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What CIOs can learn from an Indian ecommerce retailer’s decision to go mobile-only

May 26, 2015

Myntra, a major online fashion retailer in India, did something that most people would find rather shocking. It completely shut down its ecommerce site and became a mobile-only merchant. The company’s website now directs users to its mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows to shop, though it does still provide some basic information including a social media gallery, FAQ, and the ability to manage orders.

Myntra’s social media page declares, “You’re the reason for the big move. Myntra is now app only.” Its FAQ page provides a fuller explanation:

Myntra has made this move with an eye towards the future, where mobile will outgrow desktop both in terms of computing power and penetration. Myntra believes that switching to a mobile platform gives you the freedom to shop anytime, anywhere. It fits in perfectly with Myntra’s aim to create customer delight, as mobile allows us to create a personalized experience to cater to your unique needs.

A story about the shift  published by The Times of India ( and later reported by TNW) last month noted that 80% of Myntra’s traffic and 70% of its sales were already coming from mobile devices before the company decided to go mobile-only. The story also noted that a mobile-first or mobile-only approach is becoming common among startups in India.

There are some key lessons for CIOs and IT shops from virtually any country or any industry in Myntra’s mobile-only transformation.

  • Watch and listen to your customers (internal and external) – The most striking thing about Myntra’s mobile-only play is that it comes from understanding their customers and how their customers choose to interact with them. This is an important point for any CIO or IT organization. Watch how your customers, which include your company’s external customers as well internal users that are also IT’s customers, interact with software and services. Listen to their feedback. Build your strategy based on that information.
  • Focus resources where they make the most impact – Myntra’s customers are overwhelmingly mobile. Eliminating the design, development, and maintenance costs associated with a site that delivered limited value and ROI freed up resources for creating a first class mobile experience. 
  • User experience is key to user engagement and success – I’ll admit that I never browsed Myntra’s ecommerce site before it went offline. I have looked at the company’s Android and iOS apps and the user experience is better than the vast majority of ecommerce apps. The Myntra app offers personalization, advice and how-to articles, and complete style solutions rather than simply listing a bunch of products. That immersive experience easily translates into customer engagement and breeds more extensive use and value. That’s true of apps for external customers as well as enterprise apps for employee use. 
  • You need to be multi-platform – Myntra’s app-based strategy works because the company invested in multiple platforms. If the company focused only on Android or iOS, it would be cutting off segments of its customer space. For external customer facing apps, multi-platform approaches are an absolute must. Even for internal customers or users, developing for or supporting just one platform isn’t sufficient in the long term. Workers want to be able to use the device of their choice and restricting that choice can limit them as well as give rise to users finding or building their own solutions without regard to IT or security.
  • Web or desktop apps aren’t as compelling as mobile apps – This may seem obvious, but it’s worth reiterating. Mobile apps are more personal, convenient, and compelling than web apps or traditional desktop apps. A solution that is compelling drives engagement, use, interaction, transactions, and loyalty. All of those things deliver value and define success for external and internal facing apps.
  • If you’re digitizing a process, it’s okay to consider doing it mobile-only – For many organizations, mobile has been seen as an add-on. That means many apps are patterned on desktop apps. Desktop apps don’t offer the capabilities of mobile apps like location awareness, contextual data, and an array of app analytics. If you’re taking a manual process and making it digital, you may find that going mobile-first or mobile-only offers a richer experience, more useful data, better access to information in real time, and greater satisfaction. What Myntra’s approach proves is that mobile is ready to be the center of processes and interactions rather than a companion to a desktop app.
  • A web or desktop companion may be needed to augment mobile-first or mobile-only apps – Although Myntra went mobile-only for browsing, shopping, and overall customer engagement, the company still maintains a website. It offers general company information, the ability to manage orders, and a customer FAQ on that site. These don’t replace the features of the company’s mobile apps, but they do augment them. For processes that become mobile-only, some web or desktop companion app or content may be important, if only to offer guidance to customers or users. 
  • You need metrics to determine your strategy as well as gauge your success – Myntra knew that its customers were highly mobile before it made its mobile-only transition. That customer data as well as trends in its industry and region informed the decision. Any mobile initiative requires an examination of metrics that define it and justify the related costs or risks. Equally important is understanding the metrics that will define the success of an initiative. Is that the number of downloads, the number of active users, amount of content delivered, the number of transactions, user satisfaction, the cost savings of streamlining a business process? You can only evaluate an initiative by defining the metrics of its success and those metrics will not be the same for every project.

Myntra’s approach has a certain “living off the grid” feel. It’s something that companies with deeply established desktop and web foundations may find daunting or think impossible in the same way that building a house on a plot of land without access to power lines seems extreme and challenging to many people. Like living off the grid, this isn’t going to be an approach that works for everyone. But even those of us who live with the grid can add solar panels to our roofs. Likewise, many companies can take some lessons from Myntra’s model while going mobile-only in certain respects where it does make sense and drive value in new ways.

Ryan Faas

Ryan Faas,

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