A few days ago, Yahoo Auction here in Japan made transactions free for individual users. The company is also getting rid of the 18,900 yen (roughly $194) monthly fee for store-owners. With more and more competitors joining the second-hand products market, this is Yahoo’s attempt to retain the users it already has. But that is not stopping other companies from joining the already busy market. A new auction app called Smaoku (a short for ‘smart auction’) was released at the beginning of this month, targeting working women in their 20s and 30s.
Many such women have busy lives, and some don’t even have the time to organize their closet. But many are willing to consider an online auction as a way to clear out their closet and get some extra cash in the process. But many online auctions have problems like poor usability, and offline options like pawn shops leave no room for price negotiation. These problems have resulted in an opportunity for services like Smaoku.
Any women over 20 can open their own store on Smaoku, uploading photos taken with their smartphones. The service is invite-only for now, with the limited user base already buying and selling high-end brand products.
We had a chance to speak with Daisaku Harada, the CEO of Zawatt, the company behind Smaoku. When asked about the major differentiator between other flea market apps and this one, he explained:
Flea markets and auctions are two different things that provides completely different user experiences. Flea markets are about the fun of being a pretend store owner, and it’s also about communication. So its [generally] suited for younger people. But auction are about excitement and a game-like feeling where sellers try to find the most appropriate price to sell at. Smaoku is an auction site, which we designed to satisfy busy working women with no extra time on their hands.
Smaoku plans to officially go live at the beginning of November, and in December they’ll roll out an Android app. It is a member of KDDI Labo, and Zawatt will leverage KDDI’s marketing and business development experience to enhance its product.