iOS vs. Android and why I shop less on Android

News and commentaries, Technology

IBM and Adobe recently released some numbers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales in the US. Here are some highlights from the IBM report and Adobe report:

  • Overall Thanksgiving online sales were up 14.3% compared to 2013 (IBM)
  • Total online spend on Thanksgiving day reached $1.33B (Adobe)
  • Thanksgiving day mobile traffic accounted for more than half of all online traffic (IBM)
  • Black Friday online sales were up 9.5% YoY (IBM)
  • Black Friday mobile traffic increased by 25% over 2013, accounting for 49.6% of all online traffic while mobile sales accounted for 27.9% of total online sales (IBM)
  • Total online spend on Black Friday reached $2.4B (Adobe)
  • Cyber Monday sales were up by 8.5% compared to 2013 (IBM)
  • Cyber Monday mobile traffic accounted for 41.2% of all online traffic while mobile sales accounted for 22% of online sales (IBM)

With the historic numbers related to the use of mobile devices, there is a lot of focus on iOS vs. Android shoppers. Simply put, iOS users use their mobile devices more for online shopping and more importantly, buy more than Android users – in this case, four times more. This comparison is not new. Historically, iOS users spend more on apps than Android users. With these recent numbers, there’s again a lot of talk on how these affects future app development. Developers will almost always develop for iOS first and may even forego developing for Android.

As an Android user, it irks me to have to hold on to my iPad because some apps are simply not available on Android but I understand why. It further irked me when I saw this quote from Jay Henderson, director of IBM Smarter Commerce:

iPhone and iPad buyers tend to be slightly more affluent and more comfortable with technology.

Affluent, I can agree but more comfortable? The iOS’ value proposition is its simplicity – don’t offer too many choices on how something is done and the user will just get it. This is why, even your most un-tech savvy friend or family member has an iPhone/iPad. Go to an Android and the learning curve is a little steeper (but once you’re there, you can do so much more productive things on an Android). But I digress, this post is not about pitting iOS and Android users’ tech-savviness. This post is to poke some holes on those mobile spend numbers because as an Android and iOS user who happens to *love* shopping, I have experienced firsthand as to why I browse/buy less on my Android.

Why I browse and buy less on my Android vs. iOS

  • There are fewer shopping apps for Android. Thankfully, most sites are now mobile-friendly but they are far from perfect. Case in point is Net-a-Porter: I was filtering for dresses in size S. But after sorting for low-high prices, it resets the size. This only happens in the sale section which is what Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about.

net_a_porter

Incidentally, browsing the sale section at Barney’s mobile site is limited to filtering between “Men”, “Women”, “Home”, “Kids”, etc. There are no filters for size and sub-categories so results number to 12,000 items which can test the patience of even the most avid shopper.

Based on sites that I use, here’s a sample of shopping apps for iOS and Android:

iOS_Android_apps

*Recently launched on November 24, 2014

  • Even when shopping apps exist, they can be buggy. During Black Friday when Zara, site-wide was 30%, the bugginess of the app was very pronounced in my Android. While the iOS experience remained smooth, I saw blank spaces where images of items should be when I scrolled down. This happens all the time but during big sale periods, the blank space stays longer (minimum 5 seconds) and the app crashes constantly.

zara_blank

Google’s ambitions for Android are not focused on the users’ immediate dollar value
As more and more metrics pit the dollar value of Android users vs. iOS users, it will only perpetrate the cycle: developers will focus less on making the Android experience more robust; Android users spend less money; iOS users are more valuable – and so on. In this case, I sometimes get frustrated with Google for not marketing the Android platform better to developers. I understand that they have ambitions beyond users spending money within their devices but at some point, will Apple’s easy/seamless ecosystem trump Android adoption globally? But then again, Google’s currency, to put simply, is information and large amounts of it. Even if Android dominance falters in North America, there’s billions in the rest of the world who will not be able to afford iOS devices (especially if Apple continues to act like a Veblen good*) and will most certainly adopt the Android platform. And that’s several billions of users using a platform that Google controls. Scared yet?

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Op-Ed: Why I write about technology and fashion

Fashion, News and commentaries, Technology

This blog is about technology and fashion. With software eating the world, we are no longer simply at the intersection of fashion and technology; or retail and technology. Companies with the best technology will win and that is no longer limited to Silicon valley. The same holds true for Milan, Paris and New York.

It is hard to think of fashion without thinking of e-retail

In order for people to consume fashion, the act of retailing or selling it must be involved. With the advent of e-commerce enabling retailers to sell items of fashion, the stage was set for retail and technology to not only intersect but to intertwine; thus putting fashion in the mix as well.

Even as old fashion houses like Chanel and Dior continue to eschew e-commerce for their ready-to-wear and accessories, Chanel published its prices online for the first time in early 2014 – a price transparency that is anathema to luxury fashion. In fairness, the main reason for these brands are two-fold: preserving the in-store shopping experience and capitalizing on cross-selling. Online shopping was considered to be “too common” to apply to luxury items and that consumers of such luxury would much prefer the experience of being waited hand and foot in store. Net-a-porter, the pioneer in selling luxury fashion, has proven that luxury consumers put a high value in convenience as well; posting £434M in revenue in March 2013 with 6M unique users each month.

Fashion must utilize technology to be successful

The landscape has changed not only for the way that people perceive luxury fashion – branding and marketing – but also for the process of designing and producing it. For decades, the creative and design side especially in luxury fashion, seemed separate from the nitty gritty aspect of sourcing and distribution/selling. This is especially true for an old fashion house like Hermès whose success relies on artisan craftsmanship; limiting its 37 worldwide manufacturing facilities to 200 people per facility.

