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EBay?s discontinuation of specialty apps points to much-needed streamlining

Peer-to-peer digital retailer eBay?s decision to discontinue its specialty applications, including eBay Valet, showcases the need for marketers to offer one overarching app if they wish to streamline their mobile offerings.

EBay is aiming to simply its shopping experience on mobile and integrate its singular services? features into the flagship app. The marketplace is also retiring its eBay Now delivery model, which may give Amazon a leg up among consumers searching for instant gratification with purchases.

?EBay is circling the wagons and refocusing to its core competency,? said Wilson Kerr, vice president of development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. ?Smaller eBay specialty apps that promise same-day delivery, valet services or wardrobe building fashion items are likely a distraction, especially in light of how well PayPal is doing with its singular focus.?

Streamlining commerce options
Consumers are becoming increasingly less likely to download apps designed for a singular purpose if an overarching app with multiple features is also available. Prime real estate on smartphones is limited, meaning marketers must keep this in mind when attempting to target consumers.

?In the U.S., it has been in vogue to ?unbundle? apps for the last couple of years,? said Bill Magnuson, co-founder and chief technology officer at Appboy Inc., New York. ?In Asia, the dominant messaging apps are doing the exact opposite of the U.S.-based tech giants, with platforms such as WeChat and Kakao continuously absorbing more functions into their parent applications.

?However, excepting Facebook Messenger, the prominent examples of app unbundling in the U.S. are largely failing in their attempts to build an ?app constellation? and app publishers are finding that the split focus for development and promotion of multiple apps is not worth the perceived benefit of a more streamlined app.?

EBay, which finalized its split from PayPal last week, claims it is not planning to entirely dismantle its standalone apps, but integrate their features into the flagship application instead.

This news arrives on the heels of eBay?s move to acquire second-hand clothing app Twice to grow its eBay Valet service and gain access to a new generation of sellers in an attempt to climb back up the retail ladder (see story).

Customers seeking to sell items via eBay Valet will find the app discontinued come August 6, but may use the Web version until implementation within the eBay app is completed. While eBay attempted to place its eggs in multiple baskets with these services, it appears that online marketplace behemoths may be better-suited to offering one single platform where all of these capabilities are accessible.

?Simple is generally better than complicated, and consolidating functionality into one user interface can create value for their customer and at the same time lower operational expense for eBay in managing a variety of different applications,? said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group, Atlanta.

?[Its decision] will probably make eBay more competitive and given their scope and scale, that?s something to think about if you run a mcommerce retail app.?

EBay?s standalone apps did not find much of an audience, which was reflected in the brand?s decision to infrequently roll out updates. As it no longer finds itself able to rely on PayPal?s revenue, streamlining its mobile commerce options is the first step in retaining existing users and attracting new ones.

The peer-to-peer retailer has previously gotten rid of other standalone services, including eBay Deals and eBay Instant Sale, after lackluster customer usage. This sudden clean-up of shopping tools suggests that eBay is ready to buckle down and simplify the shopping process, especially as users on mobile demand easy-to-use checkouts.

Delivery shutdown
Additionally, the brand is shutting down its eBay Now service, which enabled consumers to receive quick delivery of purchased items in select cities. While eBay claims it was always intended as a pilot program, consumers seeking immediate purchases or instant gratification likely gravitated toward Amazon and its inventory instead.

Shoppers who bought used products or clothing items on eBay did not necessarily need same-day delivery.

This further tips the scales in favor of Amazon?s Prime Now delivery service, which continues expanding to more metropolitan areas across the United States.

?It?s also possible that eBay is considering a shift away from auctions and to straight ecommerce,? Mr. Kerr said. ?February 2015 saw eBay auction sales drop 26 percent and this trend seems to be increasing, as the novelty of auctions wanes.

?Amazon is doing very well and Jet is one to watch in this space, as they try the ?discount club? ecommerce model. Auctions take time and require a lot of interaction and consumers are getting used to margin busting prices online, with a lot less work.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York