Online purchasing has changed since the turn of the millennium. At that time, online retailing existed, but was more of a novelty than a mainstream purchasing option. Over the intervening years, we’ve seen the launch and growth of many highly effective online retailers. Some were operating prior to 2000 as Internet-only retailers, while others were traditional retailers who migrated part or all of their business to the internet. Between the traditional and the new retailers, customers can now purchase just about anything, anywhere in the world using the Internet.
Since the launch of online retailing, purchasing has largely been competed using websites. Companies have spent considerable effort and time in developing effective “shop-front” websites to promote their business and products, and developed effective online shopping. The world of online shopping has started changing with the introduction of smartphones and tablets as they have boosted the growth in apps. Tasks such as online banking can be completed as efficiently using the bank’s app as it can be by logging into the bank’s website. And it isn’t just banking – many service providers and retailers are developing apps.
An app should ideally provide an enhanced and simpler user experience, delivering an outcome more efficiently than a browser. Retailers like the idea of you using their app as it minimizes your chance of browsing competitor sites (and maximizes the opportunity for them to win your business). Some retailers have considered APP ONLY purchasing and forgoing the use of a traditional website, hosted on a browser. For some businesses, an app-only purchasing system makes sense. Companies such as ride-sharing (e.g. Uber and Lyft) expect their customers to use the app to book their rides and manage their accounts. Such commercial behavior may make sense for these organizations, but would it make sense for retailers of books, clothing, food, or other common items?
Myntra is an leading online retailer dealing in India. The company commenced trading in 2007 as a ‘traditional’ online retailer. Through growth and mergers, Myntra has become a significant online retailer in the Indian market. In 2015 the company reviewed internet traffic and sales. Their data suggested that over 90% of web traffic and 70% of sales were coming through tablets and smartphones. Based on this, Myntra discontinued a browser option for customers, and made a decision to only provide retail services only through their app. Over the subsequent year sales were reported to have declined by 10%. Myntra has now re-launched their browser website. While Myntra may have tried to operate their sales business as an app-only store and suffered a loss of sales, other organizations may make a similar move as use of apps becomes more common-place, and it may revolutionize the way we shop online. In the long run, the way in which we shop will come down to the psychology of what makes us more comfortable with a website compared to an app. Companies may shift consumer behavior over time, but should be aware that in any customer population, there will be a significant number who will be slow to change. If your company’s competitors continue to provide service in the way that these customers desire, you may risk losing a portion of your customers by not delivering the service option they prefer.