About a year into its app-only experiment, Myntra, widely seen as India’s top online retailer of fashion apparel and clothes, has announced it is reversing that strategy to allow users the flexibility of shopping on its website once more. Going forward, the focus will remain on user experience, irrespective of the platform, CEO Ananth Narayanan told Forbes India on Thursday.
“The re-launch of a full-fledged site is aimed to provide convenience to a segment of customers, especially women customers, who have a marked preference for browsing and shopping on multiple platforms such as mobile, tablet and desktop,” the fashion business, part of online retailer Flipkart, conceded in a press release on Thursday evening.
Some women customers agree: “I stopped using Myntra after they went app-only,” Aarthi Rao, a Bengaluru-based lawyer, told Forbes India by phone. “The app simply doesn't give options for comparison and the visibility is so bad on the mobile, especially the options to use coupon codes are better visible on the desktop,” she said.
With smartphones becoming ubiquitous, especially among the educated urban upper-middle class Indians, Myntra was betting that its customers would accept the loss of the web option in return for greater user experience. Flipkart too, which tried its own app-only experiment, went back to allowing customers the choice of simply shopping via its website.
On Google’s smartphone application store, Google Play, Myntra has seen more than 10 million installations. However, by bringing back the flexibility of shopping on a website, Myntra estimates it can expand its customer base by as much as 20 percent, the company said in its press release.
“I believe that our customers will use the larger screen to view products especially our new offerings such as home furnishing and jewellery and make the purchase on the app,” Ananth Narayanan, Myntra’s chief executive, said in a phone interview on Thursday.
Over the last year, the mobile strategy has seen strong adoption, Myntra said in the press release. The company has attempted to make the smartphone experience much more personalised, and has started building a fashion ecosystem of sorts with multimedia content, expert advice on fashion, and “brand day” events, where consumers can interact with global brands that they fancied.
Myntra also continues to fine-tune its app to work on phones with cheaper hardware and in mobile network conditions where downloads could be really slow. Overall user experience will be an obsession in the next two years, Narayanan said in the interview.
And some customers have been converted to the app-only strategy, such as Shweta Venkatesh, a Bengaluru-based publicist: “I feel the app is easier to use and is easily accessible — one has to take out the laptop and login whereas you always carry your phone around. I now prefer the app because I am used to it.”
Others were less convinced. “As a user, I would prefer desktop for online shopping versus a mobile app for the simple reason of user experience,” Chris Das, an entrepreneur in Bengaluru, said. “Condensing all the information from a desktop model to fit into a smaller screen means making it longer, then one has to scroll a lot to view all the options. If left with no options, I would still use an app on a tablet but not on a mobile.”
“The moment Myntra announced its app-only model, I knew it wouldn’t work. Everybody could see it except Myntra,” Das said.
In February, Myntra reopened its mobile website, which now appears like it was the precursor to the June 1 re-launch of the desktop site.
Ashwin Sekar, a senior director for product management at a fin-tech company in Chennai, echoes Das. “When I buy a product online, I would like to compare options, do my research and buy. App provides little scope for comparison.” While travelling recently, Sekar also faced the situation of having to delete a bunch of apps on his smartphone to free up space. Online retailers must provide flexibility, he said.
“One of the biggest learning for us with the app-only strategy has been that we have been able to dramatically better our app,” Narayanan said. The expectation that desktop use would shrink, didn’t really pan out, he said. “Our customers wanted to have the option of desktop site as well and we listened.”