The State of the Buy & Sell Market in Hong Kong – 2016

Swapit has seen some phenomenal growth in the year 2016 that has just passed. Our community has increased significantly and the activity on our marketplace is growing day-by-day. To ensure, we are addressing the right audience, we keep a close eye on how our users are using Swapit, what’s useful, what can be improved and especially what kind of content they like.

While we already see growing traction across the globe, our core user base is still in Hong Kong. So we have gathered all the products being posted on Swapit in 2016 and looked at their categorization. There is an interesting shift from our previous analysis in March 2016, but please have a look yourself:

swapit_trade-stats_2017-01_1440x1080

So our top 3 product categories are now:

  1. Fashion
  2. Jewelry & Watches
  3. Consumer Electronics

Compared to our previous chart from March 2016 that’s a bit of a shift. In March the top 3 categories were:

  1. Consumer Electronics
  2. Fashion
  3. Home Appliances

I am already excited how 2017 will turn out. We have some serious changes for Swapit in the making and our growth projections are even more exciting. Stay tuned for more on that!

Have you tried Swapit yet? Get it at: http://get.swapit.la/now

New Blog URL http://blog.swapit.la

swapit-blog_searchFollowing my blog post yesterday about “Swapit Ranks #1 on Google Search” I decided to throw in an extra hour of work to do research on the latest SEO trends. While ranking #1 for your own product name is a very good thing when it comes to rather generic names like Swapit, it is still not the ultimate goal we want to achieve.

In the long run, we need to rank very high for search terms like “second hand”, “used stuff”, “marketplace”, etc. in English as well as their equivalents in local languages.

Google’s search algorithms are constantly changing. Just tiny changes can have a big effect on businesses across the globe. Yet, we had some elementary mismatch between our blog URL and our website.

At the same time, we’ve always had a forwarder called http://blog.swapit.la, which automatically forwarded the reader to https://swapitblogit.wordpress.com. While that worked well for normal humans, it basically cuts off the Google search spider at the first step before the forwarding.

Furthermore, all content published on this blog under https://swapitblogit.wordpress.com, did not have any effect on the content creation on our website http://swapit.la. As a result, all backlinks our blog generated, only lead back to our blog. Those backlinks are important for our SEO ranking and therefore, we need them to lead to our main website.

swapit_marketing-dollarWhen you’re a startup, many things are about money and how much you spend for what. In our case, I did not want to host our blog ourselves, so we’re hosting it on wordpress.com. You get a free sub-domain with the free account, so we chose https://swapitblogit.wordpress.com. If you want to map a custom domain to your blog, you’ll have to pay. For a long time, I’ve been resisting that, to save money and also because I thought it might not be that important to map our own domain to our blog. After yesterday’s blog post and quite a bit of research, I realized it is actually important to map your own and I should have done that much earlier. In the end, it costs only US$13 per year to map your own custom domain a wordpress.com blog. Sure, it costs wordpress.com literally nothing to offer that service, but that’s what they charge.

So the change has been done and it is working quite. All of our old links still work the same way they worked before. They’re just all forwarding to our new domain.

Our new blog post URL is now: http://blog.swapit.la

Now, we have the folks that might say: “http://swapit.la/blog is even better than a sub-domain at http://blog.swapit.la“. That might even be true, but I haven’t found any concrete evidence of that. Yet, several folks reported that such a “sub-directory” setup does somehow rank higher on Google. Perhaps that is true, I can’t really tell at this moment. As we are using Strikingly for our main company website, we actually can not easily map a “sub-directory” from that website to a separate blog. So that’s something out of question at the moment. At least until either Strikingly adds that functionality or we move our main website to a different hosting service or self-host it.

swapit_marketing-chart-growAnyhow, I’ve scheduled a task for myself in a month’s time to review the change in Google Search index ranking and re-evaluate if any additional changes are needed, and especially if this recent change has paid off. Until then, stay tuned for more on what we’re doing at Swapit and why we’re doing that.

