Wish.com – “Online shopping experience” or “A retail experiment I almost forgot”

Mobile commerce is especially popular among young consumers. Photo: pixabay.

„I have a sending from China for you“ said the postman with some excitement and pride in his voice while I open the door. He hands over a small bag-like packet with Chinese letters all over it. To be honest, I almost forgot about it. Four weeks ago, while I was attending the Digital Commerce Day in Hamburg, with some amusement the digital tribe there discussed the rise of a new website called wish.com. A B2C trade platform offering consumer goods of all kinds with worldwide shipping service.

Back at home, without having anything special in mind I took my iPad and had a virtual stroll through the assortment on their app. Being an angler, a one hand folding knife with wooden handle for 5 Euro got my attention. Although it was not mentioned in the text, the photos in the description were showing a renowned brand name engraved in the handle. “It can only be crap”, I thought, and with some ridiculous pleasure I clicked it into my virtual shopping cart. Immediately afterwards a countdown started, offering a 10% discount when ordering within the next four minutes. I checked the freightcosts, which were mentioned as 4 Euro. A bargain when you imagine it is shipped from China all the way to Germany.

At the checkout I was at ease seeing Visa, Master, Paypal, Alipay, Klarna, etc., the who-is-who of relevant international payment systems, was accepted. “Fine” I said with a smile and ordered. Needless to say, I had my doubts it would ever find its way here. Four weeks later it actually arrived. It came in a bubble wrapped envelope, inside a brown branded craft box with the folded knife. Although it needed some additional sharpening, I was actually surprised by the quality. Not high-end, but somewhere in the range of knives that retail for around 30 Euro in Germany.

OK, nice experiment, but of course I had my doubts: production standards, BSCI, environmental, customs clearance, copyright violations, etc., but also doubts about my ecological footprint when flying a < 5 Euro item all over the world.

Leaving these ethic thoughts aside for a moment, the platform itself ignited my interest. Wish.com initially started solely as a mobile app. According to Similarweb, in the first quarter in 2018 in Germany, Wish ranked 3rd in most downloaded shopping apps for iPhone, directly behind Amazon and ebay. 4th rank in downloads for Android smartphones. Only the Payback app, which is having significant importance also for German brick-and-mortar retail, in is ranking 3rd in between.

Needless to say this is threatening German retailers immensely. According to Handelsblatt 40% of German ecommerce turnover was already generated through mobile phones in 2017. Especially young people prefer this way of shopping. And as Criteo puts it, 63% percent of this turnover came from an app.

Obviously Wish hit a nerve here. But what is it that makes the app so popular particularly among young people?

  1. It started as a mobile app. Younger people obviously have a stronger affinity towards mobile phones. A lot of them did not experience the PC age or cannot even remember a world pre-internet. Smartphones today are often more powerful than many desktop PCs have ever been.
  2. The shopping experience on Wish is completely different and following a new approach. Wheras most competitors focus on a selective search for a specific product, Wish invites users to stroll around and get inspired.

Wish is targeting bargain hunters, thousands of new products get featured on the app every day, ranging from fashion and lifestyle to technology. In parallel the app displays savings when buying and applies sublte pressure by starting a countdown once items are put in the shopping cart.

The founders of Wish.com are former managers of Yahoo and Google, located in the San Francisco area. The app is often criticized for slack data handling and accessing intimate data on your device. The company is to manage any claims that may come with your purchase. They purely understand themselves as providers of a trade platform. As most traders on the platform are Chinese bargain sellers, an after sales service or claim seems difficult for consumers.

Nevertheless the success of Wish.com seems unstoppable. In the US it has been downloaded more often than Amazon in 2017 and according to Similarweb, it is already the most downloaded shopping app of iPhone-users in France and UK. What do you think? Will Germany be next?


About the author: Mark Pfeiffer is a German retail sales expert and publisher of the blog www.retailpilot.de about German consumer goods retail, online or offline. Please like, share, comment or follow if you liked the article! Please kindly note that English is not my mother tongue. My apologies if my wording is sometimes a bit simple.