Mobile Commerce in Europe: vente-privee.com’s boom [INTERVIEW]
vente-privee.com is a well known French company operating in the international e-commerce market: it is a club that manages “sale events” during which users can buy every kind of product (clothing, design, hi-tech, toys and even tickets and travels) from top level brands, at bargain prices.
The peculiarity of vente-privee.com is the way such sale events are executed. First, the sale is announced to the community, using a mailing list, a forum and social media; then, the actual sale takes place and all items usually sell out in a few hours. The whole process never lasts more than 3 to 5 days. Convenience, prestigious brands and a strong focus on innovation and branding, made vente-privee a successful business in just a few years.
vente-privee.com’s European users amount to more than 15 millions, its website achieved the impressive figure of 45 millions hits each per month, 6.700.000 of which are originated from iPhones. The Company has developed custom applications for the most common smartphones and tablet platforms (iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7), from which it’s possible to both purchase items and pin down future and ongoing events in a calendar.
We discussed mobile commerce with Xavier Court, vente-privee’s partner and responsible for communications and business development, whom we met at the Company’s headquarters in Paris, a few kilometers away from the heart of the city, and asked him how vente-privee became so successful.
Mobile commerce is taking off world-wide, including Europe. How did you approach the mobile compartment?
Vente-privee always places the consumer at the center of everything, with a strong focus on involvement and ease of access. In our opinion, mobile doesn’t replace the traditional web, but complements it. It is important that both our website and the quality of service are consistent through time. Since 2010, the diffusion of mobile devices never slowed down. In particular, smartphones became part of our life, they enable us to connect from wherever we are, whenever; they went from consuming subjects to consuming tools. The key to success in the mobile sector is to have mobile-enabled websites, but also to develop features that are dedicated to the various models. As an example, our iPhone app is different from the iPad app.
In what ways? What are the peculiar features of the apps that you developed?
As I said, content consumption is different based on the device used, because we need to leverage their capabilities in order to have an optimal use experience on each model. For example, iOS apps are developed using HTML5, which, in our opinion, is the most flexible and overall best technology available.
The graphical interface is adapted to each device, for the user experience to be as easy, fast and intuitive as possible. For example, in the graphical part of vente-privee’s “shop windows”, there’s a lot more room available when running on the tablet, which yields a better ability to explore the product’s pictures, and we exploited this feature by proposing an horizontal layout, rather than vertical, to enhance even more the browsing of videos and pictures.
If, instead, we connect using an iPhone, most contents are proposed through a vertical layout, and there’s a stronger attention to the overall offer, but since iPhone can be tilted horizontally, we made sure that switching between the two orientations result in an equally enjoyable browsing experience.
Of course, regardless of the connecting client, all product information will always be available, including feature specifications and an eventual video trailer, to ensure a shopping experience equally complete, fluid and entertaining to all members.
Up until now, we had more than 145,000 downloads from Android devices, and 1.6 million apps downloaded on iOS ones.
Let’s crunch some numbers, what is the percentage of mobile sales with respect to all sales?
Looking at all sales, the mobile channel contributes about 16% of it. Such percentage varies from Country to Country. The most advanced market is the UK, where mobile contributes 22,5%. France comes next, with 16%, then Italy, with 14,5%.
[the Company scored 1,073 billion Euro gross profits in 2011] Without a doubt, this is a growing market and is influencing the consumer behaviors.
[During my visit, I came to know more details about consumer's behavior: iPhone's peak connection time is between 7am and 9am, while iPad's is 9pm - 10pm. Female users are more than male ones, world-wide. I met an Italian sales manager who told me about a female French habit: the buy via mobile directly from their bed, around 7am, then they sleep a little more].
Are you planning any mobile-specific campaign, to either boost or promote such channel?
To be honest, no, because we don’t want to either penalize or privilege a particular user only because he uses one platform instead of another. All our users are equal to us, and we try to provide all of them with top quality regardless of the technology they use. However this doesn’t mean that we’ll stop perfecting our apps, to keep offering a great purchase experience to mobile users.
(Interview by Simona Melani)