Mobile Shopping

I've been doing some holiday shopping. I like to do all my shopping online. I don't really enjoy being in stores and I like the convenience of having the items delivered to me.

This holiday season, I've been trying to shop more on mobile, both phone and tablet. I am doing this partly because I want to see what the experience is like and partly because as I spend more time shopping on mobile, I realize it's easier in some ways.

It feels to me that as a reaction to the shrinking real estate that is available in mobile, particularly phones, designers have made the user experiences simpler and more intelligent. Features that were smart on the web, like recommendations, become essential on mobile.

My favorite holiday shopping service remains Etsy. I know I am talking my book here as USV has owned a large stake in Etsy since 2006 and I am on the board. But the things you can find and buy on Etsy are one of a kind, special, and ridiculosly affordable. 

In previous years, I found Etsy on the web preferable to Etsy on tablets and phones. Not this year. I just spent twenty minutes on Etsy's android app and completed most of my holiday shopping. If you try some holiday shopping on their mobile apps, you can download them here.

I'm curious if others are feeling this same way. Has the mobile shopping experience become better than the web shopping experience for you too?


Comments (Archived):

  1. Matt Zagaja

    I have used mobile apps to shop for the first time this season, primarily on my iPad Air. I used the Apple Store App and Amazon app. Impressed with both.

  2. Tom Labus

    For some gifts mobile is OK but for important one I need to see stuff in stores and get inspired. I also like the crowds for awhile since they get me done faster and I go get and Irish coffee or just the Irish

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Now we’re talking — well, the Irish coffee or Irish part.

  3. Dave Pinsen

    Not sure if I’ve bought anything other than an app on mobile. But this Tesco concept in South Korea is kind of a brilliant way to facilitate mobile shopping:

    1. William Mougayar

      That was such a creative scheme. I saw it yesterday somewhere.

      1. awaldstein

        Happening on the streets of NY right now as per my link below.My bet is that you will see these pulled by cargo bikes all over the city shortly.

    2. JLM

      .This is the wave of the future for a certain segment of folks and will become the norm.JLM.

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Another form of mobile shopping. Brilliant.

  4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Yesterday I was doing shopping in person and saw a dedicated Etsy display in Canada’s largest department store. It seemed strange to see an online market place make it to the physical world but it was also a pleasant surprise. I still will need to try their mobile app.

    1. William Mougayar

      Etsy has a presence in Canada, with an office at MaRS.

  5. kirklove

    oooh, can’t wait to see what you get me. Hoping for a pony this year!

  6. ErikSchwartz

    What’s up with the Etsy pop up stores (there’s one on Newbury Street in Boston)? Seems to defeat the purpose.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I like that idea.

      1. awaldstein

        Ageless truth:”best way to build an online community is to start at the street level’Hundreds of online brands are popping up in popups everywhere across the globe.Erasing the boundaries and consolidating brand community is just smart.

    2. Josh

      Erik – I think Esty stores have huge potential.I have never been in one of their pop up stores but I can imagine an Anthropologie / Urban Outfitters type store store done by Etsy. It would be a really unique and compelling shopping experience that I think would do really well.

    3. Mark Birch

      I am a big believer in the retail hybrid. Doesn’t defeat the purpose at all but rather enhance the experience. Remember shopping is not just about procuring an item, it is also inherently a social activity.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        It seems to me like it defeats the purpose because the power of retail on the internet is to dynamically curate a large number of products (most of which you have no interest in) into a small number of products all of which you love.Not sure how you do that in B+M.Seems like all they are doing is leveraging the brand.

        1. Tiffany Stone

          I see pop-up shops as a way to also capitalize on individuals who shop in-stores as a social activity. Birchbox occasionally has pop-up events and they have great turnouts and they are able to benefit from a lot of first-time buyers who attend just to “check it out” or because their friends are going and they make an event out of it.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Exactly.I don’t think the relational aspect can be downplayed. I believe this contributes to the success of Trader Joe’s. There is a sense of comeraderie among the shoppers and even with the staff.

        2. pointsnfigures

          many times the goods on platforms like Etsy don’t have the same social acceptance value as mass produced goods-a pop up store allows people to feel, touch and rate the good.

        3. Donna Brewington White

          The power of retail on internet for me is convenience and control.Not exactly what you are referencing but if an online retailer also has a B+M store nearby I am more likely to be more experimental in buying because I can return items locally. Which means more likely to buy without 100% certainty (fit, etc.) Although Amazon makes it so easy to return that this is not a factor.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        I was once doing research on how much personal interaction can influence what happens online — a blog post idea that got put on the back burner (completely out of my area of expertise but was of great interest to me) and so I asked friends (couple) with an online store who also do pop-up stores in NYC if the pop up stores made a difference in driving business to their website. They said “huge”!Anecdotal, but interesting. And I think there is something to this for businesses that operate primarily online, and for businesspeople (like me) who do.

      3. BillMcNeely

        It’s also emotional. That’s why you still go to the car dealership and they insist on you test driving.

    4. LE

      “What’s up with the Etsy pop up stores”Advertising for Etsy. Not everyone uses or knows about Etsy. Gets the name in front of people. “What’s that Etsy?”. Ever see anyone buy a car in a mall? No but you see the car in the mall sitting there roped off.Also, even if you know about it it’s “out of sight out of mind”.All those ads that appear in small sports stadiums are to keep the brand in your mind as being relevant.We still send out postal invoices to customers. Not so much because we don’t send emails (we do) but because it keeps our name in front of the customer (and we have the margins to pay for the postage because we charge a higher price than competition). We also do many email replies that we could skip. Why? Because it puts our name in front of customers. Again. It’s not rote it’s essentially hand written. And customers know that because they reply and say “thank you”. At the core it’s just a form of advertising. (Because it’s personal and not spam like which would have the opposite effect.)

