by Shardha Subramanian

How and Why Myntra is Going Mobile-Only: Shamik Sharma, Myntra

May 08, 20157 mins
AnalyticsBusinessConstruction and Engineering Industry

Myntra, which was bought by Flipkart last year, is among the first few e-commerce companies to go app-only. Shamik Sharma, Chief Technology and Product Officer, Myntra, shares why the company decided to shut its website and what it really takes to become mobile-only. 

Myntra, which was acquired by Flipkart last year, is among the first few e-commerce companies to go app-only. Shamik Sharma, Chief Technology and Product Officer, Myntra, shares why the company decided to shut its website and what it really takes to become mobile-only. 

About 90 percent of your traffic comes from mobiles. Was that the biggest trigger for you to go mobile-only?

Absolutely. We are just following our users and going with what our customers want. Last year, around this time, mobile traffic used to be just around 10-15 percent. The curve is moving so fast in the mobile direction that today, 90 percent of our traffic comes from mobile devices. And in a few months it will only go higher. So, traffic from mobile devices is our biggest driver.

But what has changed in the last one year for mobile traffic to jump this drastically?

There’s a big shift that has happened in India in the last year. Our customers have gotten younger and they are more mobile-savvy. Previously, people used to think that desktop is equal to the Internet and mobile is something new. But that’s not what most of India thinks anymore. People have gotten used to thinking that Internet is mobile. And it’s clear that customers want us to be an m-commerce company.

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By going mobile-only, wouldn’t you be jeopardizing the 10 percent traffic that you get from your website?

It would be a temporary phase. We have to understand that the desktop has got many years of experience, compared to mobile, which is only a year’s worth. But because mobiles are always with you, they allow you to enjoy shopping experiences that are not possible on your desktop. For example, we know your location and we can connect with you when you are at a mall. We know who you are and it’s much more personal this way.

And in order to build those experiences, it’s important that we focus not on the 10 percent but on the 90 percent.

You said a lot of traffic comes from tier 2 and 3 cities. But isn’t connectivity an issue?

Apps actually work better in 2G connections. Apps can download a lot of stuff in one go and then it can work offline. So you don’t need a lot of repeated connections. When you have poor connections, apps work much better. It’s much more responsive. People appreciate that. Especially in fashion, where it’s an emotional purchase. They don’t like delays. It’s not like when you are buying a TV which is a considered approach. Clothing is more of an impulsive purchase. So the experience has to be fast and snappy. You have to feel as if it’s real life.

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Did you build the app in-house? How difficult was it?

It’s completely in-house. App building is difficult. But if this is our core value proposition then we need to be great at it. It was really hard to find the talent and skills to build mobile apps. That’s why, we have recently acquired a mobile app development company. And we really want to build the best mobile app team in the country.

It’s also expensive to build mobile apps in-house.

Yes, it’s expensive to build an app. But we look at our mobile app as our store and we need to make it look beautiful. From that perspective, the cost is not high. If that’s our core business, and compared to our revenues and the amount of effort and cost it requires to build your store, it’s not a very big percentage. But definitely it’s a very big chunk of our engineering cost. Today, a third of the company is just building mobile apps.

How does going mobile change your analytics strategy in terms of gathering user-specific data? Very significantly. In a desktop, most of the users are ‘logged out’ users. While we could determine generic things about them—like this user is from Bangalore and she might be more interested in this type of clothes or people in Delhi are interested in this clothing line—we couldn’t analyze on a per-individual basis. But on mobiles they are always ‘logged in’. Even if you open the app you are logged in. You can get much more detailed data about that specific user like who they are and what they want. We can make the experience much more personalized and better.

Could you give us an example?

For example, if you have shopped for kurtas from your mobile, the next time you come we can provide short-cuts to kurtas. If you are logged out on a desktop we would not know that. You would have to go through a series of processes—get on the site, click on women, click on kurtis—and so on. You would be another random user. But if we know that you are the same user, we wouldn’t have to take you through the entire process.

Another example could be, if you are on your mobile, we know your location even if you have not shopped. We can tell you the shipping time instantly. Previously on a desktop, you would have to put your pincode and then we would tell you depending on where you are that the product would be delivered in five days. But with mobile we already know that you are in Bangalore and track your location and also tell you when your product will be delivered.

Do you talk to customers often?

We look at all the feedback we get from our customers at our call centers. All the product managers, including me, spend a lot of time listening to a lot of customer calls. A majority of people who call us are customers who are shopping on mobile devices. And their questions are very different from people shopping on their desktops.

How are they different?

User profiles have changed. Over the last year, our customers have gotten younger. They are more mobile-savvy. They don’t say ‘should I click on this’, they say ‘can I swipe here’. When our call center guys tell customers to log in, mobile users say ‘what do you mean log in?’ There’s no concept of log in. You don’t log in everyday on a mobile device. It’s always on. That’s how different it is.

There’s a disadvantage in being an early adopter: Your competitors can create something better than you.

They may or they may not. If they do, it’s bad for us. We don’t look at this effort from our competitors’ perspective, we look at what our customers want. When we see that customers have moved from desktop to mobiles—from 10 percent mobile traffic last year to 90 percent this year—it is clear to us what our customers want.

If our competitors don’t see the same data or are interpreting it differently, then that’s their interpretation. They may well look at us and learn from our experiences and build better things. If they do that, credit to them. But usually the people who move first have an advantage. They can see the stumbling blocks, fix those, then learn from them and build better and better experiences.