Like “athleisure” fashion or salted caramel, Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart’s new mobile website is a boon to consumers as it offers the best of two worlds. Called Flipkart Lite, the site combines the rivalling realms of mobile apps and the mobile web.
Launched on 9th November 2015 and heralded as the first of its kind in the world, the site gives an app-like shopping experience without needing to download native apps on smartphones. Flipkart Lite makes shopping on the mobile web easier and a whole lot more convenient.
Flipkart is already known for eyeing mobile-only strategy
Flipkart, the largest ecommerce in India valued at more than USD 15 billion and one of our early-adopter customers for visual search, has already a reputation for its affinity to mobile:
• 75% of its traffic is generated via Flipkart mobile app
• had its Black Friday-like Big Billion Days sales in early October 2015 available only on mobile app
• Myntra (acquired by Flipkart in May 2014) has gone app-only in May 2015 - and says it is paying off
And no wonder when the CEO of Flipkart is describing India as a mobile-first internet country, expecting it to become a mobile-only one in the future. In June 2015 there were 354M internet users in India, with 60% access from mobile according to reports.
Flipkart Lite comes to life
Although internet penetration in India is growing, several hurdles remain for mobile e-commerce companies keen to do business on there.
For one, internet connections continue to be patchy. Many smartphone owners are also on limited data plans and possess cheap, minimal-storage models that aren’t suitable for downloading large apps needing frequent updates. Besides, research shows that new mobile internet users in India tend to shop on web browsers instead of on apps.
But with their limited functionality, mobile websites are traditionally seen as the poorer cousin of their desktop counterparts. On the other hand, mobile apps provide a more immersive, interactive experience, they also take up storage space and demand frequent updates.
However, Flipkart pushed the limits of mobile web shopping with Flipkart Lite. It’s a complete contrast to what is available to mobile web users today.
“Websites push users to install the app. But only 4% of the people actually install the app. Flipkart doesn't have a mobile website. So we wanted to give the experience of a native application on a mobile website,” said Flipkart’s head of engineering, Peeyush Ranjan.
The company worked with internet browsers Google Chrome and Opera to design a mobile site that offers a multitude of benefits to shoppers.
Clearing the hurdles
Among Flipkart Lite’s advantages: instant access and offline functionality. The site works on 2G networks and loads even while the user has a spotty internet connection or switched the phone to airplane mode.
Other benefits include not requiring dedicated storage space or frequent updates – just tap refresh and the site loads with the latest updates. Plus, users can install the home-screen icon and access Flipkart Lite with a single tap – no more logging into the browser and typing in the web address. To ensure a smooth browsing experience, web pages are rendered at 60 frames per second, too.
For e-commerce businesses, Flipkart Lite is inspiring because it also offers common app features that are attractive to shoppers.
“It will get notifications, it will have access to your hardware and contacts to make use of innovative interactive features like image search, and it will have the ability to work offline. All the things which weren't possible in a mobile web before, are now possible. This is the first time anybody has done this,” said Ranjan.
The site’s web push notifications are a functionality of Google’s Chrome internet browser, which, from April 2015, allowed companies to send messages to customers who don’t have their mobile apps – even when the browser is closed.
With these same advantages, it’s become clearer that the lines between mobile web and mobile apps are blurring – and how the battle between them is becoming obsolete in 2016, as we wrote in a recent blog post.
Indeed, mobile as a whole is booming, as Will Lindemann, Director of Growth at Branch Metrics, put it in our previous guest post. He writes that customers will continue to spend their time and money on mobile devices. In fact, mobile commerce is thriving, even as online commerce is slowing. And companies will certainly want a slice of the estimated $600-billion mobile commerce business by 2018, according to Goldman Sachs.
For Flipkart, its shoppers are the ones who ultimately stand to benefit the most as they enjoy a more seamless, interactive mobile experience – no matter on the mobile app or mobile web.
As Ranjan said: “The main reason for launching our web app is we don’t want to compromise on the user experience for people who come to us on the mobile web. We’ve pushed the limits of technology to a point where the mobile website can give you the same experience as the native app.”