Business Today

Shop on the Go

Mobile shopping apps are the new fad. We compare the apps of leading e-commerce portals in India.
twitter-logo Nidhi Singal        Print Edition: July 5, 2015
Shop on the Go

The Times They Are a-Changin," crooned Bob Dylan several moons ago. It rings true for e-commerce shopping companies in India today. Indeed, even as online shopping is catching on in India, most leading portals in India are already migrating towards apps. Consider this. Myntra has already shut down its website. Flipkart has folded up its mobile site, which forces customers to rely on the mobile app for browsing or even purchasing anything on the move. And while Jabong, Amazon and Snapdeal have not yet followed Myntra and become app-only e-commerce portals, they are offering special discounts to customers for installing their app on smartphones and tablets.

An app on your smartphone is undoubtedly convenient but it has its downsides too. First, price comparison isn't easy. Also, the convenience of looking at different products in multiple tabs isn't there anymore - you will have to look at one product at a time. And the details you get with a bigger display on your laptops 13-inch screen cant be matched on a smartphones 5.5-inch. But these portals are constantly releasing regular updates for their apps to enhance the shopping experience.

We have closely analysed the apps of the top five popular shopping portals in India. While three are comprehensive shopping e-commerce portals - Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal - offering almost anything from home appliances and books to apparels and footwear, we also checked out the two most popular fashion brands, Myntra and Jabong.

APP AVAILABILITY & SIZE:

All these five apps are available for download on Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Windows Phone, too. All you need to do is search the name of the app to instantly download it. These apps would consume anywhere between 15 and 30MB of space on your device. For instance, the Amazon India Shopping app occupied 27.33MB storage on a OnePlus One smartphone while Flipkart and Snapdeal apps took up 22.80MB and 14.96MB space, respectively.

The app size varies from smartphone to smartphone. But as you browse the app, more data get stored in its cache memory. You can remove the data by either clearing it or by running Clean Master app that clears all the junk files stored in these apps.

These apps ask you for access to a lot of information on your phone. In most cases, it asks for identity (find accounts on the device), contacts, photographs, device ID and call information, network access, device and app history. Some of these apps even store your credit card/debit card or bank details for quick checkout.

SHOPPING EXPERIENCE:

You can easily browse any of these apps for the products you are looking for, but it is always convenient to sign in first. It will allow you to easily add products to the wish list or even to the cart. Also, over time, these portals seem to have improved the user interface of the apps, too. Images used to take a lot of time to load but it is a quick process now.

Amazon India Shopping:

When launched for the first time, it asks you to login. You can even skip this step. The landing page of the app is very similar to the Amazon.in home page. There are deals, followed by exclusives on Amazon.in, best sellers and deals of the day. There is also a menu option at the top that can take you to the recently viewed items or allows you to shop by department, check wish list, order, access recommendations, contact Amazon and much more. All this is accessible with a single click, which makes navigation really simple.

You can also use the search bar when looking for a product. While searching for any product, the results popped up instantly, without any lag on a 2G connection as well. Filters, too, work in real time. Images are not too heavy and you can switch between list view and grid view. But when a product is selected, it takes close to 15-20 seconds to load the details. Overall, the shopping experience on Amazon app is pleasant. You can add items in the cart and proceed to checkout. But it is always recommended to read reviews about the product as well as the seller - in some cases the seller has not been found to dispatch the order. You have an option to choose between free standard delivery (for orders over Rs 499), guaranteed two-day delivery for Rs 49 or guaranteed one-day delivery by paying Rs 99 extra.

Flipkart:

When launched on the same network connection, the Flipkart app took considerably longer time to load. It first asked us to login. When we skipped it, it took over a minute to load the home page but the lag disappeared after the device was connected to a high-speed Wi-Fi connection. The interface is no different from the web page. The landing page of the app is divided into multiple rows, showing the latest products that are available for purchase followed by amazing offers, deals of the day, just launched, go to offer zone and shop by department. At the bottom is app-only offers. One good thing about the Flipkart app is the quick tutorial that pops up when using the app for the first time. The arrows suggest how to choose filters, swipe or where to tap to change the product view. While searching for a product, the filter doesn't seem to work well. For instance, when we were searching for the cover for OnePlus One smartphone, it continued to show us the options for Apple iPhone 6, Micro- max smartphones, etc.

