As the online shopping industry is rapidly changing, some e-tailers are moving towards app only format; As some e-tailers claim that m-commerce is generating more revenues, despite the facts and figures the Indian consumer still prefers shopping through desktop.
A recent global survey says that 70% of respondents from India and China find it easier to use apps on smartphone and tablets than click on websites. Many in India like the fact that they can buy a product on their phone, according to this survey by Oracle.
But for several people, online shopping is still something that is done on the big screen with multiple tabs to see and compare that one item on the wishlist in all its glory and discount. They like the fact that there is no need to worry about the transaction hanging mid-way or the phone data getting leeched by a sneaky app. Or for that matter, the transaction getting disrupted through a phone call.
With even startups set to join e-commerce giants like Myntra and Flipkart in switching to a mobile-only avatar, users like Aparna Jain are clear that her phone is not for shopping apps. "I need something like Uber to be on my phone. Why would I waste the limited space on my phone and download apps to do shopping?" asks Jain, a leadership coach.
Many are planning to ditch sites that force them to download apps. "It is like saying that you can come into a building only if you are driving a car. You are alienating those who don't want to fill their phones with apps," says Deepak Shenoy, founder and CEO of Capital Mind, a financial analytics company. For one, you need to know how to create space on the phone.
"You might need to figure out whether it is better to transfer photos to the memory card or clear the apps cache. Maybe you need to download another app to make space!" says Shenoy. His go-to-option now is to uninstall an app that he is forced to download to avail the day's special sale. "I have only 1 GB memory now. If more sites go mobile, I will continue to uninstall apps. It just takes five minutes," he says.
Not all smartphone users find desktop shopping a chore. "I find a real keyboard and web browser more convenient than an app and a touchscreen," says Prateek Karandikar, a Ph D student. The biggest worry for him is the surreptitious data gleaning by apps. "Businesses talk a lot about integrating their app with my contacts and so on. Quite often I want the exact opposite of it, independence," he says.
When he wants no cookie to follow him online while browsing Flipkart, he chooses the incognito mode on his browser, something that can't be done on an app. "Independence and privacy are good things for me as a tech-aware customer, but clearly no one wants to market that," says Karandikar, who is thinking of eventually using an old phone just to dump apps.
It's not that people are unwilling to share personal information for a bit of convenience. "We all know that taxi apps collect data but are willing to sacrifice it," says Bhairav Acharya, a privacy law expert and a constitutional lawyer at the Supreme Court.
What is of concern is the manner in which information is held and stored. Recently, fleet taxi company Meru was in news for accidentally revealing confidential customer data like email addresses and cellphone numbers on its site.00
One solution would be to come up with a privacy law. The other option could be to have sector-specific regulators, similar to how RBI monitors banks, to ensure that companies hold data in a responsible manner, says Acharya.