For many users, the decision of Flipkart and Myntra to go "app-only" feels like a betrayal. Flipkart is a poster child of e-commerce in India and has been a trendsetter and trailblazer in many ways. Naturally, what it does is closely watched and emulated by the market and competitors. But few seem to want to follow suit this time.
Most customer-centric organisations are moving towards multiple channels to achieve scale and reach in an effort to embrace and engage customers anytime, anywhere. Meanwhile, Myntra has already shut down its website and Flipkart intends to make the jump by the end of the year. This uni-channel approach seems like a big, bold -- and odd --bet. Will it pay off or result in customer defection? We will have to wait and watch.
Right now, though, from the consumer point of view, the "app only" decision seems arbitrary, deceptive and inconvenient.
Here is why the app-only switch is likely to turn off customers.
1. Underwhelming interface
Mobile devices have fairly limited user interface possibilities as compared to a high-impact full-fledged website. Even the hamburger icon now most commonly used across apps to tuck away the entire website's links has proven user-unfriendly. Ever wondered why the Flipkarts and Myntras of the world buy full-page adverts in the newspapers rather than small singe-column ad space? It's because of the difference in impact. Ditto for the website vs App. The former makes an impact at first glance, while the latter leaves you squinting.
2. Inconvenient shopping experience
There is much negative feedback on the Google Play Store from several users complaining about the applications hanging often. To be fair, user experience is a combination of factors including ones own mobile device condition, network etc. This is often forgotten and the ire of the user gets transferred to the brand for launching a sub-optimal app. The result? The brand's image suffers.
3. Poor timing
What we have learned from the dotcom era of irrational exuberance is that the consumer does evolve but not at the velocity at which technology firms fantasise about. It took 15 years for an Indian consumer to place his trust and buy tomatoes and potatoes on a website. Flipkart and Myntra may have moved too fast too soon.
4. Privacy concerns
The Internet payment gateway is just catching up, and mobile payment still does not evoke trust. What if the mobile is lost? Privacy issues will prevail. As for Myntra and Flipkart, what Google has recently done will enforce strictures on how much information apps can access about the consumers.
5. Network issues
Forget semi-urban and rural areas, even mobile networks in metros can be frustratingly uneven and patchy. It gets worse if you are on roaming. Many users prefer to not consume data through a mobile network as is often expensive and slow. Instead they prefer to use home wi-fi/hotspot connections to use the app to save costs, effort and time. This negates the argument of user friendliness and involvement. The user is likely to postpone his engagement in that context.
6. App abandonment
Every day a new app gets launched in the market. The memory on the mobile device is not infinite. Unless the downloaded app is indispensable, it would get abandoned to make way for the next shiny app on the horizon. If a brand chooses the "app-only" strategy, it may run the risk of getting dumped sooner than later.
7. Device issues
Smartphones are the biggest guzzlers of battery power. They cannot sustain extended browsing the way a PC can. Users tend to be frugal and use it for business/social needs as a priority.
With so much choice before them, consumers are fickle. And such a technologically deterministic approach further widens the digital divide leading to a loss of positive emotional connect, satisfaction and brand experience.