The Flipkart Slipup: Why Flipkart ditched its app only strategy for Flipkart Lite
A while back, I wrote an article for Apps Unveiled magazine. At the time, Flipkart was following in the footsteps of Myntra and sailing ahead with their plan of going app only. Admittedly, the concept looked revolutionary and also had the power to drive the Indian ecommerce business to new horizons. But in a span of few months, things turned sour and the move amassed a lot of resistance from consumers. In a desperate attempt to recover lost base, Flipkart conducted their patented Big Billion Day sale as an app only feature. Even that didn’t seem to bring any change.
On the eve of Diwali, Flipkart announced its decision to bring back the web and introduced its new browser based Flipkart Lite app. Moreover, they decided to ditch their plans of going app only and keep its desktop website experience alive. So, where did it all go wrong?
Freedom to consumers
One thing that has always bugged me about Flipkart’s proposed business model was their complete ignorance towards customer behavior. Granted the fact that smartphone revolution is taking over, it doesn’t take away the truth that people are still habituated in using large screen devices such as desktops. Also, there is still the case of basic human rights, enabling them to make their own choices. Just because I bought a smartphone doesn’t give you the right to force me into using your app.
Competitors leveraging loopholes
When Flipkart stopped letting people open their website on smartphones it was a juicy opening for competitors to play their hand. Amazon, Snapdeal and many other sites pushed their app first model but also let people open their websites on smartphones, while keeping the desktop website alive. Even the most loyal of Flipkart consumers started switching to competitive offerings and the ecommerce giant’s sales started dropping significantly.
Constant updates consume data packs
When a multimillion dollar corporation is trying to implement an app only business model, one expects them to do their homework. In a surprising manner, Flipkart didn’t consider the ramifications that daily app updates will bring to the table. India being a developing nation still makes data packs a luxury, that few can afford. So, how can you imagine a consumer (shopping once or twice a month) spending valuable data on updating your app, several times a month?
While Flipkart had the stones to go ahead with their app only business model, that doesn’t necessarily make it a smart move. I, along with many others foresaw an outcome that would not prove to be as lucrative as Flipkart’s over ambitious plans had made them to believe. I guess all of this can be owed to the enormous amount of success and funding that the company has achieved in a relatively short time. My only hope is that the company doesn’t let all of it go into its head and end up becoming a precarious example for future startups.