After Myntra shut down its website to just be an app-only channel, and with speculations rife that in a year’s time, Flipkart too may follow suit, not many in the industry are convinced about the virtues of an app-only strategy.
In a company statement, Sachin Bansal, co-founder & CEO, Flipkart, justified the offbeat move by stating, “There has been a tremendous growth of smartphones in India and it will continue to multiply over the next few years. Consumers are shifting fast to smartphones for commerce and information consumption in a big way. Smartphones with apps are becoming utilities that consumers access constantly for their various needs on a daily basis. We are already seeing the development of mobile-based commerce, which will be the most powerful, personalised, intuitive and inclusive market.
It’s a great step that Myntra has taken towards creating a differentiated experience that will generate customer pull and make it a one stop solution for all fashion needs.”
Reinstating their ideology for going the app way, Mukesh Bansal, CEO, Myntra & Head of Commerce, Flipkart, said in the official statement, “We believe that only a mobile captures a user’s lifestyle and context in a manner that no other medium does. Think of all the hardware and software features that one can leverage like camera, contact, location etc. to understand the user’s context and deliver the experience that is deeply personalised.”
But there are others who remain skeptical. According to Praveen Sinha, MD and Founder of lifestyle and fashion marketplace Jabong.com, (a prime competitor of Myntra), Jabong will never choose one medium over the other. Both e-commerce and m-commerce are important for the holistic growth of his marketplace, he says.
In an exclusive discussion with Indiaretailing.com, Sinha said, “Boosting choices for the customer is our first priority and keeping the same axiom in mind, we have no plans to shut our website any time soon. Since the traction we amass from both the mediums is equal, we should be adeptly able to provide both the alternatives.”
Talking about the limitations of mobile apps, Sinha further added, “Seamless visibility of the products and price comparison is a major hindrance in app-based commerce. A bigger screen of the desktop or a laptop allows a customer to scrutinise products according to their requirements.”
“In terms of interface, there is still a lot of development in the pipeline for the coming future for mobile apps. M-commerce is yet to fully evolve in order to sustain a brand entirely based on apps.”
Endorsing Sinha’s view, Ashish Jhalani, Founder at eTailing India and Indian School of eBusiness (ISeB), explained, “I do not think that going completely a mobile app way is correct, given the nascency of the Indian e-commerce market. The market certainly has the potential for a mobile app-only strategy, but I do not think that would work today.”
“The app market is developing very well with taxi aggregators and others, but it may not be the ideal choice for customers looking to purchase products online. In addition, I believe customers want to compare and buy fashion related products, features that apps currently lack,” he added.
Giving a different perspective to the argument, Saahil Goel, co-founder & CEO, KartRocket, noted that it is not possible in today’s online commerce atmosphere to ignore m-commerce. Elaborating on this point, he said, “India is becoming a mobile-first country in many respects, especially pertaining to the internet. Adoption for internet has increased manifold because of mobile penetration, especially in Tier II and III cities, where it has seen an exponential growth.”
According to Goel, for an e-tailer — be it a startup or an established brand — it definitely makes sense to focus all energies only on mobile commerce, as it is already driving 70-80 per cent of the transactions at much lower costs than web.
“And, by focusing only on m-commerce, the e-tailer ends up reducing costs related to web commerce. All in all, a win-win situation for any e-tailer. However, one can’t neglect the mobile/WAP sites. A lot of consumers do prefer shopping from mobile sites instead of downloading the app to shop,” he points out. “Thus, it is crucial to focus on the mobile app as well as mobile site.”
Going all out on a mobile-only platform versus creating a balance between web and mobile interfaces depends on the industry that one caters to, Goel notes. “Shopping for fashion is largely impulse-driven and as a vertical, it has done remarkably well on the mobile and thus can work as a mobile-only platform. But, industries like travel, real estate, etc., where some research or in-depth information is needed, the web plays a significant part. Therefore, it depends a lot on the industry and which channels is best suited to it. Having said that, you definitely can’t ignore the mobile commerce channel today.”
While no-one can disagree with the fact that m-commerce is booming in India and with ever expanding usage of smartphones, app-based commerce and mobile commerce will grow manifold in the coming future. But is it smart to ditch the website/e-commerce platform completely in favour of m-commerce? This is a question that will unfold with time and Myntra will be a case study in itself for taking what can only be called a bold step at a time when there was no clear answer.