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Flipkart Lite for mobile could indicate re-think of ‘app-only’ strategy

In a re-think of the app-only strategy, Flipkart has now relaunched its mobile website calling it 'Flipkart Lite'.

Written by Shruti Dhapola |
Updated: November 11, 2015 12:00:30 pm
Flipkart, Flipkart Lite, Flipkart Mobile site, Flipkart New Mobile site, Flipkart Google, Flipkart app only, Flipkart vs Amazon, Flipkart Diwali discounts, technology, technology news Flipkart Lite is the new mobile site of the e-commerce portal which has been launched on Chrome.

Months after shutting down its mobile website in favour of the app, Flipkart has now relaunched the same calling it ‘Flipkart Lite’. The new mobile site is accessible only via Google Chrome on Android phones.

The relaunch comes amidst speculation that the e-commerce portal could go app-only. Myntra, the fashion portal owned by Flipkart, went app-only this year.

According to a WSJ report, Flipkart’s new mobile website has been built with Google’s help. The report notes that Google has been trying to make mobile sites more engaging as it cannot crawl apps so efficiently and that affects its search engine business. WSJ adds that Flipkart is one of the first in India to use Google’s new technologies to load mobile sites faster.

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In November, Google had also said that “pages with an app install interstitial that hide a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page won’t be considered mobile-friendly”. With Flipkart, if you tried to open the mobile site, it would redirect you to the app download page either on Google Play Store or the App Store on iOS.

The new Flipkart Lite site will make use of the new notifications feature in Chrome. Potential users can also add the Flipkart Lite page to the homescreen on Chrome in order to access it directly without typing in the name each time.

Flipkart’s relaunch of its mobile site comes just a couple of weeks after its Big Billion Days sale, which was an app-only affair this time. It was also reported in September that Flipkart was exploring an app-only strategy.

PTI had reported that Flipkart’s Chief Product Officer Punit Soni told employees at a “town hall” meeting that the site would operate only with a mobile app from September,  which the company had denied later on.

“India is gradually transitioning from a mobile first to a mobile only country… We are constantly experimenting with various aspects of our service to create the best shopping experience for our users on our app…,” Flipkart had said in a statement at the time.

“At Flipkart, we have been following a mobile first approach and 70-75 per cent of our total traffic is already coming from our mobile app,” it added.

The re-launch of its mobile site is likely to raise questions about how successful ‘an app-only’ strategy can be in a country like India where the user experience can often be fragmented.

For starters, budget smartphones with limited storage space are the preferred choice for most customers. This means that unless someone is an avid shopper from a particular e-commerce portal, they might not so keen on letting an app occupy precious space on their smartphone.

The other issue lies with online payments on apps. Thanks to the RBI’s two-factor authentication system, users have to enter a One-Time-Password (OTP) when finalising a payment. If your Internet fails at that point, then it makes for a frustrating user experience. Plus the small screen size means there is room for error, much more than it would be on a desktop.

There are also drawbacks of restricting user access to just mobile screens. When it comes to lifestyle items like clothing, beauty products,  browsing on a small screen with a lower-resolution is an issue for users. They might want to double check the product on a larger screen, see the colour better, which is not always possible on mobiles, especially for those on budget phones. In my personal experience, I’ve seen clothes look very different when see on a high-end Samsung or iPhone compared to a budget phone.

However, we can’t overlook that mobile is where the next growth story for e-commerce lies. It’s not just Flipkart, but Snapdeal, Amazon, etc say that they have seen a boom in mobile traffic. Like Flipkart, Amazon too offered some deals only on the app in its recent sale.

But restricting users to just apps as Flipkart has tried to do might not always work in a portal’s favour, especially in India where people like to exercise more than one option.

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