Stats published by Nielsen earlier this week showed that eBay’s mobile app has been downloaded by a whopping 43% of Android smartphone users.
It’s the only shopping app in the top 10 most popular Android apps, and with that kind of reach it’s no wonder that eBay and PayPal each expected to take more than $10bn in mobile revenues in 2012.
Though eBay also has dedicated fashion andmotors apps, for the purposes of this article I’m only going to look at its main shopping app...
1. Excellent search function
For mobile apps to be successful they need to be simple and convenient to use, and an accurate search function is a big part of delivering that experience.
EBay’s shopping app not only uses predictive text, but also gives suggestions for product categories.
For example, if you type in ‘Converse’ it gives different options for men or women’s shoes. And if that’s not enough, you can also use voice search.
2. Barcode scanner
It means you can immediately find out whether someone is currently selling the item you need, which saves you the effort of scrolling through hundreds of product options.
EBay obviously doesn’t have brick-and-mortar stores, despite its frequent use of popup shops, so this is a great way of extending its presence onto the high street.
3. Filter options
As well as having a great search function, eBay’s app has a huge amount of filter options to let you refine the results.
Along with price, condition, and distance, you can filter by location, postage options and the length of time left in the auction.
The options are all easy to select, allowing you to save time by filtering out any irrelevant options.
4. Simple product pages
The general rule of thumb when selling online is that the more product information you provide the more likely you are to make a sale.
EBay allows sellers to include a huge amount of information, which is potentially a problem on mobile, but it gets round the issue of cluttered product pages by hiding a lot of the details on separate tabs.
Product images, price and the auction deadline are all prominently positioned, which allows you to browse different listings and skim the important details, while the more in-depth information is only one click away.
One of the main barriers to mobile commerce is the frustration encountered with form filling and entering credit card details.
Just as Amazon gets round this with its one-click payment method, one of eBay’s key strengths is PayPal, which allows shoppers to make a purchase just by entering a password.
In fact, eBay's senior director of mobile commerce Olivier Ropars told us last year that every time the company introduces a “mobile express checkout” in a new country it sees a strong increase in mobile sales.
6. Ability to track items on the go
Back in the bad old days before smartphones existed, if you were bidding for an item on eBay you needed to make a note of when the auction was due to end and make sure you were by your computer as the final few seconds ticked away.
Mobile is the perfect solution to this, as you can view your auction on-the-go and eBay can send alerts so you never forget to check back on the items you’re tracking.
7. Big calls-to-action
In order to capture sales on mobile the purchase process needs to be as simple as possible, which means making calls-to-action big and obvious.
EBay’s CTAs stand out from the rest of the page, and allow you to make a purchase or place a bid with a single click.
This is perfect for encouraging impulse purchases, as it’s almost too easy to buy something.
8. Apps on all platforms
While many brands are content to launch an iPhone app and avoid the difficulties of maintaining an Android app across a number of different handsets, eBay treats all smartphone owners the same.
9. Product range
As with Amazon, one of eBay’s key strengths is the wide range of products it lists.
10. It’s really, really easy to sell items
Although eBay no longer likes to be referred to as an auction site, one of the best things about its shopping app is the listing process.
It’s incredibly simple and includes a number of user shortcuts – there’s that barcode scanner again, predictive search, suggested product categories and product suggestions that fill in most of the details for you.
You can also upload images directly from your phone’s camera, so you can snap an item and list it for sale within a matter of minutes.
11. It saw the opportunity early
EBay has been a champion of mobile commerce for several years, meaning it has been at the forefront of innovation in the space.
By investing in mobile early eBay will have accumulated a huge amount of user data, so its competitors will always be playing catch up.