  7. Dan Bowen

    There are huge limits to mobile shopping for me, particularly buyers remorse when the look/feel/pitch didn’t match the delivery.I believe in recommendations from people I know but the number of stars, thumbs-up or Yelp reviews from millions that I don’t know mean nothing and have often burned me in the past.If I have a bad experience online it’s typically the last time I use the service…stores can recover much easier because I can talk to a person face-to-face.I get great pricing online and typically little hassle…but I do like to engage that which I’m buying before I purchase and when I use someones store to deal with the look and feel and then turn to Amazon to save 10% I find myself morally challenged…I’ve been in retail, I’ve worked on commission, there is a price that should be paid for the transfer of knowledge.

  8. pointsnfigures

    Don’t like it on my phone (iPhone 5). Screen too small. Like it on tablets. Etsy is great but it’s getting pretty cluttered.

  9. awaldstein

    I’m buying 100% local this year for gifts, stretching it to include newsletters/books from local writers, Vermouth from local makers, wine shipped from local shops.Mobile is really not a help here.A seasonal app however that aggregates Made in New York merchants would make my day even more than individual shopping experiences.

    1. William Mougayar

      I like the local slant for e-commerce. Is there an app/website that specializes in that, or you need to search and look for the local shipping options?What we need is a 1-800-Flowerization of e-commerce in the same way that 1-800-Flowers will send your order to the neighboring flower shop.

      1. awaldstein

        Nope…Be careful what you ask for. I’m not a fan of 800 flowers cause it’s not about local at all. It’s about umbrella brand and supply chain.I’m a simpleton. I buy wine and have a deal with a local shop to put out an ‘Arnold club’ that I subscribe a few contractors and friends to as a present on a quarterly basis, including the holidays.Big supporter of niche newsletters by friends and giving them away.Kinda simple for me but yes, a true made in NY by category would be great.

        1. William Mougayar

          not a big fan of 800 flowers either, but the concept of connecting virtual to local seamlessly is interesting. You could extend the concept of Made in NYC to made in AnyC.

          1. awaldstein

            Virtual to local. Local virtual to local just in time delivery like this one–> is the future in urban areas.What’s interesting is how brand is layered in. 800 flowers not at all, Etsy 100%.

    2. ShanaC

      Would seasonal be worth it?

      1. awaldstein

        Good point.Aggregate the artisans and market it seasonally like the holidays.

  10. Joe Lazarus

    I almost always prefer the simplicity of browsing on mobile over desktop in cases where companies have taken the time to craft a good mobile app or site – not just shopping. The smaller screen forces companies to focus on the essentials and the images are still large enough for me to make a decent purchase decision. However, many smaller, specialty stores still haven’t built mobile-friendly sites, so it’s somewhat hit or miss.

    1. Dan

      When you find a smaller store that doesn’t have a mobile site, do you move on, or do you boot up your laptop?

    2. Donna Brewington White

      And if the company cannot afford great UI/UX on mobile, it may be better not to go mobile. Frustration is a huge deterrent and even more so on mobile.

  11. JLM

    .I have been a dedicated web shopper for everything I possibly can. I even buy maraschino cherry juice for my favorite concoctions via the web.The tablet experience is fine. The smartphone experience simply doesn’t work.I still love the stand bys — LL Bean. Everybody is getting new lined bathrobes and PJs. Global cooling and all.JLM.

    1. William Mougayar

      Thanks JLM. Just received it yesterday. Yours is in the mail.

    2. Dale Allyn

      I believe you have my address.;)

      1. JLM

        .I already sent it via email.Merry Christmas!JLM.

        1. Dale Allyn

          Oops! Sorry, I hadn’t checked my inbox yet. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you!

  12. @FakeBradFeld

    The mention of a company you invest in is just as self-serving as Mr. Feld and his posts. This post did not require the mention of Etsy, at least you disclose your investment, unlike Feld.

    1. JLM

      .Sorry, the guy owns the bar and is entitled to serve his own brew from time to time.Don’t like it, go to another bar.Don’t mean to be antagonistic. Merry Christmas.JLM.

      1. greggdourgarian

        Great business idea: an Etsy for beer.

      2. LE

        Just yesterday on HN I used a reference to another commenter (that is well know and respected) in an example I was making. Someone replied and said that I should have asked permission before doing that, that it wasn’t right to use their handle.It would be similar to if I said “Let’s say JLM gets into an accident with the Red Car”.So my conclusion is that the person making the comment isn’t an entrepreneur because if you are, and you worry about something like that (stepping on toes don’t agree that I did but let’s say I did) you will get nowhere in life. Fast.One of the great things about running your own show is that you can not have to second guess yourself and stutter in making decisions. You can just do what you want and learn from your mistakes w/o fear that someone will tell you not to try or not to do something.How people view things shows much about the way they think, way more than how they answer questions (when they know someone is looking for a particular answer).

        1. JLM

          .Haha, JLM and The Big Red Car were parked in a structured parking lot in SoCo (South Congress) in ATX.JLM had been meeting with some friends at HopDoddy and had had a few beers. Excellent ice cold and refreshing beers. Bit of frivolity.The Big Red Car was savaged on a pole coming out of the parking garage on a very tight turn. Moving an insignificant rate of speed but enough to make a meaningful dent in the right front fender.Good lesson for all involved — do NOT drink and drive. Shhsh!Big Red Car getting a paint job for Christmas, perhaps?JLM.

      3. ShanaC

        What are your Christmas plans ?

        1. JLM

          .Skiing, bit of skiing, then some skiing. Three weeks or so.Get back to the ATX on Christmas Eve and command performance from all children and boy friends. Bit of egg nog.Et vous?Oh, yes, going to be marking “naughty” and “nice” — this year the naughties get the big presents. I sort of like a bit of naughty.JLM.

