How apps can unlock the potential of e-commerce in mobile-first economies

How apps can unlock the potential of e-commerce in mobile-first economies

By Sanjeev Barnwal

As e-commerce in India takes off, technology in its varied dimensions remains the main driving force behind online marketplaces. Given the central role of technology in markets worldwide, industry analyst Benedict Evans has compared it to the solar system. Here, smartphones are akin to the sun while all other elements orbit around these smart devices.

According to a Cisco study, India will be home to more than 800 million smartphone users this year with these devices driving 44 percent of total internet traffic. Also, the proliferation of smartphones will cause data consumption per capita to reach nearly 14 gigabytes in 2022 from 2.4 GB in 2017, the world’s highest growth rate, Cisco’s “Visual Networking Index” notes.

E-commerce to M-commerce

Considering the demographic dividend that comes from India’s population of nearly 1.4 billion, mobile apps hold immense importance in e-commerce, which can more accurately be called m-commerce or mobile commerce. Since apps offer great opportunities for personalization, they help e-commerce players understand consumers better while communicating with them more frequently and targeting these groups with relevant products according to their browsing history. Almost 25 million new smartphone users are added every quarter in India, underscoring the importance of apps and m-commerce.

Meanwhile, driven by pandemic-related tailwinds that prompted millions of consumers and retailers to embrace digital transactions, the country has now transformed into a mobile-first economy, according to the Annual Mobile Marketing Handbook 2021 from InMobi. Thanks to these trends, the country accounted for approximately 11.6 percent of all app downloads around the world in 2021, according to a recent report from App Annie.

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According to the same App Annie report, Indian consumers spend almost 5 hours a day on mobile apps. This can also be attributed to the emergence of m-commerce app categories such as games, health and fitness, entertainment, edtech, long and short format video content and hyperlocal delivery that are gaining prominence after the pandemic. The availability of these apps in vernacular languages ​​also plays a key role in empowering content creators and consumers.

Retailers must jump on the bandwagon

There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed consumer habits, and has influenced marketing strategies to a large extent. Consumer preferences for mobile-first services appear to be driving a shift towards an app-based economy.

With India transforming into a mobile-first economy, retailers who successfully implement apps will make greater strides in the highly competitive market. To achieve positive results, app developers need to focus on developing lighter apps with minimal load times so that users can enjoy relatively seamless experiences. But even if they keep the apps slim, they need to provide good content for an engaging consumer experience.

Developers should also adapt apps for different user cohorts. This is particularly important as companies see an increasing number of orders originating in tier-II and tier-III cities, emphasizing the importance of multilingual and regional language content. The comfort of speaking or transacting in their language facilitates higher conversion in non-metro areas.

M-commerce allows consumers to order anything at any time from anywhere. Ordering products or services from home saves time, money and effort, especially during the pandemic when consumers avoid crowded malls and markets.

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As a result of evolving consumer habits, using apps to generate more leads and conversions is no longer an option for retailers. Rather, it is essential if retailers do not want to be left behind in the ongoing battle to win, retain and grow their market share, even as a significant percentage of retail trade moves from offline to online.

With the e-commerce user base growing YOY, even SMBs are realizing the importance of apps to grow their customer base. After all, there is no better way to reach consumer cohorts 24×7 from anywhere, anytime.

(Sanjeev Barnwal is the founder and CTO of Meesho)

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