July 15, 2010, 3:17 PM

Apps for everything, including fashion

eBay aims to release a new app every five weeks.

Lead Photo

As a massive online marketplace, eBay Inc.’s web site is a labyrinth featuring more than 200 million products, along with everything from an online fashion magazine to a daily deals site. That diversity is part of what makes eBay eBay. But navigating that maze of content and products could be tough for consumers using mobile phones.

That’s the reason eBay has maintained one overarching philosophy as it developed each of its mobile apps—keep it simple. “We want the mobile experience, regardless of app or platform, to be as streamlined and intuitive as possible,” says Steve Yankovich, eBay vice president, platform business solutions and mobile.

Common to all of eBay’s mobile apps is the idea that the app has to work as a mobile application that is with the consumer all of his waking hours. Users should be able to use the app when they’re on the go, says Yankovich.

“That may mean they are literally walking,” he says. “Or they’re standing on the side of a soccer field watching their kid play. Or they’re in a place where they don’t have a computer.”

Yankovich says he aims to release a new app or update every five weeks, which includes replicating an existing app on a new platform, such as porting a Blackberry app to work on Android phones. EBay develops its mobile technology in-house.

The goal for each app is to address consumers’ unmet needs in innovative ways that create buzz and excitement, says Yankovich. “We want to create something that is interesting enough that friends tell their friends about the app and it spreads via word of mouth,” he says.

For instance, eBay plans to soon release a fashion app that seeks to encapsulate the marketplace’s eBay Fashion tab in an app. The app will leverage mobile phones’ cameras and allow shoppers to virtually try on apparel. The app allows users to superimpose an item, such as a ring, on a photograph of the shopper’s finger. “That’s something that’s fun that you’ll want to show your friends,” he says.

So far, eBay’s approach has worked. The value of merchandise sold via its mobile platforms totaled more than $600 million last year, and eBay says it expects to eclipse $1.5 billion this year. EBay had by far the highest mobile sales last year among the few retailers that reported how much consumers purchased via their mobile phones.

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