Wimsi is an independent project that improves on the peer-to-peer used goods marketplace through design-thinking. Its innovation consists of three characteristics: a purely economical market, streamlined communication, and integration of payments systems.
2016 - 2017
1. identify the problems
Challenge: to improve on current peer-to-peer marketplace platforms
Users: users include buyers and sellers of used goods
Success metrics: number of listings and responses, user base, number of customer service tickets
Mature P2P marketplaces are plagued by the following problems:
Buyers and sellers have difficulty closing deals efficiently.
Both buyers and sellers make false promises to each other to be selected for a transaction.
Plethora of fraudulent transactions make selling and buying difficult.
∴ We need at least the following changes to create a better experience:
More incentives for buyers and sellers to close deals.
Better communication between buyers and sellers.
More accountable, safer and easier transactions.
2. user research and competitive analysis
A survey through my social circles not only determined the validity of the problems, but also allowed us to gain insights on the experiences - good and bad - users may have had with the current competition (Craigslist, OfferUp, eBay, and Amazon marketplace). We performed competitive analysis to determine the platforms' pros and pain points. By using the information, we were able to figure out our users' needs/our goals, and determine the appropriate assumptions and constraints:
We took a page from Stephen Anderson's UX Hierarchy of Needs and focused on improving basic function to create our minimum viable product. Although we drew much inspiration from the survey, we decided to prioritize the three problems listed in #1 as the key areas of focus since those problems directly affect the functions and purpose of a marketplace.
We deliberately wanted the first iteration of the new marketplace to be as bare-bones as possible, with the only unique features being the solutions we wish to present to the users. This way, we can clearly see if our solutions are effective with minimal costs and resources.
The questions, however, remain. How do we...
Encourage buyers and sellers to close more deals, quickly and easily?
Solution: we create a price-less marketplace by not allowing sellers to list prices and allow buyers to make offers. If the buyers make an offer at a price higher than the seller would have sold at, then both parties gain. This also reduces the amount of necessary conversation and encourages deals to close more quickly.
Here we introduce the concept of a "pure" economy into a technology platform. To improve the most basic function of a marketplace, buying and selling, we have to understand how economics applies to basic markets. Without considering external factors, buyers naturally want to buy at the lowest price and sellers want to sell at the highest price.
For modern-day retail, items are strategically priced by sellers after they consider market fit and consumers would buy as listed. In a used goods market and as our survey showed, the benefit is buyers are allowed to bargain and buy at better prices since the items are mostly used and have depreciated to an unknown value.
However, we realize that buyers and sellers are pushing too much to buy and sell at the price that they want; this is creating inefficiency.
Market prices will naturally shift towards equilibrium (the only price where the plans of consumers and the plans of producers agree); but the struggle is too real and evident from the process of bargaining.
The complementary question is: how do we create a faster process for this natural shift towards equilibrium? By flipping the seller-buyer power dynamic. Sellers are discouraged to list prices and buyers make offers, similar to how auctions work. What makes this model unique from a typical auction is that we eliminate the time constraints and censor the going rates so buyers make offers solely according to their own judgments.
The result is we remove the process where buyers see the price and bargain for less than what is asked for, and the similar process where sellers list a price slightly above what they are looking for.
The interaction flow becomes: the seller, instead of having to discuss with each buyer individually, receives a list of all available offers from all potential buyers and simply chooses one to accept.
Improve communication between buyers and sellers?
Solution: we provide in-app chat capabilities; also automate and limit the responses to only those necessary for transactions.
The users who used competitive apps noted that one of the features they admired the most was the in-app communication capabilities. The more traditional marketplaces force the user to utilize his or her own email/text/phone services to communicate with buyers and sellers because they have no such functions. This also creates inefficiency.
Since there is a trend in using mobile apps as opposed to websites, integrating chat capabilities into the app is necessary. So this allows buyers and sellers to speak to each other more easily; but what about the content of their conversation?
We explore what users need to communicate to close a transaction. Here is the basic flow and some of the more common content when buyers and sellers communicate:
When most of the content is expected, we can simplify this process by automating and limiting communication. This means we allow buyers and sellers to communicate only necessary phrases, such as, "Your offer is rejected because it is too low," or automatically sending a message to all buyers informing them the particular item they wanted has already been sold.
