Sumit Jain, Co-founder and CEO,CommonFloor spoke to Malini Bhupta from The Strategist, Business Standard on the impact of mobile revolution on business of real estate
The ubiquitous mobile phone is going to become the next big battle ground in online commerce given that 100 per cent of India’s incremental internet traffic is currently flowing through mobile devices.
Little wonder, Flipkart’s Mausam Bhatt, senior director, mobile commerce and digital marketing, Bengaluru area, believes mobile commerce is not in the future but right here. Likewise, over the last six months or so, a host of other internet-based companies have seen a shift in the way consumers walk in. Be it travel portal MakeMyTrip or job portal Naukri, nearly half of the total traffic inflow is happening over mobile devices either through mobile sites or via apps. Easy to gauge why these companies are working overtime to refashion their sales strategy around the mobile.
Look at the potential. In a report on the Indian internet market, titled ‘Deep Dive’, Citi Research says 92 per cent of India’s 252 million internet users are mobile (using phone or dongle). The report says the wireless internet subscriber base has grown 62 per cent year on year in the quarter ended March 2014. And millions of Indians who are getting on to the internet for the first time are getting there through their mobile devices.
Says Hitesh Oberoi, CEO of Info Edge, the largest consumer internet firm in the country by market value, which runs Naukri.com, “India is expected to be a ‘mobile first’ country and online companies will have to offer the full suite of services on the mobile device. Despite the constraint of the screen size, consumers want the ability to do all the things that they do on a regular website. Every category has to create a unique value proposition for the mobile universe.”
The fight for the consumers’ wallet share on this medium, however, is not going to be a cakewalk. The problem for merchants is that selling on the mobile device isn’t as easy as it is on the desktop, where companies can trail the consumer on social media sites and on email. In fact, given that the mobile phone is a personal device, the level of engagement has to be much higher for companies to convert a walkin into a sale. Says Paras Chopra, CEO & founder, Wingify, a visual website optimiser firm, “In the highly competitive e-commerce marketplace, even a slight marketing misstep can be costly. To win the conversion game marketers need to ensure they’re optimising their websites.”
That apart, the consumer needs to be “pulled into the platform and “stay” on longer, if visits are to translate into transactions, especially if you want your app development costs to pay off. Also consumers who use the shopping app rarely share on social media what they have purchased making it difficult for other online firms to track the same consumers and keep a tab on his/her shopping behaviour.
Indeed, it is no longer enough to give the consumer the option to download your app. If online
commerce firms have to succeed, they have to become destination apps in their respective categories because consumer preferences are constantly evolving in the online world. A global survey done by Wingify has found that 60 per cent of millennials who are known to shop online have a shopping app installed on their handsets, but 60 per cent of the app downloads are never used.
Pull the consumer
How can brands make that leap? Flipkart’s Bhatt says, “The mobile allows personalisation, it is amenable to one-on-one conversations. But if online brands wants to develop destination
apps, brand awareness would be critical.” So how does Flipkart plan to go about it?
To begin with, Flipkart doesn’t try to replicate the desktop experience on the mobile. Like many other online commerce firms, Flipkart has an in-app notification system through which the company sends details on new products and price drops to consumers. This also extends to brand launches.
That sort of push notification has worked wonders for its fashion business because fashion aficionados are constantly looking out for the newest collections on offer. People are making big ticket purchases, a far cry from the scene even until a year ago. The enhanced reach has also brought many more sellers on Flipkart’s marketplace.
The result? A year ago, less than 10 per cent of Flipkart’s traffic was coming from mobile devices; now mobile transactions account for more than 50 per cent of the business. Consumers from smaller towns have also joined the online shopping bandwagon, largely through the mobile app.
Make it personal
Some categories are not amenable to a small screen but where there is scope for personalisation, the mobile works very well. So is the case with Naukri.com, a job site and by definition, a prime candidate for personalisation. Today, 35 per cent of its traffic comes from the mobile, and the figure is expected to touch 45 per cent in a year’s time. The traffic flows equally through the mobile app and the mobile site.
It’s CEO Oberoi says, the desktop is still very big for the job portal but “the mobile is disrupting the desktop and we recognise this as an opportunity”. Naukri says it has three distinct sets of users those who use the desktop only, those who use the mobile and those who use both. Anticipating a sharp increase in mobile traffic, Naukri has not only made its apps available on different platforms like Andriod and iOS, but it has also designed its WAP site in a manner that all the offerings on the mother website are available on the mobile site as well.
All these moves are showing up in some positive numbers. About 18 months ago, mobile traffic was 18 per cent and now it has hit 35 per cent of total traffic. Smart phones are the new entry point. Naukri is convinced that if India were to have 500 million internet users, more than half could well be experiencing it on the phone.
Facilitate the search
You know where to look online. But how do you locate what you want offline?
That is precisely the question CommonFloor is trying to answer with its array of mobile services. The operty portal uses GPS to make a property finder’s life easier. Sumit Jain, cofounder and CEO of CommonFloor.com, says, his company’s mobile app seeks to become a property companion and not remain a mere app. CommonFloor.com has about a lakh projects/societies listed on it and 45 per cent of these properties are posted by owners.
The app helps facilitate interactions between the property owners and tenants/potential buyers through phone numbers provided on the app. The electronic model gives a virtual walkthrough into a property and helps consumers find agents in a particular area.
Its experience shows that property seekers now look for a variety of information and, more importantly, are willing to pay for customised advice. Jain says, “We see investment advice as a future growth business. More and more professionals are entering the real estate business and so we expect the mobile interface to become even more important.”
The CommonFloor.com has also seen mobile traffic shoot up over the last one year. Over 30 per cent of its traffic come from the mobile, which was less than 20 per cent nine months ago.
Cut transaction time The mobile is the best recourse in cases of emergency a lesson India’s largest travel portal MakeMyTrip has learnt after launching its app in 2011. The online travel company says nearly a fourth of its users book flight tickets a day before they travel and nearly 50 per cent book hotels on the mobile a day before they intend to stay there. In other words, users are looking for quick, hassle-free service.
Since the mobile is a personal device and helps with identity management as well, transactions on the platform are amenable to customisation. A search on the app tells MakeMyTrip whether the consumer is a highend or a budget traveller and accordingly, it sends suggestions on hotels and trips to the consumer. Over time, the firm hopes to make its services even more personalised. MakeMyTrip also offers travellers a language option (Hindi and English as of now) as well as the option of sending travel related queries on SMS.
Seeing the success of the mother brand app (the MakeMyTrip app), the company has launched two other apps, TripIdeas and RoutePlanner. The first offers travellers new destination options and the second, RoutePlanner, is an app on the Nokia Asha Platform, which allows a person to plan a trip across India on a bus or a cab, on a flight or a train. Pranav Bhasin, head of mobile products at MakeMyTrip.com, says, “Between 4,000 cities, there are 27 billion travel options and we offer bus, train, cab and flight bookings for all of these. This is available on the Asha platform as we wanted to tap mobile users in Tier I and Tier II cities.”
As is apparent, most online players recognise the potential of the mobile and are gearing up to fight the looking battle on the platform. But most of them point out that the biggest hurdle remain the underdeveloped payment ecosystem. While it is not such a big issue for players offering cash on delivery, there’s a dire need to ensure security and reliability and, thus, elicit wider acceptance.