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Mobile-app Only: Trend or Fad?

Over the last few years, Indian startups have been disrupting traditional business models and meeting market needs with 'mobile' being the focal point. The world is sitting up and taking notice, as India leads the way with its unique 'mobile-app' only approach to various market needs. Increasingly with the advent of hyperlocal commerce players, app only models have gained traction and many of India's eCommerce giants have either gone mobile or are thinking of moving to the app only model. 

This trend makes me ask the question: 'What happened to the Omni channel strategy'?

Omni channel was adopted to support the customer through all touch points including web, mobile web, tablet, customer care, email, offline etc. In this approach, the customer is 'king'.

What's driving this change and what are the challenges with the app-only approach?

The drivers:
  • Instant one-touch access and ease of access is the biggest driver compared to any other channel
  • Personalized experience through accurate detection of end-user location and pattern of usage
  • Through in-app notifications and all the functionality available at one place, eCommerce players are able to ensure better adoption and repeat business 
  • For the technology team, it means that one can streamline all the development and user experience effort focused on one channel

However, there are some market challenges as well that need to be overcome:

  • The fact that you are not able to cover all kinds of devices especially laptops/desktops/tablets could mean that you are limiting your target audience initially
  • Loyalty comes at a cost and the end users are apprehensive in downloading the app initially 
  • If the end user doesn't download the app, then you run the risk of losing users to abandonment and competition as there is no web access
  • Limited device memory means that your app competes with so many similar ones for that limited space. Hence, users uninstalling the app after you spend thousands of dollars to acquire the customer is a major loss to the business
  • Also, customers are used to accessing various brands on a single browser. However they don't have any such ease of access for apps

While there are definite situations and use cases where app only models could succeed, the challenges with market, infrastructure maturity, device limitations, and end user apprehensions still remain. Hence, I foresee that organizations will continue to adopt Omni channel as a way to reach maximum customers based on their preference. The end consumer will remain the one who calls the shots and dictates their preferences and the market will follow them.