Have you tried Swapit yet? It’s free. Get it from: http://get.swapit.la/now

Company Showdown: letgo vs. Swapit vs. Saily vs. OfferUp (by Owler)

It appears earlier this year in January, the online service Owler has created a comparison chart, which compared four companies in the peer-to-peer marketplace field with each other. One of them was Swapit!

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It came mainly from the angle of comparing the US/Barcelona-based, South-African-backed company letgo with the rest of the world. Given that letgo has now raised over US$200M in funding (and acquired its competitor Wallapop), and OfferUp has also raised hundreds of millions; it is an honor to be named along with them at the same time.

The “Company Showdown” was created by Owler, which describes itself as:

The free, must-have platform for outsmarting your competition

Funny enough, they have some kind of CEO-ranking, in which for some reason, I seem to score rather high. Yet, I believe everyone on the chart is doing a great job and some folks have a lot more experience than me and would definitely deserve a higher score.

2016-11-24_owler-company-showdown-2

When it comes to startup blogs, there seems to be no other startup that provides as much secret insight into their doings, as we do with our Swapit blog! Make sure to bookmark or just simply remember our blog, it’s really easy: http://blog.swapit.la

2016-11-24_owler-company-showdown-3

As of today, our blog has actually grown to a staggering 189 blog posts since we launched with our first blog post on January 23rd, 2015: The idea behind Swapit.

If you’re interested, you can check out the full overview on LinkedIn SlideShare: letgo, Swapit, Saily, OfferUp | Company Showdown

Have you tried Swapit yet? It’s free to download, free to buy and free to sell: http://get.swapit.la

The Best User Experience – and nothing else

swapit-blog-interestsWe are in constant contact with our users. That’s important, because only that way we find out about road blocks they might have and things that might slow them down when using Swapit.

While Swapit has grown into a great marketplace app, where our users can trade efficiently, privately and in a seamless manner; there is always space for improvement. We will not rest if we can still improve the life of our users. These can be simple things, like making them smile the first time they start Swapit because a lovely “Swapit la!” voice comes out of their phone.

BEAUTIFYING THE SWAPIT LAUNCH EXPERIENCE

This is how Swapit on iPhone and Android looks like when you start it first day in the morning:

It’s informative and functional. We show such startup dialogs because we want to communicate to our users what has changed. We want to be sure they are aware of the cool new features we’ve just put into Swapit. Like on iOS for example, you can post your items for sale at multiple locations. No other app has that kind of feature!

While these dialogs serve a purpose, they are however, rather ugly. The launch experience is diminished by them showing up. They’re too text heavy, not catchy enough and are missing a certain twang.

That dialog does show way too often as well. For example, it always shows when after the app was force-closed or after the phone was rebooted. In short: it gets annoying.

That’s exactly the kind of feedback we’ve received from our users. Most appreciate our intention to communicate, but generally, it needs to be done more subtle and with more style. Granted, we have quite some space for improvement on that front.

CONSOLIDATING LAUNCH EXPERIENCE

At the same time, we also know that we have many other dialogs that might show up at app start. Say for example, when a user’s account got suspended, when we have a new version everyone needs to update to or when the user receives some referral reward, and so on. In fact, we have identified 15 different cases so far of what can happen when or better what we want to show at startup in each of those cases. That’s a lot.

So we are now in the process of consolidating all such cases and we are following multiple goals:

  1. Improve the Overall User Experience
  2. Beautify the Visual Appearance
  3. Simplify In-App Navigation
  4. Improve Manageability of Content
  5. Load Dynamic Content (e.g. promotions)

img_20161110_1508522For all of that, we defined a very simple visual structure for our startup dialog with the following key elements:

  1. Title
  2. Image
  3. Countdown
  4. Text
  5. Action 1 (Label + URI)
  6. Action 2 (Label + URI)

All such elements are optional, but generally, we would almost always use at least an image, text and an action.

