The current scenario in the eCommerce industry is no less different than a tennis match, with balls landing in different courts every time. It is getting fiercer, and though a player might lose one battle, the eyes are on the big war. The question remains – who will win this war without getting slightly less bruised than the other player?
Amidst this entire nail-biting tension, if an eCommerce retailer makes the mistake of making a mistake, there is no way that other similar firms or media are going to spare it. To understand how true this is, one only needs to google Myntra’s re-launch of its desktop site.
A brief history of the whole scene goes somewhat like this. Last year in May India’s largest eCommerce portal Flipkart, who owns Myntra, indulged in a bold experiment where they decided to let go of Myntra’s desktop and mobile site and launch as an app-only store. This suit was followed by Flipkart with turning off its mobile site in order to dominate mobile commerce. This move received a lot of criticism with experts claiming it a premature move and ‘Myntra unnecessarily killing the goose that laid the first golden egg’.
After nine months, both Flipkart and Myntra re-opened their mobile experience and now on June 1, they plan to re-launch its desktop website as well. The reason given was, “We’ve launched a number of new categories such as home furnishing and (fine) jewellery where customers want to see products on a larger screen,” and “we have recognised that some consumers still want the option to shop on the web we’re humble enough to listen to our customers”.
Why was the site shut in the first place?
The reason Myntra gave was to enhance the user experience. They claimed that close to 95% of their internet traffic and over 70% of sales come through mobile devices. Explaining the strategy, Sachin Bansal, Co-founder and CEO of Flipkart said, “India is a mobile-first internet country for a large portion of the population. And with the way things are going may become a mobile-only internet country in the future.”
They probably undermined the power of desktop users in India. We agree that mobiles are far more personal than a PC and given that how mandatory it has become to carry it everywhere, a mobile phone knows the user better in terms of location and preferences in general. In such scenario, a mobile does seem a better option.
Another advantage Myntra wanted to take by this move was the impulse of buyers. Impulse goes a long way in fashion. For people who want to keep up with the trend, Myntra wanted to capture those with their notification settings. With a notification you not only know what the latest trend is but also attractive discounts which became a major reason why people shop online.
But was this enough to move it to an app-only model?
The eCommerce industry is spreading fast, and as you must have noticed, all these companies are following the same model. They are doing exactly the same thing, be it Amazon, Snapdeal or Jabong. The fear of losing in this competition is so intense that all these industries are afraid to make a slightly different move thinking it might destroy them.
In conversation with Professor Anik K Gupta, Strategy and Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland, Entrepreneur learned that Flipkart is facing stiff competition with Amazon and that’s a good thing for them. This is because now it knows that in order to stay ahead it will have to innovate at a much faster pace than Amazon. Whether they do or not do, will make the whole difference.
Now this app-only model, though it wasn’t that innovative, was a move different than what other players were doing. They dared to be different, though it might not have worked in their favour entirely. Flipkart having the ‘Myntra advantage’ experimented on the site, with Flipkart remaining the largest online marketplace. This gave them an edge as they experimented, they failed and yet they are at the top.
Probably Myntra trusted their customers a little too much or they did not understand the power of desktop users. As the majority says, I think the move was a little premature one. Their 70% traffic might be coming from mobile but the number of desktop traffic couldn’t be that low that you plan to move to mobile all together. We do appreciate the daring decision, but as they say, there’s a time and place for everything. Flipkart had the place, but the timings messed it up for them. India, clearly, wasn't ready yet.
Another thing to keep in mind here is that except for some minor changes, Myntra did not have a grand plan to modify the platform all together. They changed the emails with notifications and the experience was more personalized, but nothing revolutionary. Nothing that would make users download an app they would browse regularly. They could have used the camera and sensors to help the user figure out how those clothes would actually look on them or include a personalized automated stylist.
A little bit of artificial intelligence here could have done wonders for Myntra.
The Google game
On the internet, majority of search begins with Google. The trust is so deep that Google can locate precisely what people are looking for, even with ambiguous search queries. The same is for shopping online. Many times people tend type it out on Google rather than visiting the actual site directly. They type what they want and highest ranking site pops up at the top. This is so widespread that brand owners pay Google to show their ads for their own brand name searches.
Now in 2015, Myntra was India’s biggest online shopping destination for apparel and fashion product. This gave them an advantage that anytime anyone did a search related to fashion, Myntra’s name was at the top which gave it free and very high traffic, making it even more popular.
Now when Myntra decide to go app only, the Google spell was broken. After the model was implied, for quite some time people did find Myntra at the top when they searched organically. But once they visited the site, they were asked to download the app instead of finding the product that they were looking for. This led to two things – immediately hitting back button with the intention to search later for loyal users and who knows they did or not; second, a mild irritation for those who aren’t your loyal customers. People on the internet have short attention span and they want things instantly, and when they don’t, this collective mild irritation would have acted like a big ripple in the water. Thus, affecting their sales.
According to Livemint, in the year ended 31 March 2015, Myntra’s actual revenue was Rs.758 crore while its annualized gross sales were $350-400 million at that time. Losses for that year at the Bengaluru-based firm tripled to Rs.1,126.60 crore, according to the documents filed with the Registrar of Companies.
Silver lining here
It’s not a matter of guessing anymore that the ‘humble’ Myntra must have faced major loss in traffic that they made the decision to re-launch the website. The growth they expected never came and adding furniture and jewellery is not a good enough reason to explain that you went wrong. Accepting it would have been more modest.
However, let bygones be bygones. What Myntra is looking at now is a target of generating annualized gross sales of $1 billion by March 2017. And with the site back on, they are expecting an increase of 15-20 per cent of its sales.
In 2015, Myntra claimed that it has nine million users who have downloaded the app so far. This number increased exponentially in the beginning, but later at a much lower pace. Now a larger percentage of their users are hooked to app already and the comeback of site makes a little difference for them. So, Myntra already dominated mobile commerce now and with this re-launch their website will have new users again.
Isn’t that what we call a win-win situation?