E-tailers like Flipkart, Snapdeal and others pitch for 4G for enhanced shopping experience


August 11, 2015

Varun Jain , The Economic Times
New Delhi, 11 August 2015

India’s increasingly app-only online marketplaces are promising richer shopping experience when 4G, the mobile telecom technology that offers quick data downloads, gains more traction. Flipkart, Snapdeal and Myntra will load streaming video content and visual search feature to help shoppers select products, said top executives at these companies. Flipkart, in fact, already launched a visual search feature.
Fourth-generation, or 4G, telecom technology allows downloads several times faster than 3G and 2G, the more common technologies. Bharti Airtel, which recently launched 4G in nearly 300 towns, says its service allows users to download a movie in three minutes. For ecommerce companies, this means they can offer richer features, for instance the video of a model doing the ramp showcasing the latest fashion collections, on their website to entice buyers.

With Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom unit of Reliance Industries, set to launch 4G later this year and others like Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Aircel also expected to jump into the bandwagon, adoption of 4G is expected to see a spike.

“4G is ridiculously faster than what is available now. The kind of experience you can deliver on 4G will be amazingly better than what one could experience on a Wi-Fi or a desktop today,” said Shamik Sharma, chief technology and product officer at fashion retailer Myntra. “And, if you can envision that world and you can build for it, you can delight your customers.”

Punit Soni, chief product officer at Flipkart, said once 4G is adopted at a mass level, there will be a lot of evolution on visual search and video will start playing an important role. “When we know we are in a 4G-like environment, we would probably start exposing our users to a lot more video streaming and video based experience,” he said.

Flipkart recently launched a visual search feature. If you like the dress or footwear that someone is wearing, you can take a photo and upload it on the site. The visual search feature will do the search and come up with similar products on offer.

Anand Chandrasekaran, a former Airtel executive who is now chief product officer at Snapdeal, expects videos playing an extremely important role in shopping in the 4G scenario. “If you take a model like Exclusively.com, looking at a luxury dress designed by a world-class designer, I would probably want to see a video of a super model walking down the ramp wearing those. So I think there are a lot of use cases where video can start playing an important role once 4G gets a nationwide presence,” he said.

Devangshu Dutta, chief executive at retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight, said when it comes to browsing and enriching the view of the product, especially like 3D imaging and virtual draping of fashion products, there is a need for significantly better connectivity than what we have today. 4G can help solve this issue.

(Published in The Economic Times.)