Will Myntra’s Mobile E-Commerce Experiment Pay Off?

Indian e-commerce company, Myntra, will shut its website on May 1 and go completely mobile, with its app as its only platform. Along with its parent company and India’s leading e-retailer, Flipkart, Myntra has already done away with its mobile website.

This marks the start of a bold experiment in mobile e-commerce, not only in India, but perhaps the entire world.

The share of mobile in global e-commerce is growing at an average compound annual growth rate of 42 percent. Myntra itself has 80 percent of its traffic and 70 percent of its sales coming from mobile. So, the numbers do hold out promise and this strategy may very well pay off for Myntra. But, there are a few buts.

Myntra’s Move Hinges on the Perfect App

If Myntra’s entire business is going to hinge on its mobile app, it needs to make sure that the app is optimized in every possible way, so that users have the best possible shopping experience. If anything at all inconveniences users, you can count on them to dump an app and never return to it.

So, what should Myntra do to ensure a great experience for its app users?

  • Download requirements. Is the app easy enough to download or is it taking too long? How big is the app itself? Both are critical factors in a country where connectivity is still unreliable and spotty in the vast Internet hinterland.
  • User interface. Is the user experience (UX) causing any sort of disruption or is it enabling a smooth transaction? Can customers easily look up different categories at the same time, as they would be able to with browser tabs on their desktop computer? Is there a strong Search function? Is everything on the Myntra mobile app, starting from the design to the payment gateway, geared to inspire user confidence? There are mixed opinions on this.
  • Language-ready. Forget about India being English-tolerant and English being an aspirational language. Huge swathes of the population still use their first language to conduct day-to-day business. Language is a critical factor in encouraging users to be confident enough to make a purchase. We should also note that an in-language environment is already being built, thanks to translated interfaces on handsets, localized browsers, chat applications, and so on.
  • No half-hearted localization. A word of caution when it comes to mobile app localization: do it right the first time. A few Indian e-commerce companies resorted to machine translation (MT), with disastrous results. This is not to say that MT has no place, it certainly does in e-commerce. But using translation software, which has integrations with paid, trained MT along with the options to use professional, human translation is a much better approach than using only raw MT output.

Pros and Cons of App-Only Approach in Mobile E-Commerce

Myntra’s move comes at a time when Google is about to push a “mobile-friendly” update to its algorithm. So, if anyone had any doubts about the importance of mobile, now is the time to deny that and jump to the “mobile” side of the fence. The obvious pros of Myntra’s move are:

  • Better focus. No more wasted time figuring out how to convert those dilly-dallying users on the desktop site. App users are there for a reason. Once you get them on the app, the battle is more than half won. The mobile is a personal device and in the comforts of your own app, you can target the user better than in the presence of those distracting browser tabs.
  • The best playground. What better place to launch such an experiment than India, where over 75 percent of the population owns a mobile device, but only 15 percent has access to broadband? Indeed, this venture will be watched not only by Myntra’s Indian peers, but all over the world, especially in developing markets.

Myntra will need to brace against any consumer pushback and reconcile itself with some revenue loss in the short term.

  • Dent in the margins. According to its own statistics, desktop still claims 30 percent of Myntra’s sales. Recent figures from eMarketer show that nearly 75 percent of e-commerce sales come from desktop and tablets and not mobile. Though this statistic is based on surveys of US users, it still is an important piece of data to keep in mind. Which business, in the extremely competitive world of e-retail, would be willing to let go of such a significant share of revenue? Myntra may say this is a short-term loss, and it may well be so, but it is still a loss that needs to be anticipated.
  • User pushback. At least some consumers, especially those used to the desktop environment, will resent being forced to download the app. Again, this may be a transitional phase while people get over old habits. But consider another scenario: a user searches for “cotton shirts” on his/her mobile phone and happens to see a relevant result from the Myntra app. How many of these smartphone users will be willing to download the app to make the purchase, when they can easily go over to the mobile website of a competitor and complete the transaction without a download commitment? That’s the gamble.
  • App store dependency. Apps have to be tightly in sync with app store guidelines over which an app has no control. This may not be a huge deal yet, however.

Mobile-only is a bold enough strategy, but app-only makes Myntra a little too reliant on its walled garden. Parent company Flipkart is aware of the risks and has, hence, said that it will follow through only if the Myntra experiment succeeds. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Image credit: Myntra.com