    2. awaldstein

      Life is self serving.The idea is to make it useful and interesting to others. That’s a service not a compromise.

    3. William Mougayar


    4. jason wright

      he probably mentioned it as a courtesy to those not familiar with his ecommerce investments. the junkies know about the etsy bet.when i first washed up here i thought the posts could be a little too self-serving. on occasion i think they still can be, but on balance i think he does a good job of keeping things honest. if he didn’t i’d move on.

  13. Dale Allyn

    I buy nearly everything online, but none via mobile device (phone or tablet). Just not a fan of the reduced screen real estate and inferior keyboard for the way I approach such tasks.It’s obviously a crucially important area that retailers must commit to providing an excellent experience or lose out as the mobile sector continues to grow. Some retailers (large ones) haven’t even figured out how to present decent websites for conventional devices (desktop and laptops). Case in point: tried to help my wife purchase something from Nordstom this week and had to try multiple browsers in order for the item to be inserted to the shopping cart. That’s ridiculous.

    1. JLM

      .I love the Nordstrom experience so much I often find myself willing to go to the store because it is entertaining. I like to sit while my wife shops and listen to the piano and watch the people.They have Joseph Abboud suits.JLM.

      1. Dale Allyn

        They’ve done a brilliant job, really (except for proper testing of the website across all browsers ;). Service is typically impeccable there.My grandfather was buyer for Nordstrom when they were only doing shoes in just a few stores. I remember visiting him at work as a young boy. Later he moved to a smaller shoe retailer where he eventually bought a partnership, after which he left to create his own women’s clothing/fashion stores in a few locations around Oregon, and got involved in real estate (mostly apartments, duplexes, houses for rent, etc). He always spoke fondly of the experience gained at Nordstrom.He also enjoyed telling me how when he was young he could buy a bear claw pastry and “all the buttermilk you could drink” for 5¢. 🙂

  14. greggdourgarian

    Etsy beats Amazon hands down for my favorite type of gifts – shawls, chocolates, teacups, candles.Curious though, given how nice the desktop website is, why not make it responsive? Bootstrap3.0 and others have changed the game in the last six months.Why make me download an app to have a great mobile experience?

  15. JimHirshfield

    I’m not a big shopper… prefer to call it buying. In other words, I usually know what I want so ordering it on mobile is a quick and easy way to get for same reasons you outline (stores, ugh; delivery FTW). Recent purchases from mobile include jeans, shirt, etc similar to ones I already had IRL. So mobile is real easy for those “gimme another one of what I already have” type purchases. Or stuff someone else recommends. That’s why I call it buying (transactional) and not shopping (browsing/discovery). But mobile experience is getting better all around for ecommerce.

    1. JLM

      .Very insightful comment. Well played.,JLM.

      1. JimHirshfield


    2. Donna Brewington White

      Just said the same thing about buying and shopping. Interesting to compare notes — I just bought some clothing items for my husband almost all on mobile for the reasons you stated. Retailers that email special buys using links that do not open well on mobile would get more business from me if their links worked better, but noticed just recently that this is improving.

  16. jason wright

    i’ve never liked shops. i walk in and have the feeling of being ‘obligated’ (to buy something).shop assistants stalk me when i want to be left alone, and ignore me when i want service. online shopping solves these by mobile phone sounds ‘cramped’.

  17. Jeremiah Zinn

    I’ve given this a lot of thought recently and think commerce unearths the biggest and most complex user interaction gap between desktop and mobile. We’ll be able to close that gap but it will take time to get users comfortable.Want to browse content? Instead of CLICKING you TAP. That’s an easy evolution that users pick up quick and all content sites haven benefited from that.Want to buy something? Most users Cut/Paste (copying product descriptions from results page back into search box), use multiple tabs (comparing like products), and need to do a lot of text entry (checkout pages).Text entry? I’m getting almost as fast typing on my android phone with swiftkey as desktopmultiple tabs? Getting better with chrome, but switching between tabs is clumsycut/paste? Downright frustratingHow do we deal with transitional moment we are in? Use mobile to browse and fill up cart, and desktop to comparison shop and checkout

    1. ShanaC

      I would never want to do comparison shopping on my phone. I’m still havin problems typing. Comparison search is still difficult.

      1. Jeremiah Zinn

        never? ;)I remember when I said I’d never use a software keyboard (vs. hardware AKA blackberry) but predictive text/autocomplete made that transition bearable. A product innovation enabled a new interaction model that made the unexpected expected.I could be wrong, but maybe we just haven’t envisioned the new interaction models that make commerce easy and seamless on mobile. Do that and it wouldn’t be impossible to have similar conversion rates on mobile as desktop

      2. markslater

        i agree. I’ve never shopped on my phone…..

      3. BillMcNeely

        Use Shop Saavy or RedLaser either does it for you

  18. Tiffany Stone

    I prefer shopping on my tablet to both the web and iPhone. The web can be too overwhelming. I appreciate the simplicity of the tablet shopping experience..easy to navigate, convenient browsing and instant purchasing. If I do shop on my phone it is because I am looking for a specific product otherwise I do not enjoy the browsing or discovery process on my phone.

    1. LE

      I think that supports what Fred is saying regarding having to make things easier on mobile because of the limited space and other constraints you have to work with. The truth is that that can be done on the web as well.

      1. Tiffany Stone

        Agreed. Yes I think that it can and should be done to provide consistent customer experiences across devices and the web but many haven’t done that right now.

