Trendspotting: e-commerce players apprehensive about app-only approach

Opinions on adopting app-only mode are turning out to be more skewed towards integration of mediums, rather than an out-and-out platform transition. Stakeholders feel mobile apps are the way forward but they cannot be the sole medium

e4m by Ankur Singh
Updated: Jul 29, 2015 9:31 AM
Trendspotting: e-commerce players apprehensive about app-only approach

After Myntra went app-only earlier this year, many e-commerce players were expected to follow suit. The market has seen a lot of speculation around the transition from desktops to mobiles. While the initial buzz was bent towards the entire industry going through with the app-only approach, industry experts are divided in their opinions, which are turning out to be more skewed towards integration of mediums, rather than an out-and-out platform transition. Stakeholders feel mobile apps are the way forward. However, they cannot be the sole medium.

According to an eMarketer report, India is set to overtake the US as the second largest market for smartphones in the world by 2016 as smart mobile devices become affordable. Globally, there will be 1.91 billion smartphone users in 2015 and increase by 12.6 per cent the following year to touch 2.16 billion in 2016.

Mobile penetration in India has increased at an exponential rate. Several e-commerce firms have seen a sharp growth in transactions using mobile platforms. According to market reports, Snapdeal saw mobile transactions rise from 30 per cent in 2013 to 50 per cent in 2014. Flipkart has witnessed 75 per cent of its total traffic from its mobile app, compared to 6 per cent in 2014.

We spoke to industry experts on their take on the app-only approach.

What’s worked so far

Shamik Sharma, chief technology officer, Myntra, said, “Our numbers in the last couple of months have been higher than the web itself. So overall we have seen growth. Obviously, there are a set of customers who are using only the desktop and they may not change their behaviour soon. Yes, it’s true that we have lost a portion of our customers due to this app-only approach but I believe that has been compensated by a huge number of people who have come on board on the app platform.”

“Much earlier, we saw most of our traffic coming from mobile devices alone and hence the App-only strategy was well sketched out. On the mobile front, network is the most prominent issue which leads to transaction failures as high as 30 per cent. But as the technology evolves, we are expecting better results,” he added.

 “Adaptation of the App-only feature has given us almost 15 per cent more audience in comparison to any other platforms,” said Pushpinder Singh, Founder, TravelKhana.

Contrary opinions

When asked if the company is looking at an app-only transition, Anand Chandrasekaran, Chief Product Officer at Snapdeal, said, “Users should be able to consume an experience however they want to consume it. It's important that these decisions are made in the real world, not in some echo chamber. I've had conversations with so many of my family members who have done entire months of shopping without downloading the app. Also, in India, you have a huge problem with memory on smartphones. The biggest source of uninstalls is due to limited memory. In that kind of a world, to mandate that your app must always be on the phone is in our opinion inconveniencing the user. From our perspective, we'd rather inconvenience our employers than our users.”

Dinesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO, IndiaMart, said, “Smartphones have greatly influenced the consumer buying behaviour. Though, we are definitely focused on strengthening our app route as we see relatively higher engagement on our mobile platform, but, we will not force our users in any way and will continue to have presence across platforms.”

Holding their cards

Last month saw a lot of speculation around Flipkart following the Myntra path, and going mobile only in September. But, the company released a diplomatic statement, “India is gradually transitioning from a mobile first to a mobile only country. At Flipkart, we have been following a mobile first approach and 70-75 per cent of our total traffic is already coming from our mobile app. We are constantly experimenting with various aspects of our service to create the best shopping experience for our users on our app. Meanwhile, we continue to offer both desktop as well as mobile option for our customers"

e-mails to Jabong regarding the same did not elicit any response.

With such mixed opinions from stakeholders, it is clear that, for now, app-only approach has not struck the right chord. E-tailers prefer to retain their clientele, and offer app-based shopping as an option rather than totally disengaging with the desktop buyers.

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