At the same time, we are also taking care of what happens when we would want to show multiple startup dialogs at the same time. The best way we could think of, was to prioritize all kinds of dialogs that would show up. Say for example an “Account Suspended” dialog has the highest priority, so in case a “Welcome” dialog would want to show as well, the “Account Suspended” dialog received precedence to show up and lock the suspended user out. Of course, there’s an action offered to contact us and resolve the issue.

Furthermore, we combine this with a queueing system. Sometimes it happens, we want to show two things at a time, but one dialog is more important, so that dialog shows. However, the other dialog, which was not shown, might be important enough that we still want to show it at some point in time. So we’re putting in a queueing system that allows us to queue a dialog to show it the next time.

While I am writing this down, I am imagining someone reading it and thinking: “Isn’t all of this a bit overkill for just a simple startup dialog?” Well, I believe it is absolutely important to make sure our users are not annoyed by any step inside our app. So if our startup currently shows up too often and if it is just too ugly right now, we need to change that. But if we change it, we change it properly. Our users deserve nothing but the best.

ITERATING THROUGH DESIGNS

Since the onset, we’ve been iterating at an amazing pace. Not just in terms of Swapit app releases (we’ve released over 140 thus far), but also in terms of designs. We’re constantly evaluating, creating design drafts, changing things up, adjusting, adding design elements, removing them, and so on. Most of which is driven by user feedback.

This now is not different. We’re already iterating through different variations of our startup dialog in various conditions. We need artwork for each of them and we need to make sure that artwork fits into the overall design language. Here is a quick glimpse at how that looks like at the moment:

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-3-01-13-pm

Obviously, the above screen shot only shows 3 of those 15 mentioned cases, so you can imagine how massive our design iterations can be like. It is a time consuming process, but it helps us a lot to understand how people navigate through Swapit and it is absolutely necessary to be able to provide the best design and user experience to our users.

We will not rest until everyone is happy and we will make sure that Swapit works like and feels like everyone expects it to.

Have you tried Swapit yet? Download it for free from: http://get.swapit.la/now

Swapit at Cyberport

As part of being an incubatee at the Cyberport Incubation Programme, I took part in a training session at Cyberport.

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Together with other Cyberport incubatees and CCMF grantees, we have had a great coach that brought each of us closer to our individual goals. We never stop learning and every day we discover something new, something worth trying, but we never leave our final goal out of sight. Getting some guidance from time to time, helps a lot to focus.

At the same time, it was also great to hear from fellow startup founders what their challenges are and what they are trying to accomplish. There is so much talent in Hong Kong and there are so many founders out there, which have some great ideas. I am sure they will succeed in their endeavours.

More Swapit product news are coming soon. Stay tuned!

Have you used Swapit yet? Download it from: http://get.swapit.la/now

Swapit Introduces: Swapit Referral – Give Swapit Premium & Get Swapit Premium

referral_yellow_starWe just updated Swapit and you can now get Swapit Premium for free if you invite one of your friends to join Swapit too.

You can get the latest Swapit app from Google Play and the App Store, or by simply clicking here: http://get.swapit.la/now

THIS IS HOW IT WORKS

It’s easy, quick and you can share your invite anywhere. WhatsApp, Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, Email, text SMS, you name it. Both you and your friend will receive a Swapit Premium Day Pass.

2016-10-20-swapit_referral_584

In detail it works like this: As soon as one of your friends joins Swapit, a popup dialog appears and tells him or her that the Swapit Premium Day pass has been earned and is active now. At the very same moment, you will receive an instant notification about your friend joining and a new Swapit Premium Day Pass was added to the “Rewards” tab in the “Free Swapit Premium” section on Swapit.

Swapit Referral works across Android and iPhone.

So if you’re an Android user and invite a friend with an iPhone, you will receive your free Swapit Premium Day Pass as well as if you’d be inviting another Android user, or if you’d be an iPhone user and invite another iPhone or another Android user.