        1. LE

          My theory on why this happens, which I’ve mentioned before, is that people who know, create or deal with a product are to familiar or smart to understand the typical users experience. What I call the “puny brain theory”.So for example when you know something you think about it in chunks. Someone who doesn’t know goes slowly. When you are unfamiliar you can’t suck it in at full machine speed.In order to get the experience good for normals websites need to involved below average normals and see what their brain comprehends and establish that as the starting point for visual reference.This phenomena happens everywhere. It took airports decades to understand how to do signage that worked for a typical traveler that only took 1 trip per year and didn’t know how to park their car.Bottom line is always “don’t make me think”. Where “me” is the typical new customer.

  19. Dan

    While not directly related to shopping, the move to mobile has been a big challenge for the company I work for (we are a real estate brokerage with a strong online presence). For about 10 years, we added more and more complexity and features to our website. Some users found a feature, and loved it. Others didn’t find that one, but found a different one. And some didn’t find any new features at all.But with mobile apps (or mobile websites, for that matter), you just don’t have the screen space to add more bells and whistles and see what sticks. You have to simplify, focus on a limited number of use cases, and compete in other dimensions than features.Interesting times.

  20. Devon Mobilepreneur

    Mobile has made shopping many time better if it’s done right. A vast majority of retailers fail to understand what “Doing Mobile Retail Right” entails for one reason… They don’t understand how user (potential and exiting customers) should be using all retailer assets to have the proper user experience.A recent post by one of my team talks about his ‘experience’ with the Target mobile app. The mobile experience gets him into the store (see image) by making brick-and-mortar seem more accessible and less intimidating. This is VERY important because a majority of the world/US does not have access to same day delivery from the big retailers.My colleague Al’s blog post HOW TARGET’S MOBILE EXPERIENCE DOUBLED MY CART SIZE WHILE ADDING VALUE TO MY DAY

    1. awaldstein

      Majority–source please.I thought the majority lived in urban centers where this is indeed a reality.

      1. LE

        If (in the suburbs that I live in) you can get cheap or free same day delivery of anything but takeout food I am not aware of that. So their marketing isn’t working very well. I haven’t received the memo.Out here at the local hardware store, well, if you want to buy a ladder they want $45 just to deliver it.Amazon of course will deliver and sell a great ladder for +- $50. And lose money on the shipping or delivery to build market share and make it up on other things. Similar but not exactly like a loss leader.Same day delivery and even delivery for that matter poses a problem for traditional retail. [1] They have the overhead and expense of a retail location. And obviously it is very efficient to have customers do the labor part of getting the product out of the store. I don’t see an easy way to solve that dynamic. Customers are the free labor because they don’t factor in their time (same happens with discounting – a customer will drive many miles to save money but you couldn’t pay them for their time at the same hourly rate).I mean if you are a wine store with a retail location and you are selling… for +- $10 exactly how are you supposed to be able to not lose money if you have to get that to the customer in two days let alone same day? When I say “lose money” I mean the typical retail location doesn’t have the financial resources to take hits like this on the hope that they make it up on other items.[1] Amazon can lose money because Bezos can promise a dream in the same way Jobs can. It’s unreasonable for a traditional store to be able to take a hit like a big company like Amazon can. And even most big companies (infact all) can’t do what Bezos is managing to pull off.

        1. awaldstein

          depends who you consider the market.

  21. obarthelemy

    I prefer the mobile version of web sites in general, so shopping too. Apps are usually a hassle, I don’t shop that much.

  22. LE

    I don’t do much gift shopping but I buy everything I can online. I find that times that I used to run out to the Office Depot or Staples I now just order online. Generally Amazon.Sitting in front of a desktop with 3 big monitors all day long I have no need to buy anything on mobile.Even when I use a laptop (at my house) I would just use that to order what I need (or to check a restaurant or directions or weather). I don’t have any reason to compromise on a small screen when I have quick access to a larger screen. Why would you sit in your den ordering on mobile when you can do it much quicker on a laptop? (Even if you are watching the game etc.)The only exception that I can think of is for takeout food. For example as I was getting my coffee this am I thought “I want to get some lox”. So I called the deli. It would have been nice to be able to simply order it from my iphone. Or to get takeout chinese when out and about and not near a desktop. Of course those types of things are nowhere close to having that level of integration. To me that’s one of the things that someone should be working on with mobile. [1]I would imagine that Starbucks could easily do this with respect to getting your morning drink. They already have an excellent app. I love not having to take out my wallet and get the Starbucks card. But I think they aren’t because doing so would take away from the Starbucks experience of waiting in a line. Much the same way people will hang at a bar. In addition to the alcohol there is the experience of being around like minded people and also the line creates and adds to scarcity. (So this might work for Dunkin Donuts which is such a buzz kill..)[1] That’s right. I totally want all the young, smart, motivated people in the world to work solving this small problem that I have rather than doing something more important with their lives. Because you know it’s a big problem that I have to make a phone call when I want lox or chinese food.

    1. awaldstein

      ‘small problem’ only if you consider you the largest part of the market. People in urban areas on public trans or on foot are the mobile market. Huge.And btw, if the app is good enough like seamless or moviefone, i do much of my ordering on mobile even at home.

      1. LE

        Never even heard of seamless. Just checked and they are not in the Philly Metro area. [1] Not even dense center city Philly. [1]Philly isn’t a small city. Very possible that seamless will arrive here. But NYC is unique in the density of customers that it offers for anything.[1] Actually they are in Philly but their website fails to bring up anything near a zip code that turns up under the “Philadelphia” link. I tested zip codes that I know in the city and suburbs and nothing came up. I then scrolled down on the screen and saw a list of cities. So I clicked on Philadelphia. A small number of restaurants came up. One had zip 19147. I then went and tried that in the search box. It’s says “oops we don’t have anything there”.In any case getting something like this to work is the chicken and egg of getting enough critical mass for people to start to use it regularly. Apparently that is already happening with you in NYC.

