The e-commerce revolution in India has been unparalleled. According to Technopark, a retail advisory, the country’s retail e-commerce industry is estimated at about USD 2.3 billion. This is, however, a fraction of what it is likely in days to come. By 2019, the e-commerce marketplace will grow to about USD 19 billion. And driving the phenomenal success of e-commerce is ‘m-com’ or mobile commerce. Indians are now ready to order groceries, conduct financial transactions, and pay utility bills through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Indians, especially the urban lot, are now increasingly depending on mobile applications for every conceivable activity – booking movie shows and restaurant tables, connecting with friends, doctors, and colleagues, buying cosmetics and medicines, customising educational programmes for kids – just about everything. So what is the future of mobile e-commerce?
Proliferation of Mobile Devices
According to a report by the Brookings Institution, India had almost 900 million mobile connections by the year 2013. This means that even a couple of years ago, India had been the second largest market for unique mobile connections. The report further went on to make a bold claim – Indians spend approximately 45 percent of their incomes on mobile platforms and technology. While this claim may in itself be an unbelievably bold one, if we do take into consideration the wildfire-like spread of e-commerce, this does sound somewhat plausible.
Though only 10 percent of all mobiles in the country are smartphones, this number is quickly growing. Currently, about 34 percent of Internet users in the country access the World Wide Web only from mobile devices. So much so that Flipkart, India’s leading e-commerce player has started to receive about 75 percent of its customer traffic from mobile platforms (including smartphones and tablets).
E-commerce players in the country have realized the potential in on-the-go mobile shopping. It is little wonder then that most of the major e-commerce players such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon, and even ones not in the big league are actively promoting shopping through mobile apps. Attractive discounts are offered exclusively for buying through the mobile apps. Flipkart’s Big App Shopping Days are a considerable hit with the site’s customers. According to a Wall Street Journal blog post from October 2014, Snapdeal expects about 90 percent of its sales by 2016 to be driven by mobile devices.
One of the key drivers of mobile e-commerce is the non-availability of high-end brands and products, such as fashion and furnishing products, in Tier II and Tier III cities. Free shipping and discounts make mobile e-commerce an extremely attractive option. Currently, about 30 percent of all shopping queries in the country come from mobile and handheld devices, according to a news report in The Hindu.
Will the Mobile e-Commerce Trend Last?
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), about 65 percent of the Internet users in the country shop through e-commerce sites. Those shopping through mobile apps, however, are
very demanding. About 40 percent users are quick to move to competition with a single bad experience. The users expect high speed (less than or equal to four seconds loading time).
To make mobile e-commerce a success, sites need to adapt to the mobile technology and make a number of changes to their applications.
- Touch-friendly applications are essential and they need to be combined with easy navigation tools.
- Light applications with space economy are another feature that m-com users find necessary.
- Targeted marketing strategy (such as special discounts on usage of apps) is a great way to reach out to mobile users.
An inability to adapt to the changing e-commerce landscape is an essential that sites and merchants must now look at. With increasing number of smartphones and internet-enabled mobile devices, this is the need of the day.
Will the mobile e-commerce bubble burst? Or will India continue to see an m-commerce the like of which is yet to be seen in the world? While we may have to wait for any real answer, Mr. Tarun Balram’s words from the Forbes magazine seem to resound across the economy – “India is the new e-frontier. A rapidly expanding middle class, with smartphones in hand and cash in their pockets, are looking to the future and finding it online”.