Ad-dendum by Monika Thakur: Going app-only may be premature

Updated: September 22, 2015 10:00:46 AM

For sites such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon etc ,more than half the people use the website to complete the purchase About 20% use both the site and the app.

smartphones and appsWhile there is increased penetration of smartphones and therefore, of apps, it will be a few years before a large percentage of the market stops transacting on websites

This is the brave new world of the digital natives. And Myntra, the fashion e-tailing platform, has decided to take the plunge and head down the app-only route, banishing its website to the history pages. Much has been written and said about this decision. Other e-commerce brands such as Flipkart, Zopper (a hyperlocal shopping marketplace), TrulyMadly, Grofers and TinyOwl have already switched to the app-only route or are planning to do so soon.

The jury is still out on how much business sense this move makes, given that balancing the revenues and the expenditures is no easy task. But what do the people who use these portals have to say? Who are the people shopping through apps and who are the ones shopping through websites? Are these the same people or different?

A quick dipstick survey reveals that for sites such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and Myntra, more than half the people use the website to complete their purchase cycle. And about 20% of them use both the website and the app. On sites such as Ebay, Jabong and BigBasket, over three-fourth of the shopping is done only through websites. And on Voxpop and Shopclues, the percentage of those shopping on websites is even higher.

Yes, there are digital natives who are either in their teens or just nudging their 20s, who have been born with apps and navigate their life through them. But look a little beyond this group, and the picture becomes more layered.
Yes, there are benefits to the app. It is on your mobile. Your mobile is always with you. Roughly half of those surveyed used their apps while on the go. This is especially relevant among the youth, who are neither bound to the home nor to the office.

‘One click to use, one click to buy’ is a reason for some of respondents to use the app. Also, it is not cumbersome and does not require any ‘old world’ typing of a URL. Another plus is that you can’t miss the notifications of sales. Yet, even youngsters appear savvy enough to wait for the app only sales (35%) to purchase something.

When it comes to people in their 20s, it’s a different story. Most people are bound to their work desks.

They are sitting in front of their desktops or laptops all day long, often with an internet connection. Around 40% of them make use of some free time to browse websites. They see an advert for a sale, click on it and land on the e-tailer’s site. And voila! They buy something. The fact that an internet connection is at their disposal throughout work hours is a definite advantage. On the other hand, there are a few important factors that work against the app-only route. While smartphone sales are definitely going up, a significant number of the urban population is still on a 2G connection with poor speeds.

Three-fourth of the respondents surveyed feel that the larger size of screen on a website allows them better views of the product and its details. It also lets them compare products, prices and features on different sites.

They can also view many products at once, thereby satisfying the ingrained Indian need to compare and find the best deal. They are able to satisfy themselves that they have done their due diligence and got themselves the best deal.

Most people are comfortable shopping primarily on a website, using apps on occasion – for instance, at an app-only discount sale or to track shipments. Another section of the crowd uses mobile apps only where there is a free wi-fi connection or when they know exactly what they want to buy (rather than having to browse and choose). This reduces the window of opportunity for purchases.

To summarise, when asked about an app-only option, one is met with cries of “don’t let that happen”. Only a small number of people put on a more stoic face saying, “I will have to adjust”. Almost 60% say that they will switch to another online marketplace that has a website option. Indeed, 30% of them state emphatically that they no longer shop with Myntra now that it is app only, and another 35% do not browse Myntra as often as they used to earlier.

Recent reports from assorted sources validate this change in app usage statistics. Most of these reports talk of a dip in the sales of portals as a result of the move to the ‘app-only’ mode.

It does seem that this move is a little before its time. While it is definitely true that the market is seeing an increased penetration of smartphones and therefore of apps, it will be a few years before a large percentage of the market stops transacting on websites. Until then, e-commerce brands would be better off giving the consumer the choice to transact on whichever channel she prefers.

The author is senior consultant – business planning, Vertebrand Management Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

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