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Mobile apps: New e-tail battleground

With data showing Indian users spend an average 198 minutes each day on their smartphones, e-commerce companies in the country are now looking to tap this audience through their mobile phone applications (apps). After Amazon India’s ‘Appiness Day’ sale last month, where the company offered discounts exclusively for shopping on its mobile app, Flipkart has now followed suit.

During December 8-12, Bengaluru-based Flipkart will run its ‘Big App Shopping Days’ special discounts. Additionally, to nudge users to download its mobile application, Flipkart is offering vouchers worth up to Rs 1,200 from Makemytrip.com and Meru Cabs, among others, the company’s website showed.

According to sources at Flipkart, the company had planned its app-only sale much earlier. But Amazon was the first one to launch it. The initiative makes sense as Flipkart is now getting over 50 per cent of the traffic on its website from mobile devices, which is much higher during evenings and on weekends. A year ago, this number was less than 10 per cent.

“Over the past year we have been seeing that there is an increase in growth coming from our mobile app. A majority of this growth is coming from outside of metro cities. So we are taking this opportunity to connect with our consumers better and grow the user base for our mobile app by having a shopping festival exclusively there,” Mausam Bhatt, senior director, marketing (mobile and digital marketing), at Flipkart told Business Standard.

In a not-so-far future, Bhatt expects that as much as 80-90 per cent of the overall e-commerce traffic in India may start coming through mobile devices.

Amazon India had also seen a surge in purchases through mobile platforms, the company said in a statement issued at the time of launching its ‘Appiness Sale’. “At present, nearly 50 per cent traffic comes through mobiles and there is a sharp increase in customers as well as the quantum of shopping on our apps. Additionally, the repeat rate of customers is very healthy, indicating a good shopping experience,” Amazon India had said.

Amazon India’s app-sale had received a good response, according to the company, which said it saw an over four-fold jump in traffic through the app during the sale day, as compared with the same day of the previous week.

While mobile infrastructure in several parts of the country could act as a deterrent to these mobile app-focused initiatives, Flipkart’s Bhatt said the company was working hard to ensure that its app worked “reasonably well in situations of highly unreliable networks”. Additionally, with most e-commerce websites offering the cash-on-delivery facility, buyers will not be faced with security threats or technology glitches while trying to transact.

ADAPTING TO CHANGE
What is a mobile app?
While websites can be accessed through browsers on smart devices, a mobile app is a software application developed specifically for use on small, wireless computing devices, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than desktop or laptop computers

Why a mobile app?
Worldwide sales of smartphones to end users totaled 968 mn units in 2013, an increase of 42.3 per cent from 2012, according to Gartner. Companies can better target these smartphone users by providing a rich experience through their apps

Popularity of mobile apps
On Google Play Store, Amazon’s mobile app has been downloaded over 50 mn times (due to the company’s popularity in countries like the US). Flipkart’s app has over 10 million downloads on Google Play Store, while the Snapdeal app has over 5 mn downloads

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