When we asked our interview panelists “How important it is to have a mobile app for your store?“, it was a unanimous verdict: significant portion of visitors are coming through mobile and hence a mobile strategy is going to be very important for the companies. We also wanted to explore how much of the above advice is reflected in the current ecommerce companies. We checked top 10 companies (we took the list from a study of Indian e-commerce companies by MySmartPrice). We wanted to see whether they have optimized their site for mobile access (mobile-friendly pages) and whether they have invested in building mobile/tablet apps that provide rich experience on the device. Here are our findings:

Alexa India Rank Google Page Rank Online Store Mobile-optimized site Android App iPhone/iPad App
23 6 Flipkart Yes Yes No
25 6 ebay.in Yes No No
35 5 snapdeal.com Yes Yes No
46 4 jabong.com No No No
102 5 homeshop18.com No No No
108 4 yebhi.com No No No
138 4 myntra.com No No No
153 4 naaptol.com No Yes No
175 4 tradus.in No No No
185 4 fashionandyou.com No No No

MySmartPrice ranked the site according to Alexa India rank. We also looked at Google Page Rank to make sure we are indeed talking about popular sites (there are some differences, for example, see jabong vs. homeshop18). Only first 3 sites from this list have mobile-optimized site (ebay.in doesn’t automatically redirect, m.ebay.in is the destination for mobile), others don’t. When you look at their mobile or tablet app strategy, story isn’t any better; of the sites who have apps, none have created a targeted experience for the mobile users. In many cases, app is just a wrapper on their website.

Next we looked at some data about Mobile users in India. Some snippets:

  • According to a GSMA study India will have 337 million users on mobile broadband by 2016. If this is true, this is incredible growth over next 4 years, and retail must be ready for it.
  • According to On Device Research (December 2010), out of the mobile web users in India, 59% never or infrequently use desktop Web (via: mobiThinking). These are not addressed if your site doesn’t have mobile-friendly access.
  • According to Informa/KPCA (May 2012), India has 39 Million 3G subscribers (via: mobiThinking). These are the ones most likely to do serious activity (search, browse, purchase) on an online retail site.

Last year, google announced that Mobile website optimization now factors into mobile search ads quality. What this means that when someone searches on mobile, your ad will not be served prominently to the user if your site is not mobile-optimized (for more details, read here). This is critical, because a large portion of research before shopping is moving to mobile devices (‘I am in a ship and I want to look for the product comparison online’, etc.). In US, 79 percent of smartphone users use their smartphones to help with shopping. So if you can’t catch them while they are searching, you probably will lose a great opportunity of conversion. It is very clear that having a mobile-friendly online store is a need today, rather than just a fad. Given this, it is surprising to see that only top 3 sites in India have chosen to attract these customers. This represents a huge opportunity for new players to offer a rich experience on mobile and tablet and grab market initiative from the leaders. Google has a separate index for mobile sites, so if you are present in mobile search results, you have a good chance of building on your customer base.