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EBay India Launches "Super Optimised" Mobile Site m.eBay.in; SMS Price Check Facility

EBay India has launched m.ebay.in, a website for online shoppers in India.

The eBay India site, or Mobile Web as the company likes to call it, is designed for all GPRS / EDGE / 3G enabled handsets and is a platform where consumers can find, buy and pay for products from the mobile.

So far, mobile users have been able to access the mobile version of Ebay.in on their handsets. But it was not optimised for Indian mobile Internet speeds and usage from a design perspective. The company is confidently calling it "super optimised" though it is still in the Beta stage. EBay expects to receive feedback from users to help enhance the experience.

Isn't the launch delayed? EBay's Director – Marketing & Product, Muralikrishnan B., disagrees, stating that the company is on the contrary getting in early, in expectation of 3G networks swelling mobile data usage in the country. Right now, the number of mobile Internet (2.5G or GPRS) users in India is still a very small number. Only 40% of mobile users have GPRS enabled phones (note - they have access, but that does not mean they are using it). "Poor data connectivity is an issue but with more networks rolling out 3G, we expect explosive growth in mobile Internet usage," he said. Quoting an August 2010 report called 'Mobile Broadband Outlook 2015' by Pricewaterhouse Coopers PwC, he said that 3G will have 107 million subscribers by 2015, which will translate into higher data usage on mobiles.

Another trend which will aid eBay is the rising number of low end smartphones. Though there are around 800 million mobile users in India, only 3% of them are smartphone users today. "But this is changing fast with adoption of low cost smartphones and Android OS based phones which has brought down the cost of engaging smartphones in the market," he added.

The Site

In comparison with eBay's website, the mobile site is different and not just a mobile version.

"The navigation is very different from the online site - it posed a different design challenge because there is no mouse. Also, there was the fundamental differences of speed of our mobile Internet networks, which mean changes to the page weight and number of images we could have. Instead of search, which works well on the website, we introduced a guided finding experience. Especially on phones without a qwerty keyboard, this was necessary," he said.

We tested it out - there is a search option but large images act as shortcuts allowing you to directly jump to a category. An image of Bluetooth, for example, takes the user to a page where Bluetooth dongles, hands free headsets and other Bluetooth accessories are listed. There are tiny images of the products, the name and the prices in no particular order which can be switched to filter by Price or you can search for products within a price range. One can also select a sub-category. There's an ad for deals of the week for eBay's recently launched Social Shopping at the bottom of the site. Four other categories are listed below the shortcuts - mobiles, jewellery, digi-cams and perfumes. Probably the most important fact is that you do not need to have an eBay account or sign in to access the prices!

The eBay Indian centre developed this site, designing the user interface from the grounds up for various mobile phone form factors, said Muralikrishnan. It piloted the site with its employees for six months to make changes that will make it easier for Indian mobile users. One of the feedbacks given by the employees helped them re-design it for touchscreen phones.

SMS Facility

EBay has tied up with SMS Gupshup for the shortcode 567678. Users can check the price of their planned buy by sending SMSs to this number. The company does not intend to actively drive transactions through this facility - it has been launched to offer users an option of receiving information on prices even while on the move. Customers have to pay Rs 3 per text message - if they know the model number, it's one click to get the price. Else, the company guides you through the categories and subcategories to reach the device you want.

The SMS facility is not integrated with daily deals, Muralikrishan said.

Global

In 2008, EBay's global mobile site m.eBay.com was launched. This website had a new user interface specifically designed for mobile users, taking into consideration the differences in user interface between a mobile and a PC experience. The site has gone down well with the users since then and in 2010, the company reported $2 billion of business in mobile transactions. EBay recently launched an app called See It On for the iPhone which adds a layer of augmented reality, allowing a user to virtually try on sunglasses!

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