Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Lessons from the Wish Shopping App

Wish connects shoppers with wholesalers and retailers that sell at steep discounts.

Wish connects shoppers with wholesalers and retailers that sell at steep discounts.

The Wish shopping app connects shoppers in the United States and Europe with primarily Chinese wholesalers and retailers that sell at steep discounts. The app’s functions, features, and popularity may be able show online retailers a few things about ecommerce and generating sales.

The Wish shopping app has been around since 2010. But in 2015 it is emerging as a powerful ecommerce tool. Let’s see what Wish can teach us.

Personalization May Increase Sales

The Wish app uses data mining and machine learning to show users (who are ultimately shoppers) products they are likely to buy, save, or share.

Showing just a handful of products at once, Wish is benefiting both buyers and sellers.

For the buyers, Wish eliminates clutter. It doesn’t show shirts, pants, skirts, or belts — as a few examples — that are not apt to interest the shopper. The shopping experience is streamlined.

For merchants, this means that products are presented to the most likely buyers, potentially encouraging sales.

For small and mid-sized online sellers, Wish’s popularity — perhaps half a million daily users — may demonstrate how personalizing pleases customers and ultimately may increase sales.

Merchants could seek to emulate this sort of personalization using any one of a number of effective product recommendation tools, such as the following.

Finally, it is worth nothing that Wish is a marketplace and that while the vast majority of sellers are in China or other Asian countries, sellers in other nations can also list on Wish.

Mobile Is for Shopping

Wish was conceived as a way to curate products, showing shoppers items that interest them. But it is clearly transforming into a transactional marketplace, with hundreds of thousands of actual sales.

Once might even say that increasingly, the Wish shopping app is built to sell products on mobile devices. In spite of the fact the mobile commerce accounted for more than 30 percent of holiday spending for the past two years, some online retailers and wholesalers still seem to believe that mobile devices are only for building interest or, perhaps, price checking, but not making actual sales. Wish clearly shows that this is not true.

In 2015, mobile ecommerce optimization is not a competitive advantage that will boost sales for some online merchants. It is, instead, a competitive imperative, necessary if an ecommerce company wants to be successful.

Negative Reviews; Slow Shipping

At the time of writing, the Wish app had more than 115,000 one-, two- or three-star reviews on the Android marketplace and a significant number of low ratings in the Apple app store too. These negative reviews are very frequently the result of slow shipping.

Here are a few select examples of the negative reviews.

“Buyer beware,” wrote DannyJH in the App Store on December 28, 2014. “Please reconsider before making a purchase through Wish. I placed an order and it took over a month to arrive.”

“Prices are nice, but, of course, with cheap prices, you get what you pay for. I expected that,” wrote kelz.1021 in the Apple App Store.” However, I did not expect the shipping issues to be as bad as they are.”

“Now been over 22 days since order and payment and still no items,” wrote Geraint Williams on December 22, 2014 in the Google Play store.

“I wish I could rate lower [than one star],” wrote Josiah Morris, who uses Wish on Android. “I ordered a $9 item before December began, and it is now December 29, and I still have not received my item.”

It is important to note that Wish has an overall rating of more than four stars on Android and Apple products, but it is also surprising that products offered at a 50-to-80-percent discount over retail prices would earn more than 100,000 bad reviews.

Price, it turns out, is not the only thing that matters in ecommerce, so that small and mid-sized retailers can find ways to compete without necessarily offering the lowest price. As an example, offering relatively fast delivery may be enough.

Customers Are Worth a Lot

Wish has a lot of users and customers. In fact, the app’s user base could be its most compelling feature, and those customers are worth a lot.

As an example, commerce journalist Jason Del Rey has predicted that Walmart will buy Wish in 2015. In the Re/code article, Del Rey points out that Wish “has been one of the Top 10 shopping apps on the iPhone for much of this year and recently closed a large undisclosed investment from Yuri Milner’s DST Global that sources say valued the app maker at $1 billion or more. The app lets shoppers buy clothes and accessories directly from Chinese manufacturers, for insanely low prices that Walmart would be proud of. An image-heavy layout plus an algorithm that fine-tunes what products are shown based on browsing behavior translates to highly engaged users.”

If Wish’s “highly engaged users” help to make it worth $1 billion or more, even small online sellers should recognize how much good customers are worth.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Elizabeth Ball January 9, 2015 Reply

    Great article, Armando. People forget that planning ahead, and being willing to wait for an item means you can save big money. A coffee table book sold at a bookstore in Sydney, Australia for $99 could be bought from Amazon for $64 with expedited air freight shipping, or just $36 if I was prepared for a leisurely 6-week (sea mail) wait. I wanted to give it as a gift to my sister-in-law for Christmas, and since I shop all year long, was buying this in August, to put away, until then. If people can get off the need-it-now mentality we’ll all benefit.

