December 03, 2012 | Kathy Totz

Mobile App Review: eBay


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According to a June 2012 Nielsen study, as reported by Tech Crunch, the eBay and Amazon smartphone apps have the largest unique audience of all shopping apps—at over 13 million and 12 million, respectively. First, we’ll take a look at eBay Mobile’s features, functionality, and usability, followed by a test drive of the Amazon app next week

Available for a wide variety of platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phones, and Blackberry, the eBay Mobile app replicates the popular online auction site, allowing customers to search and browse for products, place bids, and purchase items. (Of course, the app also fully supports the ability to sell items, as well, but here we are interested only in the shopping/buyers’ experience.)

Finding products using the mobile app is streamlined by customers’ ability to scan item UPCs from home or in stores, facilitating comparison shopping:

The ForeSee Blog eBay Mobile App

As shown on the listing page, customers have access to robust refine functionality that helps them narrow a potentially overwhelming number of search results:

The ForeSee Blog eBay Mobile App

Once customers have found a product of interest, they are provided with a similar level of detail as on the full desktop site, with complete details and product descriptions, as well as prominent links to bid or purchase immediately, when available:

The ForeSee Blog eBay Mobile App

For those who are not ready to buy, customers can add the item to their Watch List and be reminded via email when “watched” auctions are ending.

The ForeSee Blog eBay Mobile App

Some strengths of the eBay Mobile shopping app include:

  • Prominent access to Search. Mobile users tend to be Search-centric when it comes to locating products or information, so highlighting this feature on the homepage as well as the main navigation across the bottom of the screen is a benefit for customers.
  • Robust Search and Refine functionality help customers home in on exactly what they want. Mirroring the great features of the full desktop site, the mobile app presents a wide array of criteria on which customers can narrow and refine their Search.
  • Integration with device functionality (camera barcode scanner) streamlines comparison shopping.
  • Saved Searches and Watched items are available cross-platform, so customers can begin a transaction on their mobile device and complete it later on their computer, or vice versa. The ability to maintain engagement across platforms is one of the major benefits of providing a mobile retail app, and eBay demonstrates how this ability can be seamless for customers switching from platform to platform. The app maintains advantages over a mobile-optimized site in the additional functionality available through the phone’s hardware—using the camera and UPC scanning—as well as better support of native gestures and design patterns.

However, the app also presents some key opportunities:

  • Though the app provides Sort functionality, it is hidden somewhat unintuitively behind the link for Refine.  Customers often want to confirm how the default list is sorted, or would like to customize the sort order—for instance, seeing auctions ending soonest rather than “best match”. Locating this important functionality behind a misleading link label means customers looking for Sort will have to hunt for it, finding it only through trial and error.
  • Customers may begin their Search on the standard eBay app we have been discussing, but, depending on their needs, another eBay-brand app, such as eBay Fashion, eBay Motors,, or StubHub may be relevant or even  more appropriate ways to find what they’re interested in buying. Cross promoting apps has the potential to further increase engagement with mobile users and keep them shopping within the eBay family of sites and apps.

Overall, the eBay app carries over the robust features and functionality that make its website so popular and successful. Next, we’ll take a look at the Amazon Mobile app, its strengths and weaknesses, and make some comparisons with eBay’s app.

This is the fifth blog post by the ForeSee Usability Team regarding some of the top shopping apps available. Read more below:

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About the Author

Kathy Totz, ForeSee Senior Usability Analyst, conducts usability evaluations for financial services, retail, technology, telecommunications, and health care clients. She holds an MS in Information from the University of Michigan, specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. She also earned a BS in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Illinois Wesleyan University, where she published several peer-reviewed research studies.

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