Illustration of a woman rolling the dice

Online* fashion retailer Myntra is making a bold bet –  it has stopped selling through its website and is instead asking customers to download the mobile app.

Here are six reasons why ditching the web and being “mobile-app-only” in India is a very risky gamble.

1. Is the underlying mobile infrastructure ready? 

Let’s face it — even in big cities in India, you don’t get proper cell phone signal. Forget about mobile data, call-drops are so frequent, you find it tough to complete a conversation.  Why do you think more than 100 million cellphone subscribers wanted to change their cellphone carrier when the government introduced mobile number portability?

In the prevailing low-bandwidth environment, are you going to rely on patchy mobile data infrastructure or would you prefer to transact using a more reliable Internet connection on your computer?

Agreed things may change when 4G mobile services become more widespread but realistically speaking isn’t that many years away from now? Despite the mobile phone ubiquity and rising smartphone penetration in India, the underlying infrastructure may simply be not geared to support Myntra’s daring leap of faith.

2. Will sales stop when discounts stop? 

Myntra says 90% of their traffic and 70% of current sales come via consumers on mobile devices. However, many consumers may be buying through the mobile apps only because of the available offers and discounts.

When there are no discounts offered for using the mobile app, will the sales falter?

Not just Myntra, but almost all internet-based companies in India (e.g. OLA, Meru, Flipkart, Amazon) want you to download their apps – so they are offering discounts to promote usage. But this can’t be sustainable in the long term.

3. What, I can’t compare prices?

Consumers love to compare prices before shopping.

Can you think of an occasion when you did not check prices on competing sites before buying? A ‘mobile-app-only’ strategy prevents easy price comparisons and is betting against this thoroughly ingrained consumer behavior.

The path-to-purchase often starts with a Google search on the web or on the smartphone. A mobile-app-only Myntra would be missing on out in the consumers’ first steps of discovery, including the all-important price comparisons?

BTW, even when shopping using mobile-apps, the desktop is not completely out of the picture. Here is what shoppers frequently do:

Desktop computer: do the research and read reviews, compare prices and add the chosen product to your wish list

Mobile app: Then as a last step, make the payment and complete the transaction. They would have closed the deal on the desktop itself but for the discount available for using the app.

4. Mobile shopping  is not always convenient?

Mobile-first or Mobile-apps work best for social media (Facebook, Twitter), communication (Whatsapp, Snapchat) and media and entertainment (YouTube) categories where you compose a quick update on the fly or consume content on the go. Not surprisingly social and chat apps are most popular category of apps. A mobile app can also be handy when your location is important – think Google maps, Ola, or Uber.

But when it comes to shopping, smartphones – with their smaller screens and slow internet speeds – are not always very convenient.

5. Smartphones are not senior friendly? 

Agreed – the millennial generation loves mobile devices. But what about others, particularly senior citizens – a currently under-served but still a sizeable segment with considerable spending power?

I know many senior citizens who are enthusiastic shoppers on Myntra and other sites but they only use their desktop computers.

Shopping on their smartphones? In fact, many don’t have smartphones (though they can easily afford them). Even those senior citizens who have smartphones struggle  with the dexterity demanded when navigating a mobile app.

6. Competition offers far more choice?

In their current phase of their evolution, eCommerce sites in India face a fierce battle to gain and retain customers. Myntra rivals like Amazon and Snapdeal offer you a choice of using their apps or going to their websites and do not appear to be in any hurry to embrace a mobile-app-only strategy.

Unless there are compelling reasons to buy from Myntra (e.g. best price or exclusive merchandise) won’t this drive away consumers who prefer to have the choice of how they want to buy ? From a shopper perspective, the “what’s-in-it-for-me” is not very clear.

There is a bit of a paradox here: an eCommerce company like Myntra brings a virtually unlimited choice of goodies to your doorstep but there is only one (mobile) key to unlock this consumer paradise.

PS: BTW, early evidence suggests that Myntra’s sales already dropped by 10% within a week into the mobile-app-only experiment. Don’t be surprised if a year or two down the road, Myntra brings back the web site.

* Can you even call a mobile-app-only company as an “online company”?

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