Amazon, Snapdeal won’t follow Flipkart to app-only format


May 15, 2015

Varun Jain, The Economic Times
New Delhi, 15 May 2015

Flipkart-Myntra, the country’s largest e-commerce player, maybe busy moving to an app-only format, but its closest rivals Snapdeal and Amazon say they have no plans to shut down their websites and focus only on mobile.

"Our data shows that there are still many customers who use PCs to shop online. We do not want to force our customers to use one specific medium to shop on Snapdeal," a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

Akshay Sahi, customer experience head at Amazon India, too, said, "We believe that as a consumer-obsessed company, we have to enable our customers to shop anytime, anywhere, and anyway they want."

Myntra, the country’s largest fashion retail portal, closed down its website on Friday and moved to a mobile-only platform. Its parent, Flipkart, plans to follow suit within a year.

The move is driven by rapidly increasing traffic from smartphones. Another argument is that focusing entirely on the mobile app will help an e-commerce player give customers a better shopping experience.

With the increasing penetration of smartphones, the number of mobile Internet users in India is expected to reach 213 million by next month, up from 173 million in December, according to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and market research firm IMRB International.

Experts ET spoke to, however, are not convinced about the strategy of going app-only.

Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight, said app shopping would possibly prevent comparative shopping, making the experience more "sticky", and could allow the site to further customise the experience based on location and phone-based data.

However, he added, a smaller number of web browsers are generating a disproportionate share of the sales, which suggests that they are bigger spenders than mobile users, so that is definitely a negative trade-off if a site goes to an app-only experience.

Ratul Ghosh, an e-commerce industry expert and an independent consultant, said, "One could argue that while it is okay to reduce or even stop the investments on PC-web, it could be foolish or even dangerous to discount it as a past that has completely ceased to exist."

He feels that many comfortable-with-PC shoppers may not be keen to shift to app. "What will happen, in my opinion, is that affiliate websites will have a party once they are the only route to the inventory on the PC-web. And we all know that’s 5-10% more expensive a sale," Ghosh said.

Amazon’s Sahi said nearly half its traffic comes through mobiles. "All of Amazon’s development and innovation is app first, and it will continue to be our flagship experience," he said, adding that, however, it will continue to operate its website.

Earlier ET has reported that fashion retail portal Jabong is also not in a hurry to opt for mobile-app only mode. "We strongly believe customers should have the choice to buy either on his smartphone or on the computer," Jabong co-founder Praveen Sinha had told ET.

(Published in The Economic Times.)