While browsing the app, a box appears on the page that instantly switches to the grid mode from the list view and vice versa. With Flipkart too, you should be careful about the seller. Also, on the small screen, you might miss the delivery cost mentioned below the price, along with the delivery time-frame. Flipkart, too, has an option of delivery in a day - you can choose it by paying a little extra.

Snapdeal Online Shopping India:

The company has kept it simple with the app. On the top is the search bar along with a basic option menu, exclusive offers and deals of the day. This is followed by a list of categories such as electronics, fashion and lifestyle and home needs. The app works quickly on 2G data connectivity as well, but it takes some time to load the images. Browsing within the app seems to be easy as under every category Snapdeal has listed top brands, quick links and even top sellers to enhance the shopping experience. The filters work well, better than Flipkart.

On selecting a product, you can view the delivery option if any. You can view the rating for the standard delivery by the seller, followed by a view of other sellers and key features. Once selected, you can continue to make the payment using the standard payment options. Most of the products listed on Amazon and Flipkart are available on Snapdeal as well. Tracking the order or viewing shortlisted products is simple by hitting the option menu on the top left.

There is also a percentage sign on the top that takes you directly to the discounted offers. But under daily deals, the prices are not listed along with the products in the grid view. You will have to actually click on the product to check the price. This is slightly cumbersome as every time you will have to wait for the app to load the product just to check the price. More so, when products on discount are limited and go out of stock quickly.

Jabong - Online Fashion Shopping:

The Jabong shopping app is considerably slower than the competition. If you are on a slow data connection, then it will take ages to load. The interface is neat and simple with the top row reserved for the menu, a small icon that directs the traffic to search, shopping cart and other icons that help track the order or check the wish list. This is followed by various categories, including women, men, kids, home fashion, designers, top brands and recommended for you. Selecting a category further directs you to a new page where you can further select between various options such as new in, clothing, shoes, bags, accessories, etc. You can further narrow the search using filters. Surprisingly, even though the app is slow, the filters work smoothly.

One cool feature on Jabong is the "shop the look" option that takes you to a new page altogether within the app featuring all the dress, bags and accessories the model in the image is wearing. The best offer price appears in the same window, showing the discount you can avail. Tracking the order within the app is easy.

Myntra-Fashion Shopping App:

This is a heavy app and takes some time to load. The homescreen is dominated by the offers only, segregated into different heads. There are offers by brand and by discount percentage, too. If you need to look for a product, it is better to use the search tab on the top. You can look for products by selecting the gender (man, woman) or kids. It subsequently shows the options from Indian wear, western wear, accessories, etc., and is further divided into sub-categories.

However, this isn't the same interface during big weekend sales as there is huge traffic on the app. During such sales, you are not able to browse through the menu, hence, the search option works the best. Unlike the website, filters over the app work smoothly. Only the valid options appear in the filters and you can search using brands and even price. But whenever we tried to change the filters to price (high to low or low to high), it usually took a lot of time to reload the options. When a product is selected, the option "tap to get the best price" appears. You can add it to the wish list or to the cart. It is advisable to add products to the wish list and then select and shop later as it is more convenient to compare products and looks. The images do enlarge, giving you a closer look of the garments and accessories. Once the order is placed, all the tracking can be done within the app. You can even arrange a return or exchange with a simple tap.

The experience of shopping on the app isn't bad but we still preferred the Myntra website.

For making payments to all these apps, all the modes are available, including debit card, credit card, net banking and cash on delivery - you can easily complete the transaction. If, while making the payment, a transaction gets cancelled, you might have to contact the customer care of the shopping site or your bank to figure out where the amount is. At times, the money is deducted from the bank and the shopping site does not receive it. It is with the payment gateway and it takes time to get it released.

There is a dedicated option to track the order. It is updated almost real time and you can actually know what the exact status of the order is. All these websites also offer instant message notification when the order is dispatched and is out for delivery.

In most cases, you can cancel the order even when it has been dispatched. If you are not happy with the order you have received, you can request for the return through the app. It works flawlessly with most of these apps. Indeed, unlike offline retail, returning goods to the e-commerce portals is very simple. Someone will come to collect it from the address provided after receiving a request for return. The order is inspected and if everything is fine, a refund is initiated either in the form of store credit or the amount is returned to the bank account.

Although most e-commerce players are betting heavily on apps, it may be a while before shoppers switch completely to apps. Until then, desktop and mobile sites will remain the preferred mode for online shopping.

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