Mobile web apps like that of Flipkart open a new window for startups


BENGALURU: When Flipkart relaunched its mobile site last year, it was seeking a middle ground that the company wanted to achieve in terms of user interface design — a mobile site that looks like an app, a mobile web app.

While native apps — which need to be installed on a user’s phone — provide the advantage of user-specific customisation, having users install the app is subject to device limitations. With user traffic increasingly shifting to mobile, startups with a web presence seem to have realised the need for a mobile-based platform that caters to user’s needs.

Web-based startups are launching new versions of mobile sites or progressive web apps that function beyond being mobile versions of their desktop sites.

“The primary benefit is that these do not need much space on the phone, because there is nothing to download. Secondly, you don’t need powerful specifications to run all the latest apps, so it’s affordable,” said Amar Nagaram, director, mobile engineering, Flipkart.

“This app-like mobile site experience is helping us get customers who can’t install the app and thus further strengthening our dominance in mobile commerce.”

Flipkart has seen conversion rates of over 63%, which is on par with its native apps and a threefold increase in the time spent on the its web app as compared to its previous mobile site. Flipkart Lite replXicates the app version — it’s optimised for slower networks, loads faster and is easy to navigate.

Mobile sites for Facebook and Flipkart also let users add these to their home screens, allowing it be launched like an app.

“User-friendly interface is a big differentiator,” said Sanjay Netrabile, CTO at Pepperfry, the online furniture portal that launched its mobile site in 2014. Pepperfry’s mobile site is focused to provide users an “app-like” experience and has design features, such as, thumb spacing and screen fitting layout, he said.

The growing trend of progressive web apps indicates that startups’ focus on making the mobile experience better for users has put them back at the forefront of business decisions. From pushing mobile users to their apps through big banners and additional steps to continue to the mobile site, startups seem to have come a long way by bringing in “app-like” customisation and engagement to mobile sites and progressive web apps.

“One of the reasons why a company might do a single platform is to save engineering effort,” said a Zomato spokesperson, adding that since the launch of its mobile site in 2010, the company has seen traffic for the web rapidly shift from desktop to mobile, which continues to make it one of the most important platforms for the company.

Source: By Shadma Shaikh


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