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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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In a very hypercompetitive ecommerce retail market, organizations strive to increase sales, reach a wider customer base and improve customer relationship. In Googles 2016, How People Shop on Their Phones article, research shows that 58% of mobile device users use their smartphones for monitoring offers, discounts, checking reviews, prices, comparing products, and buying products(cite).  For this project, I have decided to work with a Nigerian based e-commerce fashion retail company, to produce a mobile application to enable them keep up in a market where mobile devices (smartphones & tablets) are increasingly becoming the dominant digital media. The application would enable customers to personalize their shopping content, share products instantly via social media or instant messaging, receive regular sale and order updates via push notifications, locating the closest order pick-up points via the mobile phones GPS as well as viewing products and completing orders.

Initially the project was meant to result in three mobile applications, iOS, Android and Windows phone. At the time of implementation, the decision was made to leave out the windows phone version as Windows phone was being phased out so the project would result in 2 applications for iOS and Android. Later an admin application for easy access to stock management and orders would be rolled out.

1.1. Aims

The aim of this project is to create a multi-platform customer m-commerce application, that integrates with Garmspot Nigeria Limited's existing Web application.

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1.2. Objectives

The objectives of this project are divided into two, the system objectives and my personal learning objectives

The system objectives are as follows

1. Create an ecommerce application that enables users shop with ease, receive push notifications and enables customer share items seamlessly with other users via social media

2. Create an application that runs on both iOS and Android.

3. Integrates with the company's current web application

The learning objectives are as follows

1. How to plan and execute projects in a given time frame

2. Improve my interface design to a level commercially acceptable

3. Practice and expand my programming skills (C#)

4. Learn how to create applications for other platforms other than Windows (Mobile Application Development Module Standard 2016/2017)

5. Research and execute an efficient and effective software development model

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1.3. Stakeholders

There are a number of stakeholders for this project, some of which are involved directly and indirectly in the design, development and planning.  The seven stakeholders for the system are as follows;

Table 1: List of Stakeholders & Descriptions

S/N Stakeholder Description

1 Garmspot Nigeria Limited The client who owns the system and defined all the use cases.

2 Garmspot Customers The primary users of the application

3 Developer The person developing and maintaining the system (myself)

4 Project Supervisor Dr. Harin Sallahewa, manages and ensures project is on the right track

5 WordPress.org The web platform in which the current web app is hosted.

6 Woo Commerce Service provider, providing an ecommerce management system (product data, stock, orders etc.)

7 Stripe Payment Service provider, providing a payment portal for the mobile application

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2. BACKGROUND

2.1. Mobile Devices, Applications & M-Commerce

2.1.1. Global Trend

As the years go on, the use of mobile devices and smartphones have shown a constant increase, such that the number of smartphone only users globally have surpassed the number of desktop only users (cite). The rapid growth of the internet and the need for ubiquitous access to data by users has seen the mobile phone steadily become the most used digital media(cite).

Figure 1: Average Time Spent Per Day With Digital Media (Cite)

Mobile Phones and smartphones with advanced computing capabilities and connectivity besides the basic handheld phones, gathered mainstream popularity in 2007 with the introduction of Apple's first iPhone and later in 2008 when the first Android phone, the HTC dream, was released(cite). These devices revolutionized the smartphone industry by offering its users a more captivating user interface with the introduction of features such as a touch screen interface, virtual keyboard and the various sensors available to be programmed for the use of many other applications(cite). The smartphone industry has observed steady development and growth since then, in regard to market size, device functionalities, models and suppliers. Smartphone global shipments are projected to surpass 1.7 billion by the year 2020. Currently, about a third of the world's population owns a smartphone, at an estimated total of almost 2.5 billion users worldwide and an estimated growth to about 2.9 billion by 2020(cite).  

Figure 2: Number of Smartphone User globally per annum

The Smartphone as well as its programmable sensors carved a niche for a new crop of developers and programmers alike, creating and pushing boundaries with new, edgy and innovative applications hitting the app stores daily. The major app stores (Google Play store and Apple's App Store) hitting a combined total of over 5 million applications(cite). These apps opened new revenue streams for corporations and changed lifelong models for industries.

In the retail industry, a steady growth in E-commerce and Digital First Retail can be observed while record numbers of retail physical stores are being closed down, legacy brands on the verge of bankruptcy(cite). The number of retail transaction that begin online have soared to a staggering 56% of all sales as tracked and reported by Delloite(cite).

In the digital world, the number of these transactions made on mobile devices have equally grown such that the number of traffic generated on mobile devices have surpassed the number on desktops and other devices(cite).

Figure 3: The percentage of retail traffic, mobile versus desktop, 2011-2014

As the numbers show, users are moving with the trend of on demand access. It has been reported by(Insert) that if a web page takes longer than 3 seconds to load 40 percent of visitors leave the webpage(cite).

2.1.2. African & Nigerian Trend

In the summer of 2017, the Nigerian Communications Commission reported over 91 million internet users in Nigeria(cite). According to Google's Consumer Barometer Trended Data 56% of the internet users in 2017 accessed the internet via their mobile device compared to the 23% that accessed the internet via their desktop(cite). This follows the global trend of increasing mobile internet users. These success of mobile devices and mobile internet users in Nigeria and Africa could be credited to a few of these factors that do not favor desktops.

' Electricity Supply: The lack of constant electricity supply in Nigeria has pushed majority of its internet consumers to handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets making use of mobile data.

' Cheap & Easily Accessible Mobile Data: Broadband providers are not readily available in Nigeria, the demand for this access has driven up the price of broadband and fibre optic, but the mobile market is saturated and the competition is high therefore providers have turned to data prices to gain and keep users. A monthly subscription for broadband or fibre optic starts anywhere from Forty Thousand Naira (approx. ''80)(cite), mobile data is available from as low as One Thousand Naira (approx. ''2)(cite).

