Will Myntra's move away from desktop cause its downfall?

India's leading fashion and lifestyle retail portal Myntra closed down its desktop site on Friday and moved completely to its app-only platform.

One of India's leading fashion and lifestyle retail portal Myntra closed down its desktop site on May 15 and moved completely to an app-only platform. Users now looking to shop at Myntra will have no choice but to download the mobile app. The portal left a message on its website informing users that their decision is based on the quick growth of smartphones and the 'first step towards the future of fashion shopping'.

At the moment, the Flipkart-acquired company says that 95 percent of Internet traffic comes through mobile and 70 percent sales are generated through smartphones. This could be a possible motive as to why the company has ventured completely into smartphones. But, does cutting off all desktop operations and moving into an app-only format make sense? Not many seem to be happy with this move.

Myntra's decision has received mixed reactions. There are some who believe that app-only platform is a great move. Brand-expert Harish Bijoor said, "Initially, there will be palpable turmoil with anything between 15 to 20 percent of existing customers , but this will settle down." He believes that the biggest advantage with the app-only strategy is being a single platform player.

He further adds, "There is focus and no redundancy costs. An even bigger pro is the fact that mobile means more impulse traffic and conversion of buys." When asked whether this decision could affect sales or faithful customers, he said that, "In the short term, for about four months, it could, but it wouldn't in the medium term."

Though the mobile revolution over the past couple of years has compelled users to shop or window shop via smartphones, it seems unfair that the company wants to confine its users to a single platform. We wouldn't disagree that the growing need for smartphones will drive online shopping in the future, but how 'far distant future' is still unclear. It seems like an abrupt shift rather than a gradual one as Indian audiences aren't necessarily ready to completely abandon shopping from their PCs. For those consumers (whether small or large) comfortable with a desktop should be allowed to do so.

However, restricting users to the app could have more disadvantages. It leads to a possible invasion of privacy as most apps today want access to all your personal information such as device and app history, contacts, identity, location, phone and media files along with a lot more. Moreover, the rate of payment failures could possibly increase as the internet speed/network could sometimes hamper the payment process.

Over 60 per cent mobile users in India are facing network problems while accessing internet across locations, a recent Ericsson study revealed. Also, regular customers who prefer online shopping on PCs/laptops over mobile, could move to other e-commerce sites. Smartphones are definitely the future, but desktops are much more comfortable. Users can open multiple tabs to compare products. Not to forget, they get a better zoomed in view of the product as well, which wouldn't be as appealing on a small screen. Mobile shopping is great on-the-go, but not everyone is always shopping while travelling.

In fact, the mobile market in India has also faced a dip. A recent Cybermedia report highlights that Indian mobile-phone sales have dropped for the first time in 20 years. Mobile sales dropped 14.5 percent in the first quarter (Q1, January-March) 2015, on a quarter-to-quarter basis, compared to Q4 (October-December) 2014 — from 62 million handsets in Q4 2014 to 53 million handsets in Q1 2015.

Myntra's rivals Snapdeal and Amazon have no plans to shut down their websites and plan to focus solely on mobile. In conversation with Economic Times, a Snapdeal spokesperson said, "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."

Customer Experience Head at Amazon India said, "We believe that as a consumer-obsessed company, we have to enable our customers to shop anytime, anywhere, and anyway they want."

While Myntra has gone all mobile, its parent company Flipkart, which plans to follow the same path in a year, is yet to make any formal announcement. The switch will probably depend on how successful Myntra turns out to be. Looks like, it's an experimenting base for Flipkart, who can then strategise depending upon the success of Myntra.

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