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Why mobile-only makes sense for ecommerce platforms

Since the time Indian ecommerce portal Myntra went mobile-only and Flipkart announced it will follow suit, many have been questioning the strategy, some even calling it ill-advised. Flipkart may have postponed their plans due to recent media backlash, but their app-only Big Billion Day sales indicate there’s no change in their conviction. Some of the other ecommerce companies have lashed out at this strategy, calling it against consumers and have announced that they have no plans to go mobile-only.

While there is some merit to the argument that there’s a small percentage of consumers who still prefer shopping on a larger screen, it is also clear that the percentage is only going to reduce over time. Companies following mobile-only might hurt their sales a bit in the short run, but they are going to set themselves up for a long term success. Here’s why:

1. Data speaks louder than words: According to a study by PWC, barely five per cent of the ecommerce transactions were through a mobile device in 2013. In 2015, 70-75 per cent of Flipkart’s traffic is coming from mobile. Some other players have reported that over 50 per cent of the ecommerce orders are being placed on mobile. These numbers are only going to increase as more and more people get used to shopping on mobile and as more people get smartphones in their hands. Companies will eventually have no choice but to focus more and more on mobile.

2. Consumers adapt quickly: Some consumers might argue that the desktop gives them a better feel of products compared to mobile. Hence, if you go around surveying customers, you’d probably return with a conclusion that the desktop is a better ecommerce platform. But guess what, if we built products based on what customers say rather than what the data tells us, ecommerce wouldn’t exist in the first place. Remember how people preferred physical stores over online just a few years ago? Desktop to mobile is a much easier transition.

3. Focus yields results: It’s now universally known and accepted that mobile drives manifold times more engagement compared to desktop. Many consumers still procrastinate shopping as they haven’t really tried shopping on mobile, they still go back to their PCs because that’s an option. Mobile-only focus will allow companies to take full advantage of new mobile technologies like 3D touch, VR, AR, mobile payments etc., which will drive even greater engagement.

4. Mobile-only reduces marketing costs: The ecommerce companies are under a huge pressure to become profitable. The mobile-only strategy will bring down the marketing costs significantly. In-app notifications, push notifications, ability to segment users by device, location etc. will not only help personalisation, but also reduce the money companies need to spend to notify users about a discount, new product, a sale etc. They will no longer have to keep spending money to bring consumers back to the website, where the bounce rates are anyways quite high.

5. First mover advantage: Companies going mobile-only might lose some revenues in the short run with their mobile focus, but a year down the line, they’d be the top ecommerce apps on consumer mobile phones. While other ecommerce companies would be spending millions on developing, maintaining and marketing their web portals, Flipkart is going to use all their energy in driving mobile adoption and learning from consumer behaviour. It won’t be easy for other the companies to catch-up when almost all of their consumers have gone mobile-only. Flipkart reported that they currently have 45 million mobile app users. This number is going to shoot up to more than a 100 million within next one year. They might get there even earlier with initiatives like mobile-only shopping events like Big Billion Day sales.

Hence, we believe mobile-only strategy could be the single biggest factor in deciding who wins the ecommerce battle in India in the long run and people are already realising this. At Edureka, we’ve been seeing a huge demand for our mobile focussed courses like mobile development and mobile marketing.

We would like to end this article with word of caution. While ecommerce companies are building mobile-only strategies, they need to be extremely careful on how they manage consumer experience. For instance, you shouldn’t treat push notifications as a free channel. It has to be personalised and strategically executed. Too many or irrelevant notifications could mean that you lose a customer, forever. Traditional rules and tactics of online marketing don’t directly apply to mobile. You need to learn quickly, and adapt. Otherwise, others are going to learn from your mistakes and deliver superior experiences before you realise.

Durgesh Kaushik

Durgesh Kaushik is the Chief Marketing Officer of Edureka.