Is it already time to kill your mobile website?


Update on April 6: Myntra is likely to shut down the desktop website from May 2015 (source). Yes, not just the mobile website but the desktop one as well and Myntra will be going out with an app-only strategy. 

If you’re an entrepreneur in India, ‘focusing on mobile’ is probably the only thing you’ve heard in the past couple of years. With millions of Indians coming online via mobile for the first time, this is where the opportunity lies. But how does one do that? Build an app or a have a strong mobile website? If you haven’t been living under a rock the past few days, it’s pretty clear that India’s largest eTailer, Flipkart is gunning for an app-only strategy. Yes, Flipkart and Myntra have already shut down their mobile website which means that if a user tries to access the website via mobile, she’ll be redirected to the Play Store (Android) or App Store (iOS), depending on the device. Urban Ladder is another growth stage eCommerce venture that does the same.

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This move might seem a bit premature and does raise a few questions:

1) Is the mobile traffic already this high?

2) Why shut down the mobile website completely?

3) Does this also signal an end for desktop?

This Twitter thread has a lot of answers. Amit Somani, Parter at Angel Prime shares anecdotal data- for Flipkart and Snapdeal, mobile traffic is already in excess of 75%. The number is above 80% for Myntra and above 85% for Zomato. But is all of this traffic on the app? No but the aim is to get it all on the app since it is turning out to be relatively difficult to provide a great mobile web experience and the thesis is that eventually, everything is anyways going to move to the app. Why not push it by shutting down the mobile website and redirecting to download the app. There is a high chance of pissing of a few customers but again, the thesis seems to ‘build for the future’. Sachin Bansal, co-founder of Flipkart was also involved in the discussion and mentioned that “early start-ups should focus on mobile only.”

Nameet Potnis, co-founder at Apptuse, a SaaS product to help small companies build their apps shares some interesting insights. "I think this is a great move by Flipkart because if one analyzes the situation, the pros of going app-only far outweighs the cons." He thinks that geo-targeting is the key over here. With the app installed, a Flipkart knows individual preferences and can give customized feeds for every person. This strategy seems the way to go for an eCommerce startup because for a consumer to purchase, the experience has to be very rich. And for this, a good internet connection comes in handy which can be scarce in countries like India. A person would only buy an item worth thousands if she is able to see a few high res pictures, check all the specifications and all this takes time to load. If she had an app, all this becomes pretty easy and there are higher chances of her going ahead with a purchase.

But still, why kill the mobile website? Well, for players working at a scale like Flipkart, it is worth the risk and gauge the response. From a business point of view, it makes sense if the conversions go up even if a few customers move away. For a consumer, it might seem like a forced action and few would refuse to download the app but many will be swayed away towards installing the app. The biggies will leave no stone unturned in announcing the offers on mobile apps in any case.

And if you're an early stage startup, should you take the cue and go app only? A risky step and one should build for the future but to see that future, one needs to have users right now. It seems prudent to watch how the strategies pan out and then take a call whether only app is the way to go. What do you think?

Should eCommerce ventures in India kill their mobile websites and go app-only?



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image credit: Shutter Stock


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