Can Wish Become The Next Ebay?

Wish CEO Peter Szulczewski

Wish-CEO Peter Szulczewski gave a (rare) interview at Recode’s Code Commerce conference:

“60% of transactions are coming from customers who had made 5 or more transactions in the past”, Szulczewski told the audience. This is remarkable. Consumers are buying 60 items per year, he said. Wish sells two million items a day and is more than doubling GMV year over year. Wish has now 300.000 (mainly Chinese) vendors.

Recode:

The company raised $500 million in their last round in November, which was on top of the first $500 million Wish raised two years prior.

That means Wish has $1 billion in the bank, and the company plans to use it to reduce shipping times, Wish CEO Peter Szulczewski said Tuesday night in an interview at Recode’s Code Commerce conference in San Francisco.

Wish sets itself apart by targeting customers with low-price goods such as dresses, watches, sneakers or jewelry shipped straight from Chinese manufacturers — but that also means delivery can take weeks and items sometimes arrive damaged.

“The shipping times are extremely long,” said Szulczewski. “It’s scaled and worked so far because the prices are so inexpensive.”

Wish sets itself apart from Amazon by focusing on discovery and treating its app more like a shopping mall that displays products the customer might want in a window instead of requiring people to type in a search query like on Amazon.

Wish, unlike the majority of today’s e-commerce -from eBay to Amazon-, is not driven by search but by design choices leading to serendipity. This, combined with those very low prices, is Wish in a nutshell. Wish is essentially a mobile flea market that is using today’s global possibilties: Chinese manufacturers, western customers.

Combined with an effective Facebook ad strategy, this has pushed Wish into many people’s minds. Interestingly, Wish concentrated on rural customers as the CEO said in his interview. Forbes:

Speaking onstage at the Code Commerce event at San Francisco’s Westfield Mall on Tuesday night, Szulczewski said that Wish, a mobile marketplace that sells cheap wares, has grown by focusing on customers outside of cities and Silicon Valley, a demographic that heavily favored Trump in the election. Expanding on a blog post he wrote last week, he noted that few venture capitalists had been able to understand his company, because they lacked relationships with the so-called “invisible half” of the country that shop on his service.

All this makes it not too far fetched to imagine Wish becoming a huge global marketplace player. Wish is certainly doing a lot of things right. If they can successfully build a logistics operation around what they have now, they have a winner on their hands.

Besides the main app, Wish has several thematic niche apps:

Wish apps

More on this topic:

5 comments

  1. Disclaimer: I am short / bearish on Wish

    Having researched Wish and spoken with ecommerce investors in California I have to say I am not sold on the sudden turnaround that is spoken about in the above video.

    I can’t see Wish ever being able to sell branded goods as their business has been developed for Chinese manufacturers who are not allowed to sell on any other platform with the exception of Wish. Wish have total control on what customers are charged and what commissions are earned by merchants on their platform.

    Why would Wish raise a round for funding but provide new investors with liquidity protection? The CAC & supposed GMV for me raises questions on sustainability. Why? The founding team of Wish have backgrounds in adwords and advertising but not commerce. Also ask yourself one question – why in the last 6 months has Szulczewski done a lot of fireside chats and media work? Counter that to the almost silent approach that Hollar, Zalando, Amazon, JD and Alibaba have?

    The Wish model for me is unsustainable as Facebook advertising and paying for downloads are expensive and the apps have thrown the book at UX principles. As a customer it is almost impossible to unsubscribe from push notifications and email notifications from discounts. These together make it almost impossible to create organic valuable LTV based customers.

    What is the moat for Wish? Cheap no name brand items that ship 30 days to customers? I don’t see a flywheel that would ensure that Wish has a long term future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, all (or most ;)) valid points. I don’t subscribe to the argument though that Wish can’t turn into a sustainable business model. They were very successful in using Facebook ads to get customers. (Remember people saying, you can’t build a successful mobile app anymore? yeah.) But that is just the early growth phase. That is why I found that data point interesting: “60% of transactions are coming from customers who had made 5 or more transactions in the past”

      Yes, 5 transactions on Wish are probably generating as much GMV as one or two transactions on Amazon Marketplace. But the key point is the customer behavior here.

      I see many problems coming up or being already there, like fraud. They already started addressing this. (The verified quality program, the name of which eludes me right now.) But this is going to be hard for them.

      Wish is very aggressive with push notifications. But I see this more like a big engagement driver for them. (very native for mobile) They will lose some customers (it is certainly too much for me) but they most certainly look closely at the numbers.

      “What is the moat for Wish? Cheap no name brand items that ship 30 days to customers? I don’t see a flywheel that would ensure that Wish has a long term future.”

      I think that is rather obvious: a logistics operation helping those small merchants on their marketplace. (as the CEO more or less said himself) Can they pull this off? I have no idea. But they have a shot. Also, I think they have shown that with the right model you don’t necessarily need same day shipping or even something close. People don’t buy stuff on Wish they need the next day, for that they have Amazon and its search.

      If Wish can keep building out the discovery model within their apps, combined with comparatively low prices, it will be enough for Wish to bring shipping time down to, say, a week. That is very manageable, given they will be able to predict demand precisely enough.

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