  2. Jeremy Hunter January 12, 2015 Reply

    Anyone looking to purchase Wish might want to talk with some of the retailers on the platform. The Wish platform from a Merchant perspective has serious issues. The best company to buy Wish would be AliExpress because it’s mostly the same sellers. Puts a very nice face on the AliExpress experience.

  3. jak May 26, 2015 Reply

    Slow shipping can be a problem IF it is not clearly stated up front. I have purcased many items from ebay that I knew would take a long time. If I am in a burry, I purchase from a local (USA for me) seller… and pay a higher price, of course.

    HOWEVER, the main problem with Wish is not being able or willing to verify and police their merchants.. just like Aliexpress. A marketplace requires integrity and confidence. Both ebay and amazon provide this… Wish does not or cannot…. yet.

  4. Shelby September 13, 2015 Reply

    These costomers that are complaining about slow delivery have to realize that most of these products come from somewhere in china. It takes a while to get to the US.

    • Kimmy December 4, 2015 Reply

      I agree. No one pays $1-$2 shipping and expects it to arrive in a week. Reviewers should be more understanding.

  5. Shru October 25, 2015 Reply

    Can we order from India ?

  6. Brittani November 19, 2015 Reply

    Does wish promote sweatshop mechandise?

    • Tim Tierney December 20, 2015 Reply


      • Cecil Strider May 21, 2016 Reply


  7. Daniel McMurtree January 23, 2016 Reply

    I tried the app out recently, with a mostly poor results. I did find an item that I desperately wanted, at a ridiculously low price. I ordered up, hopefully. Wish’s satisfaction guarantee is the only reason that I ultimately did order. As an eCommerce pro I deal with Chinese and other developing world suppliers regularly,so I know the risks. A month later I still don’t have my merchandise, but they do have my money…. hmmm. Not quite the way to court American consumers. I contacted Wish support and was told to wait another five days. Knowing that this was just a scripted stall tactic response, I pressed further. I requested that all tracking info be forwarded to me (in my case, the tracking option on the checkout page never worked). I pointed out that if they could not produce tracking info then they were only guessing that my merchandise would arrive in five more days. To my surprise they capitulated to my logic. They agreed that they in fact could not know anything about the status of my shipment, because they didn’t have any shipping paper trail to follow. Wish promptly issued a refund to my credit card. Additionally they told me that for my trouble, I could keep the item if it ever did arrive. While not ideal, (I REALLY did want the item I ordered) I’ll wait a couple more weeks to see if it ever turns up, in which case I will have gotten it for free. If it doesn’t turn up I’ll look for another buying route.
    The Verdict on Wish? Good service on the American side. Poor communication and shipping on the overseas side. Product quality unknown at this writing. Will I try again? Maybe, but I will definitely limit my purchases to inexpensive ones. Ultimately if Wish merchants want to successfully serve an American Market, they will need to understand American Consumer expectations. My Tips?
    1. Get it shipped fast. Don’t waste a single day getting it into shipping channels.
    2. Supply tracking numbers. If I’m going to wait over a month for my order, at least show me that it is headed my way.
    3. Be up front with us. If you mistakenly shipped via the wrong method, tell me. I’m much more forgiving if you tell me than if I find out you’ve been hiding it from me.
    4. Be honest. If you have no idea where my shipment is, how long until it will be delivered, or if it will be delivered at all, say that, not please wait another five days. I will only be more upset in five days.
    5. Stand behind your guarantee. Wish does this. I wouldn’t say that they do it well (it took some coercing in my instance) but once I pushed hard enough, they refunded me.
    Now that we are becoming truly global consumers, we need to, more than ever, remember the shopper’s golden rule: Caveat emptor – Let the buyer beware.

    • carla January 14, 2017 Reply

      Hello, Daniel, I was just reading your comment on this site and I see that you are an e-commerce pro and I wanted to ask you a few questions about what you do in being a seller in e-commerce. I know this comment is from a while ago and hopefully, you still have the same email from when you left this comment. So If you could do this I would be very grateful to you. Thanks, Carla

  8. steve February 15, 2016 Reply

    I have had a horrible experience with this company since November 2015. I ordereda n irobot 880 and didn’t get delivered in 60 days. The did refund me without issue an stupidm e ordered another for $20 more . The issue was it was an Xmas gift. They refunded my money without my authorization but still no product. You have no idea howu upset I am. Cancelled my account contacted my credit card company. Will never do business with them again.

