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Let the user decide if ‘mobile-only’ is the way to go

The ‘mobile-only’ approach is gaining currency in India. However, consumer internet firms have to prepare themselves to wade through various roadblocks in adopting to this shift.

India’s fast growing startups must deploy predictive analysis tools to ensure stickiness with new customers and ensure that desktop-preferring older customers see merit in transacting on their smartphones, eminent panelists said at the recently concluded ‘Techcircle Mobile Forum 2015’.

India, the second largest smartphone market globally, is expected to witness a manifold growth in the number of smartphones to over 650 million in the next four years, a recent study by networking solutions giant Cisco had said.

The panel discussion was moderated by Rahul Khanna, managing partner at Trifecta Capital. The other panelists were Subramanya Sharma (CMO and vice president – products at Cleartrip), Aloke Bajpai (CEO and founder, Ixigo.com), Anurag Singh, (co-founder and executive director of Affle-India and Mahesh Narayanan (global chief operating officer – Saavn).

Khanna quoted a few statistics that show how mobile has emerged as the most preferred platform for users. The number of mobile users in India has swelled to 900 million and the smartphone component is growing at a fast clip.

Sharma spoke about how a strong mobile presence can no longer be a strategy as it is critical for every business. Every company needs to gear its resources towards the predominant channel, which is mobile now. However, Sharma believes that the choice between web and app should be left to the user. By shutting down web presence, firms are imposing their choice on consumers, he believes. A slew of third party tools related to analytics, design, referral programmes and others can improve customer experience and help in user retention, added Sharma.

Bajpai spoke at length on the emerging phenomena of micro-apps. Unbundled apps have lead to the creation of specific apps across needs and categories. For example, there is a specific app now for train commuters and another one for bus commuters. In Bajpai’s view, another challenge is the psychological shift that is required in the older generation of users, who still prefer desktop over mobile. Also, specialised apps face challenges in terms of maintaining multiple small teams. They also grapple with overheads management. The trade off is worth the resources spent, said Bajpai. He also stressed on the importance of predictive computing in determining the needs of the consumers and delivering products specific to their needs.

Singh explained how generating a mobile presence has become a prerequisite for businesses now, while earlier it was a formidable task to convince people on this front. Moreover, a resource-starved startup must always focus on developing just the app and driving growth numbers instead of diluting resources by investing in multiple platforms. For increasing the number of installations, Singh suggests that startups focus on classical marketing strategies. The focus must be on building a quality app that provides good services and solves a user’s painpoint.

Narayanan said that the “mobile first” approach has become important for the active data streaming industry, especially music streaming. What drives growth in the digital space is performance rather that brand and so delivering quality services cannot be stressed enough, he believes. An interactive multimedia campaign can be employed to highlight the “usefulness” of the app for the consumer. He also talked about using data to tailor the experiences of the consumers.

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