HOW TO GIVE FREE SWAPIT PREMIUM

It’s very easy to give someone a free Swapit Premium. Just open up your menu and select “Free Swapit Premium”. Then you’ll see your unique invite code which you can share with your friends or you can click one of the invite methods below, like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger shown on these screen shots:

Once you’ve sent out your invite to your friend, just wait and let magic happen. You can also invite another friend in the meantime and you’ll end up with two Swapit Premium Day Passes if both join Swapit!

THE GOAL OF SWAPIT REFERRAL

We are constantly working on making the Swapit marketplace more and more liquid. That’s absolutely essential for sustainable growth and for providing our users a place where it is guaranteed for them to sell their items in a short period of time … preferably to their neighbors. Swapit Referral has the following benefits:

  1. Our sellers will get access to Swapit Premium without having to pay for it. It will increase the visibility of their postings and allow them to sell items much faster.
  2. As a result, we will be getting more items posted on Swapit and the market becomes more and more liquid.
  3. New users will be invited, the word about Swapit will spread even faster, because people want to give Swapit Premium a try and invite their friends.
  4. Existing users who are predominantly buyers right now, will be incentivized to post items for sale on Swapit, once they earn a Swapit Premium Day Pass.
  5. New users who receive their free Swapit Premium Day Pass on signing, will be more motivated to post items for sale as quickly as possible. Their Day Pass starts running for 24 hours from the moment they’ve installed the app and created an account. So within those 24 hours, they are more motivated to post as many items as possible for sale – so they can take full advantage of the Swapit Premium Day Pass.

So generally, we believe this will increase Swapit’s adoption across the board.

Let’s see how it goes. We will blog about the results and effectiveness here. So stay tuned for upcoming blog posts!

Have you tried Swapit yet? Get it for free at http://get.swapit.la

Just Launched: Swapit Alerts

swapit-blog_swapitalertWe just updated Swapit with a brand new feature: Swapit Alerts.

You can get the latest Swapit app from Google Play and the App Store or by simply clicking here: http://get.swapit.la/now

In a nutshell, a Swapit Alert lets you receive an instant notification if an item you are looking for pops up in your city. With just 1 click you can create a Swapit Alert.

2016-08-23_swapit-alert-posts_584

How Swapit Alerts Work

Let’s say you are looking for a green sofa and you search Swapit. As a matter of fact, there is no green sofa on sale on Swapit right now. With just one click you can create yourself your own customer Swapit Alert on the search term “green sofa”. Now, every time an item gets posted, which matches that search term, you will receive an instant push notification.

Of course, we’ve also put some management capabilities into Swapit, which allow you to easily create more Swapit Alerts or delete an existing alert in case you’ve got what you wanted.

Swapit Alerts Video Demo

Here are some screen shots of how that looks like:

Swapit is the first mobile marketplace that launches such a feature in Asia. We are currently working on even more innovative solutions for our users. The next features are already being implemented while this blog post is being written. So stay tuned and keep an eye out for our next Swapit update!

Have you tried Swapit yet? Give it a try: http://get.swapit.la/now

 

Total Cost Of Ownership Of A Marketplace App – A Case Study With Swapit

In some conversations with partners and investors, I get asked what our TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) is. For those who are not sure what TCO means, here is how Gartner defines it (Gartner popularized the term in the 1980s):

Gartner defines total cost of ownership (TCO) a comprehensive assessment of information technology (IT) or other costs across enterprise boundaries over time. For IT, TCO includes hardware and software acquisition, management and support, communications, end-user expenses and the opportunity cost of downtime, training and other productivity losses.

Source: http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/total-cost-of-ownership-tco/

Total Cost of Ownership at Swapit

swapit_marketing-dollarIn the case of Swapit, we are investing a large amount of resources into our product creation, marketing and customer retention. However, in the long run and with increasing scale, some very few factors are essential to ensure our profitability and high margin compared to our competitors. While this might feel a bit oversimplified, but from a long term perspective, our real important cost factor will be hosting charges. Hosting in terms of: bandwidth, storage, computing power. Yes, there will also be HR costs in terms of customer support etc., but with the right product, those can be minimized tremendously (just look at how Google optimized their products). So the more items we have on the Swapit platform, the higher such total costs for those will be, while our mobile app development costs will not increase on a corresponding level.