        1. awaldstein

          Agree that I have a NY centric, urban point of view.Seamless is an incredible service and interesting story to check out.

  23. Brandon Burns

    Scanning the comments, it seems people feel that the phone shopping experience leaves a lot to be desired, but tablets are doing alright.At, desktop and tablet seem to be on par (with desktop performing slightly better) but with both outperforming phone by about double.In general, mobile forces you to be direct and brief. Desktop and tablets can be an opportunity to create an engaging experience.As such, I’m not surprised that the phone app is treating Etsy well — with so many of its sales being search based, and with the desktop experience being a bit frustrating, people can dive in and get out quickly on a phone. Nor am I surprised that Wander&Trade has better desktop / tablet numbers since we’ve crafted a very engaging experience that, at the moment, is more discovery based (but that will evolve over time).That said, overall, our conversion rates are performing better than average for the category. And that’s with our very first iteration and no brand recognition, trust or loyalty, just 5 weeks post launch (to compare, our conversion rate is 2.5x higher than’s was as the same point in its much praised launch). I can only imagine what numbers we’ll be hitting once we have the resources to optimize mobile, and everything else. 🙂

    1. LE

      “At Wander&Trade”It’s not Wander & Trade.I don’t see any reason to not simply refer to yourself as your web address. Once you get much bigger you can shift strategy and be just “Wander & Trade” and everyone will know how to find you. If you want.Some nice stuff by the way Brandon:http://www.wanderandtrade.c…Suggested extra categories:”Gifts for Grandpa/Grandma””Gifts for your Dad””Gifts for your Uncle””Gifts for your College age daughter”…and”Gifts for the mailman”….etc. Unless of course you think use of those words takes away from the cool factor. (Adding mailman I think makes it cool again oddly enough..”I was telling this to Rick of “I want to buy some pickles for my dad tell me which ones to buy don’t make me think”.

      1. Brandon Burns

        URL edit: made.And, yeah, we’re going to play with categories for the next week or two. Add some gift-specific ones. Really, everything on the site is a good gift idea, but we’re going to try to make it more obvious.My mom just clocked her 32nd year in business. Her big reminder over Thanksgiving: in business, you can never be too obvious. People don’t like to think.

        1. awaldstein

          Site looks great btw.Bug–50% of your share icons go to FB. Better to not have them then have Pinterest link to FB.

          1. Brandon Burns

            Thanks.I’m aware of the “bug.” Though its really more of a neglect. So many fish to fry…

          2. awaldstein

            Totally understand.Was doing some shopping on Amazon the other day and noticed that they basically index everything in the world, although they ‘sell’ only part of it and affiliate the rest.Their strategy to become the one URL for the planet.So…so many quality merchants in NY. You can only carry so many but prob worthwhile sometime to white board whether you are an access point to Brooklyn quality artisan community or simply the access point to Brooklyn artisans you carry direct.Tricky brand and margin and more ways but worth thinking through even it it doesn’t play to who you are.

          3. Brandon Burns

            This issue is on my mind. And I’m sure how we tackle it will be in a constant state of evolution.One thing I know is this: as long as it remains easier to pop onto Amazon to search and purchase from known, bigger brands, smaller manufacturers will always suffer. It should, instead, be easier to buy something of quality, produced by people who care, and have that money go back into their communities.I did not set out to build something to kill Amazon. But as I meet with the small businesses we support and hear their stories and listen to and try to solve their problems, it has become clear that helping them compete with Amazon is not a choice, but rather an obligation. Our obligation.It’ll take a while to get there, but that’s the ultimate goal.

          4. Dale Allyn

            I use Amazon some, but prefer to deal with other retailers for many types of purchases (e.g. REI, B&H Photo, Tahoe Mountain Sports…) even though Amazon has the product (or affiliate vender).For me, the Amazon experience is getting worse all the time, not better. Now that they have so many third-party venders, and they leave links for merchandise and dealers who have since left – for SEO benefit – it’s become a cluttered mess and lacks efficiency (takes more time to wade through the noise).Going up against a behemoth like Amazon is best done by using their sheer size against them, just as one uses an opponent’s weight against him in judo. Not that you’re going to break the huge Amazon, but by providing a light, clean, delightful user experience some consumers will simply prefer your service. It’s then up to you provide enough substance to get more to come, to engage, and to part with money.You’re off to a good start and I wish you success!

          5. Brandon Burns

            Thanks!REI, B&H, Tahoe… those are all specialty brands that operate in a single vertical. And I agree that their experiences are often better than Amazon’s, which is great.Wander&Trade set out to help small businesses producing on a local scale — in general — which is cross-vertical in the same way Amazon is.I’ve been hearing a lot of ecomm people, or rather everyone on the planet say, “No one’s going to beat Amazon, but if we can carve this piece or this niche…” I, too, said that to myself. I had internalized it. But no longer.While you’re right that it’s best to be nimble and light and use Amazon’s size against them, I think it has to be done with the goal of either toppling them or becoming equally as powerful. Otherwise the small brands will suffer. The vertical-specific sites will suffer. The niche sites will suffer. As long as the prevailing thought is, “anything I need I can get it on Amazon,” everyone else suffers because Amazon makes it too easy to buy the big brands and ignore the little ones.And its not that you can’t buy from the little guys on Amazon, because you absolutely can, but the odds are stacked against them. Amazon is not made for them. Amazon doesn’t help them make their product look good. Amazon doesn’t tell their story. Amazon doesn’t make it easy for them to sell straight to consumer, but rather connects you to retailing middle men who eat into the profits and make it harder for small businesses to operate.Amazon doesn’t do what Wander&Trade does to help small businesses. And as long as we keep doing more things that Amazon won’t do to support our vendors, we’ll eventually catch up to them.

