day, and the stores benefit because we pay them for every item that is picked up and it drives traffic into their store.”