  9. Cherry Chu May 11, 2016 Reply

    Everything has a trade off; You want quality; you have to be willing to spend more; This applies to shipping to. But wish is a great place to not break your bank account and still have a decent looking item. Very similar to or

  10. Kate September 5, 2016 Reply

    So, wish has individual sellers? Or is it all from one place? I fear they use sweatshops or child labor. I would stop using the app immediately if that is the case. Does anyone know?

  11. Glenn November 30, 2016 Reply

    Seems my stuff gets to Canada then doesn’t arrive. I wonder if it’s getting stolen when it comes off the plane.

  12. Lisa Pritchett December 5, 2016 Reply

    Why is some of the same thing higher??
    ie: the item I want is $1 in some places and the price goes higher in other, but the same item??

  13. Stanislav Tugushev December 8, 2016 Reply

    May be I am not an “average Joe” marketologists envision thinking “customers”, but if I bought, say, tires for my car, it is very unlikely that I will need new set next day. However, if you bought tires, you open any webpage with ads and ALL of them will show… yes – tires.
    And, with, say milk, which I buy a gallon every other day – I have my favorite brand and a secondary one, in case the favorite is sold out.

    For me (as an non-average Joe), is lacking the following important features – sort (say, by price), description (it is sometimes hard to understand what is in the picture). It looks like this is done on purpose – for stupid impulsive buyers, “Oh, I want this!!!”, not seeing that the same item is half the price couple rows down.

  14. Joni T Nordland December 30, 2016 Reply

    Why does wish display one price and then at checkout the price is higher even before shipping?

  15. Lori g January 6, 2017 Reply

    I purchased a few items on wish and have been pretty pleased with the products for the price. However, I bought a few items that were listed as 90% off . One was a perfume that was suppose to be $300 and when I look it up it online I can’t see anywhere that it was anywhere close to that price ever. That to me is a scam. Intend to look for items that were originally higher prices with bigger discounts thinking that it’s a really good deal. That is a good way to sell but is so deceitful. I will be careful from now on.

  16. Rosemary Czaplicki January 8, 2017 Reply

    Why does the price increase from the advertised price when an item is added to my cart?

  17. Kathy Fitzgerald January 19, 2017 Reply

    Why does wish show one price before you click on the item, but another, much higher price, after you click on the item? The shipping charge also increases after you click on the item.

  18. Nicole Marr January 23, 2017 Reply

    There is nothing more irritating whern trying to shop forr bargains to just find out at the checkout that the price is in fact almost double the advertising price in some situations and more often than not its at least $10 or more than adveertised. it might not seem like a lot of money to some people but when you are a single parent with a fixed income IT MATTERS and lets not forget THE TIME WASTED LOOKING TO BUY SOMETHING THATS BEING FALSELY ADVERTISED. THIS NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED AND FIXED WISH!!!

  19. Elaine Sani January 31, 2017 Reply

    Why are there more than one price on the same item?

  20. Petro Canola March 22, 2017 Reply

    Wish ratings aren’t current. They have a much poorer track record over time. Failed deliveries combined with increases in article price and shipping are destroying any advantage, when compared to more reputable mail order sellers.

  21. makennah blevins April 14, 2017 Reply

    what happens if I’ve ordered many times off of wish, I love the app, and then they refund my order and don’t give my money back, yet the items are shipping again after I sent them a picture of my card?

  22. Shelly April 28, 2017 Reply

    I ordered first time, and found my package was delivered in record time to the doorstep in traverse city, MI…too bad I live in Tucson AZ!! More depressing is I know no one in MI!!!

  23. Billy Sawle July 15, 2017 Reply

    Why do they advertise a product @5.00 then when you click on buy now it goes to a outrageous price of 20.00? (This is only an example)

    • Jo BD September 10, 2017 Reply

      Yes I noticed the same thing. I don’t buy the product because I want the honesty up front. how do we find out

  24. Amanda September 5, 2017 Reply

    All of this and you can’t even give the seller fees and this “the biggest review” ?
    Come on.

  25. Jennifer Thomas November 2, 2017 Reply

    I purchased for the first time all dollar items but when I cashed out they had raised the prices on some of my item’s. I paid anyway I like wish but if this going to happen every time it’s false advertising.Is there a reason they did this I didn’t catch on to?

  26. Karen Chavira March 23, 2018 Reply

    Ordered approximately 13 items from wish. Smart Watch ..wont pair.. A lipstick that tastes like motor oil. And wears off in a few minutes even though it says long lasting. A large wallet thats supposed to hold my the small one.. to file a dispute i have to send a pic. Several jewelry items listed at 18k gold. I guess they are stainless steel and meant the color of 18k gold . Packing slips and instructions are in Chinese and so tiny i couldnt read if did know the language. Done with WISH. What a joke!