          6. Dale Allyn

            Brandon, we agree on much of this. Growing to the size of Amazon (and beyond) is precisely what your goal should be, not a small niche. I suspect that you like Amazon more than I, but I agree that many say “anything I need I can get it on Amazon”. I’ve purchased from Amazon within the last 2 weeks, but I’ve spent many times as much money elsewhere online.I “get” your position and value proposition. And as Amazon continues to expand the volume of their noise, I’m hopeful that you will help your smaller businesses explode with success. It’s easy to see a huge array of appropriate businesses to join you. IMHO you’re not going to kill Amazon because there is a huge market in “fast and cheap” (plus they are rather diversified now), and they’ve had so much time to build their stronghold (please do prove me wrong!). But there can be ways to provide consumers a truly viable alternative to cluttered experience and commodity-type of goods and services.

          7. Brandon Burns

            “IMHO you’re not going to kill Amazon because there is a huge market in “fast and cheap””We’re just as fast as Amazon. Most customers have received their products within 3 or 4 days. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything from Amazon in 3 days without paying for rush shipping. And while we’re not cheap, and never will be because our vendors are smaller and don’t have the economies of scale to make things cheaper than their larger competitors, we will always stand for quality and value.”Please do prove me wrong!”Can’t wait. :-)And for the record, I’ve never been a fan of Amazon. I’ve ordered no more than 10 things from Amazon in my entire life. Ironically, I still do most of my shopping offline. Which was the first sign of there being a problem.

          8. Dale Allyn

            Yeah, I phrased that poorly. I didn’t mean to suggest you’d be slow and they (Amazon) would be fast. Like you, I don’t receive things faster from Amazon than from independents (often the opposite). Again, sloppy phrasing. It’s just more of sort of a warehouse experience there (to me). I sort of liken it to Best Buy and even Walmart in ways. Fine for an extension cord, not so much for some other items – at least for some consumers.Value is critical, and quality, craftsmanship and uniqueness contribute to value – at least for some. Cheers.

          9. awaldstein

            The majority of all Amazon warehoused shipments to NY addresses arrive in half the expected ship time with no rush charges.i’m not saying that you are not great as I haven’t bought from you yet, but your facts on Amazon are simply not correct.

          10. Brandon Burns

            I believe that when you order on Amazon, a majority of products aren’t fulfilled by an Amazon warehouse, but by an affiliate retailer instead. But I will verify that.Either way, I’m not sure its wise for an up and coming ecomm business to focus on the things Amazon has a leg up on, but rather capitalize on everything else that they’re missing.

          11. awaldstein

            Certainly.if you want to understand what Amazon doesn’t do well, don’t look at its logistics, look at its attempt to sell products that require a story behind them.Best case in point is its inability to crack the DTC $2B wine market. Now on third attempt.

        2. LE

          “Really, everything on the site is a good gift idea”Tip from the days of yellow page advertising. This is really one of the first things I observed that I based my early YP ads [1] on.Plumber “A” advertisement – “All types of plumbing we do it all!!!”. (large type)Plumber “B” advertisement – “We replace toilets. We clear clogged drains. Faucet replacement expert”. (Etc. etc. to illustrate)You know which one works better of course.The one which answers the question that the customer has or needs. And the plumber knows the most typical customer needs. People want the mechanic or store who appears to specialize in what they are looking for. Just the other day I saw a sushi restaurant that listed “shivas” (Jewish funeral after party) on their tent sign![1] Another thing I did was get extra phone numbers in exchanges in other areas of center city. That way an office uptown thought we had a location there because we had a phone number in that location. (Something I figured out after looking at what the Plumbers did in their advertising. None of my competitors ever caught on.)

          1. Brandon Burns

            Oh, I know. Figuring out what it all means in execution.Part of our thesis is that small businesses need discovery based experiences, because if folks don’t know your brand they’re not searching for you, and if they’re not open to buying something from someone they randomly discovered, willing to ignore that they don’t know or trust you, they’re not going to open the wallet. However, we’re evolving that to a more targeted discovery approach, using fine tuned categorization to help people discover new products within it.

        3. LE

          Camel case the name.WanderAndTrade.comAlso take the privacy off of you have a trademark in process? Because is doing the same thing.You might need to buy that name it’s a bit of a problem to build your brand when that person exists doing the same thing with a very close name.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      The site looks good!

    3. Donna Brewington White

      I don’t shop for fun, but yours is the one site that I visit just to browse. Your site is stunning and causes me to salivate. A huge tuition payment and Christmas (which mostly involves shopping for my four kids) are the only reason this has not yet resulted in conversion… but trust me, it will.

  24. Richard

    While mobile purchasing is ok, mobile shopping has a looooong way to go.

    1. Brandon Burns

      You said that a lot better than I did.

  25. Mahdi Yusuf

    I was hoping to hear more, all you said was that this year things have changed.I was hoping to hear why? I am very interested in this decision making process and what tipped the scale for you this year? Ease of use? Better products? One of a kind products.I think of Etsy as a specialty shop rather than a destination for things I would buy otherwise like Amazon, which is putting an incredible effort into being the destination for the masses.That being said, I think there will be a war for the consumer’s attention in the next few year between digital and brick and mortar stores. I think we will start to see that the toolset used by marketers will begin to evolve and engaging their already built social properties will being crucial for in-store sales.Few companies have started this trend, because lets be honest very few apps get in the high double digit open rates daily. So although Etsy is compelling platform, will not get big enough to sway conventional shoppers from traditional options whether it be online or not without some big changes.Recent Bloomberg West piece really highlights the evolution.

    1. ShanaC

      I find for certain things, Etsy is my first choice. Others, big box all way

  26. Matt A. Myers

    All of what you said reminds me of the structural and real-world systems that are broken, and lead you to wanting to shop on mobile – because connecting through a device is more enjoyable and more affordable than being physically connected and engaged to the world.

