Leveraging smart technology to serve shoppers a fun and unique experience every visit, Tophatter delivers the world's most entertaining mobile shopping marketplace and connects sellers to over 20 million shoppers across the globe. With a unique discovery shopping app, mobile has always been a critical component of Tophatter's strategy.
We had a chance to sit down with Tophatter's Head of Strategy, Sree Menon, to learn the ins and outs of her approach to mobile and marketing! As she mentions, "Mobile is the future, so we are definitely focused on mobile-first."
Sree will be at TAP 2018 on October 4 in NYC to share more in-depth insights on how Tophatter is shaking up the E-commerce industry with a mobile-first approach!
Q: How does Tophatter make online shopping fun?
Sree: At Tophatter, our mission is to make shopping fun. Shoppers have no limit of platforms and places to shop these days, so in order to make it as a retailer you need to offer something unique. We don't try to compete with the utilitarian, intent-based retailers like Amazon and Walmart on a search experience; we like to consider ourselves the anti-Amazon. If you need batteries or toilet paper then head to one of those retailers, search for what you need, and complete your purchase as quickly as possible. At Tophatter, we provide an experience where shoppers spend time, not save it.
Shopping as a pastime is nothing new. Malls once dominated the retail industry because shoppers enjoyed the act of browsing, looking for a deal, and finding something unexpected. We recreate that enjoyable pastime for mobile— and we build in extra layers of fun. We make it competitive by selling products in our auctions. People love the act of bidding against their fellow shoppers, knowing that no matter what they are getting a deal. The act of getting a deal whether through our auctions or our traditional buy now shopping experience is also fun. Shoppers want to feel savvy; they want to know they found a great discount.
Q: What techniques do you use for shopping discovery and recommendations?
Sree: Our experience was purpose-built for discovery shopping. Over 90% of the items bought on Tophatter are not preceded by a search query. We personalize the shopping experience because while our customers enjoy the act of discovery, you need to make sure the products they are seeing are relevant to them.
Personalization is paramount. We have our own proprietary AI technology that we use to tailor the experience, and we are constantly experimenting to improve it. As most of our shoppers are using our mobile app, we have an endless amount of data that we use to continually improve the user experience. With AI, the possibilities for personalization are endless, and now is the time to invest in building the technology to do it.
Q: Most people aren't used to instant auctions, so how does Tophatter balance this, often frenetic, experience for new customers with power users?
Sree: You have endless options of where to shop today, which can actually be very overwhelming, so we want to make shopping fun rather than a chore. Our format is definitely unique, and that is what so many of our shoppers love. Our auctions also are very low stakes; bids are free and you only pay if you win, so shoppers don't have to feel like they are taking a risk when they are trying it out.
However, we also know the auctions are not for everyone or for every purchase that's why we also sell things in a traditional buy now format, where they have a set price. Though the purchase experience is different than the auctions, the fun feeling of discovering great deals is still there.
Q: The Tophatter app is designed to deliver a 90-second shopping experience so people can shop in "stolen moments" throughout the day. How impactful has this been for the bottom line?
Sree: The best mobile apps capitalize on "stolen moments." Whether waiting to check out at the grocery store or unwinding before bed, people head to their favorite apps to have some fun and spend some time— and we want to be a part of that.
With our auctions, we want to make sure people have a fun experience in the stolen moments, but also ensure they are not missing out on things they want to buy. We use push notifications to alert shoppers when something they "liked" in the app is up for auction. That way shoppers can come to us in those "stolen moments" for a bit of reprieve from life, and we can add value by bringing them back to the app when products they are really interested in are going up for sale.
Q: Tophatter offers more than 20 million shoppers around the world, each with unique interests and user journeys, a new ecommerce experience. What role has personalization played in your marketing strategy? What are some key learnings you've had working with such a large user base?
Sree: Our marketing strategy is diverse. We launched our first TV commercial this year, which helped us introduce our brand to a wide variety of people. Depending on the channel, we personalize our marketing to make sure we are showing people things they are interested in. But overall, we want to show how Tophatter is a fun and unique shopping experience. We are not a hyper-focused ecommerce company that sells one thing like suitcases or glasses, so for us the message is how and why to shop on Tophatter— to have fun and save money while doing it.
Q: How does mobile fit into the larger Tophatter marketing strategy?
Sree: Our web app is important, but a majority of our users are on mobile, and that segment will only continue to grow. Mobile is the future, so we are definitely focused on mobile-first, but some of our users are in an older demographic that is more comfortable with the web experience, so we try to meet the needs of both.
Q: When it comes to customers, demands and experiences are almost always changing. What emerging technology do you see as having the biggest impact in commerce?
Sree: The next decade in ecommerce will be shaped by personalization powered by AI. Consumers are increasingly hungry for tailored experiences, and soon they will be status quo. The industry today proves that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing— aka too many platforms to shop and too many options within them. Personalizing the shopping experience will help improve the entire shopping funnel from customer acquisition through to purchase and beyond to customer retention.
Q: What are you most excited for at TAP 2018?
Sree: I can't wait to hear all the new ideas and lessons that peers in the mobile commerce space have learned. I started out when ecommerce was a nascent industry, and no matter how much it grows there is so much more to learn and try.
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