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Amazon and eBay go mobile with mass customization

For many fashion buyers, shopping for clothes is not about buying one single article of clothing but putting together an entire outfit.

This year, eBay joined a host of mass-customization sites that enable buyers to create outfits by opening its “Fashion Vault.”

Now, with an innovative product configurator that they call an “outfit builder,” eBay has enabled shoppers to create outfits by mixing and matching the millions of garments available on eBay.

The Vault recently opened for business on mobile devices, enabling users to “try the clothes on” by taking a snapshot of themselves and adding shots of the clothes to the image.

Amazon, meanwhile, has introduced a similar service to the iPad – although the application experiments with enhancing the product discovery experience with touch-screen navigation. 

IPad users can now shop for items at the online retailer without relying on conventional keyword search. The application optimizes for the mobile environment by allowing users to easily scroll via touching and swiping – without the need to type.

In addition to ecommerce juggernauts eBay and Amazon, swaths of fashion brands and startups have entered the mobile shopping space. According to fashion blog SheFinds and fashion site a few must-have fashion iPhone applications are:

• Touch Closet
• Chanel
• Love it or Lose it
• Seventeen Fashion Finder
• Gilt Groupe
• Shop Style
• Ask a stylist – Glamour

These new mobile services are a clear indication that the worlds of fashion, ecommerce, social media, mass customization and the mobile Internet are all colliding.  

Specifically, these vendors are finding opportunity by:

Focusing on mobile: These companies are reaching out to mobile customers by enabling interactive mobile shopping experiences. Mobile is no longer an experiment – it is as important as the Internet.

Focusing on browse rather than search: Amazon especially is favoring browsing (category selection) versus search (i.e., typing a keyword search) as a necessary part of the shopping experience.  
In the context of a touch-screen, browse can be more visual, faster and more intuitive than a conventional keyword search.

Social sharing and recommendations: EBay’s service allows customers to recommend products to friends – and even group fashion outfits together to recommend as gifts that can be paid for collectively by groups of friends.   
As ecommerce becomes more mobile, it inherently becomes more social.

Virtual try it on: For the first time, eBay is letting users virtually try on clothes via a mobile device. 
The inability to try on clothing over the Internet has been the Achilles’ heel of ecommerce. Many companies are now innovating in the digital shopping space by experimenting with virtual fitting rooms. 

And how big is mobile shopping going to be for online retailers? EBay expects mobile commerce to surpass traditional ecommerce sales.

As put by eBay product manager Oliver Cockcroft:

“For eBay, mobile commerce is the future, and our plan is to innovate and hit the gas pedal – we don’t see the steep growth trajectory of mobile commerce changing.

“We went from three people on the eBay mobile team to 70 in the last year and a half. … In the future, we will see our mobile commerce business surpass our ecommerce business, especially when you take tablets into account.”

Dave Sloan is CEO of Treehouse Logic, a Menlo Park, CA-based provider of hosted design tools. Reach him at [email protected].