Goswami, Forbes India
Bengaluru, 15 November 2016
month, Grofers, one of India’s biggest online grocery delivery
services, scrapped its app-only strategy to launch a working desktop
site. Previously, their website had not supported purchases, opting in
favor of a mobile-only system.
Similarly last year,
Flipkart-owned Myntra — India’s largest fashion e-commerce marketplace
— announced its plan to go app-only. The company said it was meant to
improve personalization, as well as benefitting Myntra as users were
forced to download the app. Competition would be pushed out as
customers would be more captive in a specific environment and shopping
around for discounts would lessen.
Similarly to Grofers,
however, the move to adopt app-only backfired. Within a year, Myntra’s
plan had to be rolled back and the company was forced to launch its
mobile website again.
This has left experts wondering if India
is ready for an app-only e-commerce platform. And as expected,
“probably not” has been the popular sentiment from the e-commerce
industry. For one thing, the most popular phones among Indians are
feature phones, which cannot support apps and lack the advanced
functionality of the newer smartphones. The percentage of smartphone
users in the country is just 29.8% of total cell phone adopters. Even
within this group, the majority own low-end smartphones which cannot
support more than four or five working apps. This often leads to a high
uninstall rate, which makes customer retention difficult.
a company plans to go app-only, it risks missing out on a potentially
wide market of customers, particularly in the likely event their app
does not happen to be among the top four or five apps of choice for a
Additionally, an app-only model may have issues reaching
consumers across the entire spectrum of platforms like Android, iOS or
Windows, even if they do own a high-end smartphone. Albinder Dhindsa,
founder at Grofers, admits the temptation is there to target app-only
strategies. “In the beginning, a small business has only limited
resources to work with,” he says. “In such cases, an app makes for an
obvious choice to help reach out to a certain number of Indian
consumers — for many of whom the mobile phone remains their primary
device to connect to the internet. As a business grows, providing
additional platforms makes sense and is feasible as well.”
not to say that India isn’t ready for apps. Online travel, banking,
education, food, healthcare, home services, payments — every sector is
trying to woo users to their brand of mobile apps by offering freebies
and discounts. India, along with China, is one of the world’s
fastest-growing mobile app markets. However, many believe that an app
strategy should not be an issue of “or” but “and”. Rajiv Mangla, Chief
Technology Officer of Snapdeal, says that customers have heterogeneous
shopping habits, hence it makes sense to have multiple access points.
“We have seen cases where people purchasing high ticket items,
especially over INR 10,000 (around $150), prefer a larger screen to
view product details and requisite content,” he says. Also a factor in
India, mobile internet connectivity is slow for most users. Customers
might want to access the portal on a faster broadband-based connection,
and a robust desktop platform ensures this is available.
Dutta of Third Eyesight, a consulting firm focussed on the retail and
consumer products ecosystem, is of the view that an app-only approach
works best if the app is used frequently, with high customer loyalty or
stickiness. “This way one can aim to become a default aggregator of a
particular service, such as taxi-hire or ride-share, restaurant
selection, news etc. But, I still feel an app with a narrow
product/service range would generally be less viable than a website
with a similar offering,” says Dutta.
that though there are businesses which are app-only or near to app-only
(with the app providing over 80% of their transactions), there is an
equally strong move back towards the mobile website. “New features
developed by Google browsers and UC Web make the overall experience
good. There is browser notifications, faster loading time and smarter
caching to minimize data usage and improve speeds,” he says.
the future is app-only or if the web retains its relevance, it’s clear
that many in India believe that the customer should still have the
choice of how they want to interact with a business.