' Transsion Holdings: A Chinese company that initially focused its business operations in the African and South Asian market, conducted a market research. The company found that operating in Africa was the most lucrative business option and in 2008 it stopped doing business in Asia to exclusively focus on Africa. The company creates a range of smartphones from as low as thirty pounds to as high as a thousand pounds. With its three mobile phone brands, (Tecno Mobile, Infinix Mobile and itel) Transsion overtook Samsung in sales to become the number one smartphone company in Africa(cite). It's solid design ' low price approach is what is captivating the African market. The mobile phones run on the Android OS.

In 2017 Jumia.ng one of the biggest e-commerce website in Africa from Nigeria, operating in over 23 African Countries published an article on Nigerian Mobile Trends where they dubbed Nigeria 'A Mobile First Nation'(cite). The company reported over 9.4 million monthly visitors in Nigeria with 71% of the visitors being mobile visitors and 63% of orders being made via a mobile device. This follows the e-commerce trend of more users viewing products, checking sales and reviews via mobile devices.

Figure 4: Jumia Nigeria Mobile Market Trends

2.2. Xamarin Forms

Xamarin forms is a library that enables developers and end users build native applications for iOS, Android and Windows Phone using a single C# codebase. Xamarin forms can be divided into two parts, there is the visual designer which is in an XML based language called XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) and the code behind which is a C# class. The XAML file allows developers and designers to define the user interface of the applications, such as where elements are placed on the page, where these elements are located and what they look like. Behind every XAML file there is the code behind that implements the behavioral patterns of the visual elements placed on the screen(cite).

Xamarin forms is built on two existing libraries, Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS this architecture is what allows end users work with a single unified API for creating user interfaces. Xamarin forms internally maps the user interface elements to their corresponding native equivalent so that the application is completely native e.g. an iOS button would look like and iOS button and an Android button would look like and Android button despite having the same code. Although, Xamarin forms also enables users access platform specific code to manipulate the different behaviors of the different operating systems. This is the library in which the application would be built on(cite).

2.3. Garmspot Nigeria Limited

Garmspot is one of the fastest growing online retail store that specializes in the marketing and distribution of cutting edge urban wear brands, contemporary designs, and fashion accessories in Nigeria. The company aims to be the leading supplier of the best brands Nigeria-Africa has to offer. Using its web platform, Garmspot delivers pieces to its clientele from its regional Centre in Lagos to all the corners of the world (cite).

The company was founded in 2014 by myself and 4 other Nigerian, UK based University students. Initially the aim of the company was to bring together streetwear brands from around the world to a central retail hub operating from the UK as all 5 students were studying in the UK, the business plan grew, evolved and some of its partners moved back to Nigeria where we noticed a gap in the market, A central online fashion retail hub. In Fall 2016, Garmspot Nigeria launched its online streetwear retail web platform for users based in Nigeria with our inaugural six brands, three from Nigeria, one from the UK, the US and from Canada. As of September 2017, Garmspot is home to over 55 brands ranging from formal wear to lounge wear and everything in between.

After analysing the market trends and data as discussed earlier in section 2.1.2 the decision was made to adopt the mobile culture of Nigeria by diverting majority of its marketing strategy to social media and improving the mobile website and the development of the application to give her customers a more personalized shopping experience, taking full advantages of all the feature smartphones as well as social media provides.

2.4. Existing Solutions

In this section, we analyze the standards set by some of the leading solutions already in existence, being used by major e-commerce companies followed by Garmspots current solutions in comparison to what the new system offers.

2.4.1. M-Commerce Solutions

Table 2: Current M-Commerce Solution Comparisons

S/N Criteria Amazon ASOS Jumia

1 Compatibility Android

iOS 9.0 or later Android

iOS 9.0 or later Android

iOS 9.0 or later

2 Platform Mobile & Tablet Mobile & Tablet Mobile & Tablet

3 Storage Cloud Based Cloud Based Cloud Based

4 Usability Clear info and easy to navigate Clear info and easy to navigate Slightly cluttered easy to navigate

5 Authentication YES YES YES

6 Push Notifications YES YES YES

7 Offline Access NO NO NO

8 Location Based Services NO NO NO

9 Other device functionalities Biometric Authentication, Microphone, Camera Biometric Authentication, Camera None

Below are screenshots of the 3 applications discussed above

    

Figure 5: Screenshots of the Amazon iOS Application

    

Figure 6: Screenshots of Jumia iOS Application

   

Figure 7: Screenshots of ASOS iOS Application

2.4.2. Garmspot Solutions

The table below is a comparison with Garmspot existing web application, mobile web and the features of the proposed system.

Table 3: Current Garmspot Solution Comparisons

S/N Criteria Mobile Web Web Native Mobile App

1 Authentication YES YES YES

2 Interface Cluttered and poorly arranged Clear and easy to navigate and understand Clear and easy to navigate and understand

3 Usability Confusing Easy and organized Simple and organized

3 Push Notifications NO NO YES

4 Location based Services NO NO YES

5 Payment YES YES YES

Figure 8: Garmspot Current Web Application

Figure 9: Product Display on Garmspots Current Web Application

2.5. Application Programming Interfaces

Application Programming Interfaces, widely known as API's have the dictionary definition 'a set of functions and procedures that allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application or other service' (cite).

Web API's are a major build block in Mobile and Web applications, it enables you to interact with cloud based databases and it returns the data to you for you to use and present as you wish(cite).

This application is built using a set of Non-Web based and Web Based APIs both;

' Xamarin Forms

' Nuget Packages

' WooCommerce

' WordPress

' Paystack

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