If you’re sick of giving (and receiving) standard-issue Christmas gifts, platforms like Etsy and Fab might be for you.
Etsy, founded in 2005, is a marketplace for small and independent retailers. A bit like eBay, but for the slightly more discerning. Fab, which went online just three years ago, takes a bit of a different tack, curating its products from a range of independent designers, as well as collaborating on Fab-only collections. What both platforms are dealing with is how to organise and present a complex and comprehensive store on mobile.
No one likes an over-familiar stranger and Etsy is on its way to being that guy. In order to get shopping, you have to go through a reasonably lengthy signup process, including picking the inevitable unique username, not hugely enjoyable if you’re doing it on the app. I’m BigKStyles FYI.
Fab, meanwhile, lets you get shopping straight away and only asks you to register – just your email and a password or linked with Facebook – when you’re committing to buy. Both companies ask you to opt-in to push notifications, with Etsy again coming off slightly over-eager by asking you as you to sign up straight away.
Fab's iOS app probably borrows most closely from a typical shopping experience, initially presenting just six categories: Home, women, men, only on fab, on sale and fun. Because the products are curated by Fab, rather than uploaded by individual sellers, the visuals are much more crisp and consistent.
Within each of the categories, the user gets the option to explore by: new, on sale and Only on Fab tabs, with specific product categories broken out in a list underneath. You can then choose to filter these by designer, price and colour.
A concertina menu icon in the top left of the home screen brings up another list of possible ways to segment their products, including ‘popular’, as well as contact details for complaints, and other administrative options. Fab offers native ads, as well as featured products, although these may not be monetised, which direct customers to particular designers on the platform.
Fab reported back in January that mobile users are incredibly very important to the business.
Etsy, which brings together independent sellers with buyers, has a rustick feel to its iOS app design. It's product sorting approach, however, is a little less natural, but maybe more unique. If you choose to ‘explore’ the products, you are presented with a picture-led stream of ‘handpicked’ items, it’s not clear who those items are picked by, or you can swipe left and right to explore by other themes. They are: vintage, seasonal, for her, for him, gadgets, home, kids, supplies, weddings, history and activity.
The ‘activity’ theme brings you a stream of products recently favourited by other users. You can customise the themes you using the button in the top right, although ‘history’ and ‘handpicked’ are locked in. You can also opt to ‘search’ by an alphebetised product list or look at the ‘treasuries’, more member-curated shopping galleries.
Etsy lets you get a better look at each product by pulling down the page to expand the image. Quite a neat function. But because sellers are free to create their own stores, there are some blurred images and items that aren't really in keeping with the artisan feel of the platform.
Many of Etsy's products are one-offs, so get them while you can, while Fab creates a bit of hype around certain products by noting how few there are left.
Both platforms aim to make shopping a more social experience. Etsy has tried to create an internal social network, enabling buyers to connect with sellers, as well as other shoppers, while Fab has harnessed the power of social networks and email exceptionally well. Each product can quickly be blasted around the internet to the people that control your Christmas list by clicking on the megaphone icon.
As both are marketplaces to different degrees, the payment methods and shipping are not uniform across all products, but both enable users to pay with PayPal where available. It's a bit of a pain if you've downloaded the app and found the perfect Japanese Moss Ball Terranium only to find you can't actually buy it.
Either way, both companies have built admirable products for the daunting task of selling on the web, managing to carve a space alongside big chains and online juggernauts, while using mobile as a key marketplace.