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EBay, Zappos get first-mover advantage with iOS 7 app updates

EBay, One Kings Lane and Zappos are getting a jump-start on Apple’s iOS 7 with applications that take advantage of new gesture- and photo-based features, which will likely give the brands a leg-up on the expected increase in mobile commerce this holiday season.

IOS 7 gives marketers a completely new framework to develop apps for because the operating system focuses more on intuitive touch and visual features. The new operating system includes brighter colors, an overall cleaner look and new multitasking tools that should give marketers a bigger opportunity to develop apps for iOS devices versus other operating systems.

“When an operating system’s look and feel changes, the challenge is not only to make sure the app works, but that the look and feel of the app matches the operating system’s design,” said Hiedi Utley, iOS software engineer at Zappos, Las Vegas, NV.

“Of the two, matching the look and feel maybe more challenging depending on how much the look and feel will change,” she said.

“Since iOS 7 embraces flat design, a move that is quite a departure from skeuomorphism, there is quite a bit of updating that needs to take place on the design front.”

Brand new experience
The look and feel of iOS 7 apps is significantly different from other mobile apps because the focus is more on swiping and emphasizing photos.

Screens are more transparent and let users switch between apps quicker, meaning that retailers will need to create more compelling content to keep a consumer’s already-short attention span.

Additionally, Apple is taking a bigger bet on multitasking for apps that other manufacturers such as Samsung and Windows are also using to differentiate their products from competitors.

The software claims to learn which apps consumers use most often and at what times of the day to keep content up to date.

IOS 7 automatically updates content in the background while an app is running and picks up on when a consumer is connected to Wi-Fi or plugged-in to save data and the battery life.

EBay is taking advantage of these new opportunities with an updated iPhone and iPad app that plays up search to make it easier for consumers to quickly find what they are looking for.

For example, consumers can swipe their finger across the screen to find search options in eBay’s iPhone app. Options to refine search options show up directly on the search results screen in a scrollable carousel.

On the seller side, the upload speed has been improved to decrease the amount of time needed to post an item for sale.

Other small changes include updates to editing shipping information and new currency conversions between international and United States items.

EBay’s iPad app includes a new feature called Night Mode, which switches the app to feature a subdued black theme that makes it easier for consumers to see content while in a dark environment.

Given that iPads tend to be used primarily at home, often in bed rooms when consumers have a few extra minutes on their hands, eBay’s feature is tailored for night use and is a good example of an app that taps into the contextual differences between tablet and smartphone users.

The eBay iPad app in Night Mode

Making the switch
B&H Photo has also updated its mobile app with a new design for iOS 7.

B&H Photo’s iPhone app now includes high-resolution photos with a different interface. Additionally, consumers can read reviews and learn more about specifications and features of products.

“Our goal was to insure that the iOS user upgrading to 7.0 has a seamless experience using our app,” said Zisha Schnitzler, director of Web and mobile channels at B&H Photo, New York.

One Kings Lane’s new iPhone app also includes a new, streamlined user interface as well as an option to share items directly from the app to Pinterest.

Since iOS 7 automatically updates mobile apps, retailers that are getting a head start with new apps now will likely benefit this holiday season.

“IOS is our most important mobile channel both in terms of revenue and traffic,” said David Yu, chief product officer at One Kings Lane, San Francisco.

“Providing a seamless and integrated experience for our customers at the launch of iOS 7 was a high priority for us,” he said. “New features like auto-update will dramatically change the way we develop our native apps going forward, so we wanted to move quickly and optimize for the new operative system right away.”

Based on the uptick in mobile commerce over the past few holiday seasons, consumers will shop more on their smartphones and tablets this year.

Although this presents an opportunity, it also means that retailers will have a smaller opportunity to create a seamless experience.

“Apps are going to play and are currently playing a huge role in retailer strategies,” said Arun Ramdeane
senior account executive at Atimi Software, Vancouver, Canada.

“Those that don’t have one are scrambling to get their apps out the door,” he said. “Apps are giving retailers the ability to know more about their customer and this data is being translated into strategic decisions for the business.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York