But Hermès is an exception rather than the rule. For most brands, dealing with consumers’ fickle tastes means that they have to operate at a large and global scale efficiently in order to arm themselves against the fast fashion industry such as Zara and H&M. To do so, they must rely heavily on technology to handle such scale. Burberry is one of those success stories; investing in the overhaul of its SAP infrastructure over the course of 5 years, starting in 2005. Called Project Atlas, it cost the company £50M and is largely attributed as one of the reasons for its continuing success.

“..substantial investment in core information systems has improved Burberry’s fundamental operating capability and enabled rapid growth in recent years..” Angela Ahrendts, former Burberry CEO

Burberry has also managed to maintain its brand identity while leveraging the digital space with a full e-commerce site and active social media engagement. Its Facebook page has 17M likes and consumers further engage with the brand on www.artofthetrench.com by uploading pictures of themselves wearing the iconic trench coat.

As companies like Burberry navigate this digital sphere, fashion start-ups such as Moda Operandi and Tinker Tailor continue to disrupt the industry with concepts such as pre-tail (ordering items at concept stage) and mass customization. Mass customization is not new but the elements have changed in the way brands can communicate with the consumer in this digital age. Old stalwarts must continue to innovate in order to stay relevant and some have done so: Nike’s iD shoes and Burberry’s Bespoke.

We are starting to wear technology itself

In Fall 2012 during New York Fashion Week, Diane von Furstenberg, the designer behind the iconic wrap dresses, put Google Glass on her models as they walked down the runway. Those were the early days of Glass, which has since been a topic of privacy discussions and has become the symbol of the economic divide brewing in Silicon Valley. Beyond the social ramifications, it is undeniable that tech companies are looking at wearables as their next stage of innovation. The ever-secretive Apple has been rumored to come out with either a smart-watch or a fitness tracker but neither has been realized. However, it behooves Apple to enter the wearable market especially if it wants to continue to dominate mobile hardware where competitors like Samsung is going big on wearables with Samsung Gear. In fact, its rumored acquisition of headphone maker Beats might just be a step in that direction.

Attitudes are changing in the fashion and tech ecosystem

Attitudes surrounding fashion in general are changing and tech venture capitalists are also incorporating fashion startups into their portfolio. Even old school Y Combinator accepted 3 fashion startups in its Winter 2013 class, a record for the pioneer in tech incubators. New York Fashion Tech Lab, a new accelerator program founded in April 2014 is capitalizing on the intersection of technology, retail and fashion. The program for fashion tech startups will offer mentorship from retailers such as Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Macy’s and Estee Lauder.

We can probably credit Apple for introducing a strong aesthetic in technology devices where before, most devices were clunky, black, plastic items. The company has proven that consumers will pay a large premium for designs as sleek as its retail stores. In a move that further highlights the relationship between fashion and technology, the company hired former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts as Senior Vice President of Retail in Spring 2014.

Finally, I will leave you with the story of Vanessa Friedman, former and the first fashion editor of the Financial Times (she is taking over Cathy Horyn’s post at the New York Times) on how attitudes have changed towards fashion in general. She recounts telling an investment banker what she does and he laughed so hard, disbelieving that FT would have a fashion editor. Since then, business can no longer deny that fashion is huge – $252B according to Bain and Co. As to the question of why fashion matters? Vanessa Friedman has this to say:

“The world is not run by naked people.”

And those fully-clothed people also happen to carry some nifty gadgets.

Amazon Prime price hike?

News and commentaries

With Amazon missing Wall Street’s profit estimates for Q4 2013, supposedly its most profitable quarter, there is a possibility that Amazon Prime could increase by $20-$40 from its current $79 annual fee. There are questions as to whether this would kill Amazon Prime (although this is probably just link bait) and discourage current and future Primers. These are my thoughts.

As a Primer, I have enjoyed the benefits of the subscription program. It’s not just the fast 2-day shipping that can save me whether it’s during the holiday rush or buying baby supplies on the fly. I have also benefited from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and Prime Instant Video, the content of which were ramped up by Amazon to compete against Netflix. But forget about me, what I’d like to ask is this: what is/are the alternative/s to Amazon Prime currently in place?

If Amazon were to jack up the Prime membership price, would the switching costs be high enough for me to stick it out and pay? Let me answer by sharing a recent buy from Amazon – a Danby 7.0 cu. ft. chest freezer, worth $344.23. This thing weighs 101.5 pounds and it happens to be eligible for Amazon Prime. A freight company delivered it right into my kitchen. What were my alternatives?

1. Pick it up in-store which would entail driving at least 5 miles to the nearest store, park, look for the freezer, talk to a salesperson, wait for someone to take to the car, drive back and unload to the kitchen. Or I can have it delivered several days later – for an added fee, of course. Time investment: at least 1.5 hours.

2. Buy it online.

  • Home Depot. It is less expensive than Amazon but shipping *starts* at $75.00 to total at $354 – $10 more than Amazon.

home_depot

  • Sears. Shipping costs are actually not bad at $5.99 but the freezer retails at $409.44.

sears

  • Walmart. For a store known for steep discounts and competitive pricing, the freezer does retail for only $308.19 and “free shipping” but adds a “freight item surcharge” of $67.97 for a total of $376.16.

walmart

Seeing these options, I’m sold on Amazon Prime just from considering option 1. I’m not even touching on the fact that for all the online buying options, delivery time averages 10 days. I think I’ll be willing to pay that $20-$40 increase after all. I’m not going to begrudge Amazon of capitalizing on that consumer surplus.