Therefore, it was essential for us to keep a very close eye on our hosting costs in the long run. We’ve built Swapit to handle billions of transactions in very short periods of time, but definitely not to cost billions of Dollars at the same time.

As of the writing of this blog post, Swapit has 111,500 registered traders, about $10M GMV posted, handled tens of thousands of comments, chat message, likes; processed hundreds of thousands of spacial queries and database operations.

Yet, our last monthly bill from Google’s Cloud Platform Service was precisely $6.82 USD.

To give you a quick overview and to show that we are on a very affordable road, here are our cloud hosting charges over the past year in USD:swapit-blog_cloud-plateform

  • May 2016: $6,82
  • April 2016: $7.73
  • March 2016: $16.29
  • February 2016: -$39.14
  • January 2016: $8.80
  • December 2015: $16.23
  • November 2015: $15.14
  • October 2015: $0.60
  • September 2015: $0.23
  • August 2015: $0.06
  • July 2015: $0.01

The numbers above are a bit fluctuating, because Google did actually overcharge us a bit last year, due to some technical issue on their side. So they actually reimbursed us in February this year.

Furthermore, we have been adding new features and integrated some optimizations to our data models, which allow us to actually lower our cost on a database size that’s rapidly increasing. To be honest, we didn’t look at the monetary costs much when integration new optimizations at our backend. Those costs were just too low to justify work on that. However, we did most optimizations because we always look for new ways to improve our user experience. Part of that user experience improvement is to process queries much much faster. Often, this comes with data model optimization or just smarter queries, which lead to much faster loading times … and more often than not, also to lower processing cost, which in turn results in lower monetary cost for hosting.swapit_marketing-chart-grow

So in the end, optimizing your own backend is good in terms of costs for short term and margin in the long-term, but also to provide a superior user experience. We believe this is one very important piece of our puzzle to attract more users than our competition.

Cost Projections

Given we are at a roughly $7 cost at 111,500 users right now, which is about $0.000063 per user per month. Let’s assume in a year’s time we managed to increase our user base to 1 million users, we’d still be well below $100 of cost per month on our platform operation side. In fact, we believe in the long run there is a need for using Swapit in all urban areas in the world. Right now more than 50% of the world’s population are living in an urban area and that trend is accelerating. So let’s be absolutely crazy and assume Swapit can achieve such a global reach (which we definitely work towards) and we manage to engage all of our users at least once a month, we’d be looking at 3.6 billion users. At that point, our cost will sum at roughly $226,800 USD per month or $2.72 million per year. Given the incredible reach we would have, that’s a very affordable cost we’d be happy to cover every month.

In short: It was an absolutely great choice to use the Google Cloud Platform for our backend.

P.S.: In the past 11 years I have been using other hosting services and I am absolutely certain, they would all have been 10-100x more expensive than our current choice.

P.P.S.: Obviously, there are a lot more costs involved to running a business like Swapit. Investing in creating a liquid marketplace and salaries are actually our largest cost positions right now and will remain to be there for the foreseeable future. However, as mentioned above, in the long their share in terms of overall costs will come down significantly.

 

Have you tried Swapit yet? It’s free. You can download it here: http://get.swapit.la

iPhone Users: Do you kill apps?

Hey iPhone users, we have a very simple and quick question:

 

Why we ask

We are currently working on iPhone app and we’ve noticed some issues regarding to PUSH notifications that are sent to apps which have been killed by the user manually. Therefore, we’d like to find out how many of you are actually killing your apps manually. Your feedback will have direct impact on how we integrate our PUSH notification mechanism in Swapit on the iPhone and iPad.

 

Have you tried Swapit yet? It’s free. You can get it from http://get.swapit.la