10% dip in sales as Myntra goes app-only: Depriving users of desktop shopping is a bad idea

India's largest online fashion retailer, Myntra, has seen a 10 percent drop in sales ever since it shut down its website to turn into an app-only e-tailer last week, the Economic Times reported today. While Myntra had expected this initial dip in sales, it hopes to return to the level prior to the move soon enough.

But is tying a customer down to just one route wise? Why irk  loyal customers who access the website for shopping by forcing them too chose only one channel and shutting down every other medium of channel — be it the  laptop, tablets, or PCs?

Myntra’s rivals and other e-commerce companies are not in a hurry to adopt an app-only approach for the simple reason that multiple methods of shopping means more potential customers and thus more sales. Myntra, however, argues that 95 percent of its traffic comes from mobile, which means it does not want to risk wasting money on other platforms and prefers focusing its resources on just mobile users.

Their logic is that by going mobile only their conversion rate will rise because  they would get more serious shoppers on the app as opposed to the many ‘window’ shoppers on the web. Even Housing CEO Rahul Yadav had lauded the company for its ' bold decision.' "Key people's focus in the company is very important, so its great that they have decided to go app only," Yadav had said in his Redit AMA on Tuesday.

 10% dip in sales as Myntra goes app-only: Depriving users of desktop shopping is a bad idea

Screengrab from site

Now it's true that traffic from mobile devices is on the rise, which is why e-commerce companies are pushing users to download apps by offering app-only discounts or discontinuing mobile phone (WAP) websites. But an app-only strategy might not be wise for several reasons.

One, internet penetration in India remains shallow, and not all users have tablets. Two, the screen size of a mobile phone is too small to offer a rich shopping experience. And three, there are several users who may browse on the app, but prefer making payments online. Add to that the numerous push notifications and the lack of storage space which may force the user to uninstall the app and only re-install it depending on immediate requirements as the mobile phone storage space is mainly taken up by media like music, photos and games.

Personally, even though I prefer to use my mobile for browsing the web, when it comes to shopping and actually spending money on, I prefer seeing a product in an aspect ratio which is larger than that of a mobile phone. I want to see large images without having to zoom in on every picture.  Going mobile-only does not acknowledge this requirement and this oversight may actually come back to bite Myntra later.

Secondly, India’s is a price sensitive market where people prefer buying a  product after comparing it with another one from a different e-commerce site. But when people are constrained to the mobile apps, this option would be erased.

So while it is okay to  reduce or even stop  investments on PC-web, it may just be foolish or even dangerous to discount it as a relic of the past. After all, every single user working in a corporate company owns a laptop or a desktop, and spends 7–9 hours daily on it. Will this user just switch from browsing the web  to her mobile during the middle of the day just to access Flipkart?

The fact is that there still exists a smaller number of web browsers generating sale for the company. By taking away the choice of these big spenders, Myntra is simply irking their potential customers.

Travel website ClearTrip, which recently redesigned its mobile website, has the most fitting reply to Myntra.

"There is a trend of brands shutting down their mobile sites in favor of mobile apps — they claim it is due to the overwhelming effort required to maintain all products across multiple platforms. We think that’s a terribly weak argument coming from companies that have no dearth of resources at their disposal. We’re committed to keeping Cleartrip accessible so our customers can use the channels they prefer. The web is one of the fastest and easiest platforms to develop and maintain (as compared to other front end platforms), and testimony to that, this entire project took us just 2 months to complete.

We’re excited to share this huge upgrade to Cleartrip’s mobile web experience and hope you enjoy the changes," the company said in a blog post. 

Perhaps fearing the wrath of its existing PC users, other e-tailers such as Snapdeal, Amazon and Ebay are in no mood to shut down their web operations.

"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 was quoted as saying by ET while an Amazon India spokesperson said ""We believe that as a consumer-obsessed company, we have to enable our customers to shop anytime, anywhere, and anyway they want."

In other words, what they mean is that upsetting your own user community, many of whom are already loyal users, is not beneficial for e-tailers. A single company, no matter how big it may be, cannot just change user behaviour . Given the remarkable growth in mobile users, e-tailers should adopt  an app first strategy, but why kill the goose that laid the first golden egg?

Updated Date: May 21, 2015 12:43:13 IST