  27. george

    There are very few mobile apps I would endorse, most are clumsy and frustrating. However, Etsy is pretty good, it’s well organized, well presented and much easier than most. Mobile retail has a long way to go and it needs some new thinking. Incremental improvements and/or adopting the desktop approach from a decade ago has held back the ultimate consumer fusion; it’s time to just break that mold!

  28. maxkalehoff

    Fred, one of the things I love is when Etsy sellers send me a personal email afterward I purchase. It happens makes an otherwise commodity transaction very rich and personable.

  29. JLM

    .There is no doubt that sales, in general, are migrating from bricks and sticks to the Internet.Every eCommerce company with whom I work is seeing record one day and Y to Y sales increases. All in record territory.This sales migration is a real phenomenon and puts pressure on delivery, satisfaction and reputation management.Where once upon a time, Amazon had a head start on folks, now everyone is able to provide that same quality performance.I recently tried out Wander and Trade [Brandon Burns’ startup and someone with whom I have a bit of a coaching relationship] and the experience was identical to Amazon, the goods were perfect, the administration of the sale was perfect and the reputation follow up was better.This is a freakin’ startup and they were hammering it out of the box.The winds of change are blowing hard.JLM.

    1. Brandon Burns

      “Have a bit of a coaching relationship”I’d say more than a bit. I’d probably go insane without it!

    2. markslater

      careful on the amazon short. When performance and reliabilty are commoditized (the trade / wander experience of delivery being comparable) – price wins. Amazon wins price.

      1. JLM

        .Whoa, my friend, we are nowhere near the “Amazon short”.Interestingly enough, I am finding almost no resistance to folks matching the Amazon price. I bought a new laptop from one of those new Microsoft stores — like an Apple store — and they matched the price without a bit of resistance. It was about a $100 save on a $1400 sale.I had my instant gratification cap snuggly on my pate and violated my personal discipline of using the world as Amazon’s showroom and buying stuff from Amazon.Amazon will be the gold standard for eCommerce but they are not an unattainable standard.Merry Christmas!JLM.

        1. markslater

          there is an argument going around that facebook will suffer a “death by 1,000 startups”. You could make the same with amazon.

          1. JLM

            .I get that perfectly. Perhaps the thing is eCommerce v social mojo?My kids tell me that FB is so “yesterday” but they check, doublecheck and recheck prices on Amazon.I do think there is a lot of vertical slicing going on in eCommerce but nobody has really seen a “pissed off” and vindictive Amazon except for the publishing business and that business is being completely remade.It is a very interesting time in the history of commerce.JLM.

          2. markslater

            i could not agree more.local businesses are buying cloud software enmasse right now…..for scheduling, inventory management, POS, marketing etc – its about 10% penetrated. Once these puppies come on line and publish their inventory….we will see a march to the edge and away from the uber aggregators……..very exciting times.

          3. JLM

            .The cloud business celebrates one of the most important phenomena in business — when you are not hampered by having to rethink or abandon legacy systems your incremental — read “new” — investment in both intelligence and raw capital is not fighting the old systems.There is no friction loss either intellectually or from a capital perspective.”Hey, who GAS how you USED to do it, cause we are not going to do that ever again.” Liberating, really.The cloud is just so damn obvious as to be like water or oxygen. It is where the Web is going to live and have its vacation home.Personally I have just completely revamped my entire view of computers and the Web. So much so that I am buying all new hardware to be consistent with my sense of shedding my skin and renewing my view of things.New big smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop. All with consistent operating systems and capabilities. A suite of hardware focused exclusively on the cloud. This is convergence writ large.Is this a great time to be alive or what?JLM.

    3. Cynthia Schames

      @JLM:disqus as always I really appreciate your perspective. I especially love this: “Every eCommerce company with whom I work is seeing record one day and Y to Y sales increases. All in record territory.” eCommerce has been kind of a redheaded stepchild to many investors over the past few years, but we’re starting to see a reawakening in the investor community. The winds of change indeed.Yes, Amazon still has a stranglehold on cheap and fast, especially in commodities. But not everyone needs or wants cheap and fast, and most gifts or discretionary purchases are not commodities. Etsy, for example, may offer low prices, as Fred mentioned, but there’s nothing cheap about the majority of their goods. Same with Wander and Trade (huzzah @Brandon Burns!). Increasingly, consumers want personalized experiences, unique goods, and–yes, fast delivery, preferably free.Forrester says mass customization is a $202B industry and they predict that by 2016 it will grow to $327B. If a startup can strike the right balance between personalizing an item to the consumer’s wishes, offering a seamless Amazon-like experience, then price is NOT the key motivator for non-commodity goods. Which leaves a lot of room for upstarts.I’m not just preaching, BTW, I’m practicing this: we’re currently renovating our entire business model at AbbeyPost to orient toward this consumer and this thought process.

      1. JLM

        .Selling stuff is a margin business — and the margins are merchant like margins not SaaS margins.The efficiencies of the Web are going to ultimately drive margins lower but volume is going to make up for it. Even Amazon is yet to turn a profit on its simple margin businesses but their volume is immense. Once they get to that tipping point, Katie bar the door.Keep an eye on Walmart as they gravitate from a well understood — and profitable — bricks and sticks environment into a Web environment. They recently hired 600 software engineers, so they are taking it seriously. This is a complementary business and represents a broader marketplace for them.They are likely to be the first ones to really make a go of groceries on the Web. Most folks don’t realize they are already the largest grocery chain in the US. From a standing start.The customization of goods is also a margin business but with a much better margin. Would I pay $10 for a monogram? Yes, I would.The rules for eCommerce are being re-written quickly and they are going to be only a couple of pages long and community driven.This is an interesting time to be alive.JLM.