While this may seem like we are inhibiting transactions if buyers have a question about the product, we hope that sellers can be encouraged to post more detailed descriptions to ease buyers and to avoid the back-and-forth questions if this were on a traditional platform. Metrics will ultimately dictate whether or not this particular feature is effective; if not, it will be simple enough to add an open message function where the users can message each other.
Create safer, financial transactions?
Solution: we allow user ratings, integrate payments systems into the app and regulate financial transactions.
With the users' safety as a significant priority, payments systems provide accountability for both buyers and sellers. With an integrated system, we can expand our markets nationally from only local sales because buyers and sellers can buy, sell, pay, and ship, from further away.
User ratings and reviews provide accountability so buyers will be aware of the credibility (or lack thereof) of sellers. In case of disputes, we can contact both buyers and sellers and resolve issues per our policies. Buyers and sellers no longer have to meet up at designated locations. This discourages frauds and schemes and provides a safer experience for both users.
4. Design and iterate
For the user interface, we decided to consolidate the "new features" into one page. We envisioned a "manage offers" page, where sellers can easily browse through and respond to each offer they receive. This is the content that differentiates us from mainstream marketplace platforms.
On the right, we have one of the first iterations of the functional web app. Previously, the project was called ThisForThat. It was by no means aesthetically pleasing; but this lean prototype was used to beta test the function of the "manage offers" page with friends and family. We have since pivoted to making only a mobile app.
This was a mobile app iteration designed with Sketch. We focused on what makes Wimsi unique - the ability to manage offers and communicate necessary information to the other party. Because we realized that a lot of the information comes in the form of lists, we decided that card-based designs are best to minimize visual load and clutter by compacting these lists into separate cards. Without cards, it will be pages full of lists. or various pages with various lists, which feels more cumbersome than lists within cards because everything is visually similar.
As a safety feature, an accountability system through the form of ratings (1 to 5) are omnipresent next to user's names. This encourages users to want higher ratings and actually makes the digits part of their identity. The stars are also color-coded to set a consistent scale and a better of idea of what the ratings mean (e.g./ green is excellent, yellow is okay, red is bad).
Manage offers - Seller:
The listings can be expanded into card view, with caption-like descriptions to summarize the contents of the list. The seller can then decide to reject or accept the offers by swiping left or right, a technique made popular by the dating app, Tinder.
Reject Reasons - Seller:
If the seller swipes left and rejects a specific offer, this card appears. Within this card is a small list of possible reasons for wanting to reject the offer. This is a unique design feature that streamlines communication between sellers and buyers.
Manage offers - Buyer:
Offer Info - Buyer:
This page allows the buyers to sort through his or her own offers that they made. An aggregate of all transactions are viewed here. Since the information here may potentially be too much, we use a list with the option to sort through various characteristics, such as by pending offers, rejected offers, accepted offers, date.
A pop-up card appears if you press into any of the items in the offers made list; more information appears, including item description, seller information, and seller's response to the offer. If and only if the reason for rejection is because the offer amount was too low, a "counter-offer" option opens, allowing for the buyer to make a higher offer.
The production of our app stops here for now due to time and resources. We hope to bring this to full production one day and truly see if our assumptions are correct. There are many more features we would also like to implement; unfortunately, we currently lack the resources and the confidence to do so without successfully testing the features we have planned for now. For our vision, we wish to eventually:
- Partner with local delivery services so there is a middleman that picks up and delivers items. This will reduce shipping costs and increase delivery times. These logistics personnel can also verify the quality of items before they deliver to reduce customer service issues.
- Create more barriers for scammers. This creates more efficiency so users don't have to filter through unnecessary information. There is always a need to nurture a more trustworthy environment for buying and selling used products.
- Implement search intelligence. Search results will not only list the results generated by keywords, but also list results suggested by the system generated from user behavior.
To be continued
Feel free to use any of the material here as inspiration if you are after a similar pursuit. I have since put this project on hold to focus on other priorities but will be all the more happy to see our P2P marketplace platforms today evolve for the better, through Wimsi or competition. If you wish to understand more, collaborate, or share your thoughts or advice regarding this project, please don't hesitate to contact me. :)