        1. Cynthia Schames

          @JLM:disqus sense, you makes it.To me personally the most relevant point of your response is the bit about customization–that’s very much the path we’re heading down. Offering a NON-commodity product that you can’t get at Amazon or Wal Mart or anywhere else is really the best way I can see of building a large ecommerce business.We’re choosing a specific niche market (albeit a very large niche), and reinventing the entire process of how the product is created: a 3D body scan measures the shopper’s body from her own webcam; then we use algorithms to adjust digital patterns so that the item is literally made to measure. Then we manufacture in real time. We’ve hacked the system sufficiently that we can offer fully bespoke apparel, domestically manufactured, delivered in under 2 weeks, and sold at department store prices.

          1. JLM

            .I agree more with you than you do with yourself.Customization is also very powerful in markets and with goods that are not usually customized.The bespoke business also has a hidden opportunity — the ability to assemble specific design details one by one and to knock off very expensive designer goods.I still remember how “cheap” it was to knock off a customer made deb gown rather than buying a designer gown plus the ability to have it fit perfectly. Who knew that spending $2K was a bargain?JLM.

  30. Chris O'Donnell

    I almost threw my tablet across the room last week because I was frustrated by the online experience from a mobile device. I ultimately retreated to my home office and my desktop.

  31. Donna Brewington White

    I am more of a buyer than a shopper. I buy when I need something specific which, with four kids, is frequently.At least 80% (probably more) of my buying outside of grocery/personal care/household is done online.For specific items, I am increasingly using mobile but less so when I need to do comparison shopping. Still mobile may represent 15 – 20% at best. And that is mostly Amazon, sometimes eBay.I will say that eBay mobile is one of the best apps I have seen anywhere both for buying or selling. My selling these days is very minimal but I occasionaly offload leftover inventory from when I had an eBay store. Selling is therapeutic for me.I shared a tweet today that pretty much represents how my kids perceive their mother as a shopper.My 15 y.o. son refining his Christmas list: How much are you going to spend on me and does that include shipping costs? Ha! #mobilemom #fb— Donna White (@donnawhite:disqus ) December 9, 2013

    1. BillMcNeely

      Does it included all tax?

      1. Donna Brewington White

        We automatically waive taxes on parental purchases. Breaking them into the real world slowly.

  32. Donna Brewington White

    Reading one of your posts and the resulting comments a few years back when you mentioned being mildly ADD, I became aware that I am most likely mildly ADD as well. (Reading Mark Suster’s blog has even more confirmed this.)Just recently it occurred to me why shopping becomes uncomfortable after a while: sensory overload. And the more cost conscious I have to be the more painful shopping becomes.I wonder if ADD types have a different take on shopping than the norm? (except that ADD may now be the norm — or is that only in tech?)

  33. Ram Kakani

    Fred,, I noticed you promoting your companies for most part this year and honestly they are not as good your stakes in them are . By way of you projecting them it appears the marketing you are doing belies the product which is not there. I sure hope from next year you will not have to repeat this and instead be unbiased.Love your blog, no denying that

    1. fredwilson

      A lot of what I do here is promote our portfolio companies. It has always been that way and it always will be. Nothing new there

  34. markslater

    We recently published a post on some data we have learned around our user patterns and our partner user patterns.60% of all bookings (consider this to be a purchase of a service – a parallel activity to the purchase of a product) is completed between the hours of 8pm and 10pm at night. This is a very powerful (think purchase decision maker) persona…..the mother on the couch with the tablet.Shopping activity (booking activity) happens during work hours from a desktop / laptop. It happens from tablets at night, and from the phone on the commute.I am going to hazard a complete guess and say that the phone UX is more suited to these persona’s “favoriting” things that they can then go and tabletize after jonny has his tubby and is tucked up…..

  35. Alex Prushynskyy

    Can’t say it has for me. I still rely heavily on the desktop browser. Its simply faster than mobile. When I have to do research and keep track of what I purchased and for whom, mobile still cannot compete with desktop in ability to switch between apps/tabs/search.I must admit, casual shopping on mobile did become a lot easier in last year or so and I am pretty sure that next year I will join your ranks of Christmas gift shoppers on mobile. 🙂

  36. tobias peggs

    Agree. Also of note: normally the AVC community is “ahead of the curve” (early adopters, etc etc). But your experience is undoubtedly “mainstream” now. For example, stats released by Walmart this Black Friday showed more traffic to than In other words, “Walmart mums” (not my term) are mobile-first when it comes to shopping now. That’s as ubiquitous as it gets!(disclosure: I worked on m-com at Walmart last year, as part of the deal terms when they bought my company OneRiot. But I have no inside knowledge of this year’s performance, other than public stats i’ve read).

  37. BillMcNeely

    Retailer Embracing Mobile will have a Happy Holiday… . Also, those offering same day, or 1 hour delivery like Uber did partnering with Home Depot for #UberTREE, Shipster in NYC, Deliv, Ebay etc.

  38. sbmiller5

    I shop on my mobile, but I don’t like it. Entering my CC info once on my mobile phone, is more of a hassle than to it 10x on my computer. Mostly I begrudgingly pull out my Macbook Air when I’m shopping or ready to purchase.

    1. Nick Ambrose

      Yeah getting the card in is by far the most painful part of mobile for me.I generally buy on web still.Kindle store is the main one I used from mobile and it has a lot to be desired honestly

  39. paramendra

    I guess that’s a thumbs-up to Etsy! 😉

  40. Eddie Wharton

    Etsy is a great way to buy someone a gift that shows thought and some uniqueness in its selection. I hadn’t really thought about it, but it seems like Etsy has a great holiday shopping use case.