The Indian digital marketplace is characterized by the abundant use of smartphones by the masses to access e-commerce mobile apps and at the same time poor internet connectivity and sluggish data speeds. To circumvent this challenge, companies like Amazon, Flipkart, Ola etc. are resorting to lighter versions of their mobile apps. Most of these new-age apps load easily even at 2G speed owing to lesser data consumption, like Ola Lite with download size just of 1 MB and Amazon Micron of 2MB only.
Quality Internet access is a challenge for the majority of the Indian users with approximately 80% of the user base accessing internet on 2G connections. By 2020, smartphone surfing Indians are expected to reach 690 million while only 100 million is expected to have access to high-speed 4G data. However, according to mobile analytics company Open Signal, India is ranked lowest at 6 Mbps in even 4G download speed amongst 88 countries, as compared to the global average of 17 Mbps. In data speed tester organization Ookla’s survey of overall mobile internet speeds across 124 nations, India is at 109th position with an average download speed of 9.12 Mbps against the global average of 23.54 Mbps.
Experts list several reasons for such poor network connectivity issues: India’s dense population and expansive smartphone usage spikes demand to the extent that results in widespread network congestion, thus slowing down or disrupting connectivity altogether; moreover, limitations in dedicated LTE Spectrum Span is also another reason behind sluggish network; restrictions around installation of vital telecom infrastructure and price wars also contribute towards patchy mobile internet connections. The telecom companies in India offer different mobile technologies at different points of time as a result of which, connections oscillate from 4G to 3G to 2G thus affecting overall user experience.
Though Indian consumers have embraced online services and shopping like no other, most of the population use low-cost entry-level mobile handset models that have limited phone memory space and processing power and lower data capacities. Added to this is the persisting issue of mobile connectivity and infrastructural challenges in most non-metro cities in India. All these lead to disruption in app usage and increased data consumption resulting in loss of business for the online marketers. One way that the online service providers are attempting to circumvent these issues is by introducing slimmer versions of their popular app platforms for widespread market penetration. The purpose of these lightweight apps is to be reliable, fast and engaging in every use by each user in order to maintain the brand impression and brand USPs. Most of these lightweight apps work well in both slow network connection as well as in the offline mode owing to faster and smoother navigation features. The features of the lighter apps include full app-like experience, user notifications, home screen icons, logins, site speed optimizations, and easy navigation, thus enabling the service providers to gain and retain the attention of both existing and new users.
Lightweight apps do not necessarily require complete redesigning of existing platforms. Instead, a considerable reduction in on-site graphics and videos or simpler navigation does the trick. With the expansive use of mobile internet, the number of users shopping online or using online services have increased by leaps and bounds. As per figures, a number of users from non-metro cities are higher than users from metro cities.
In fact, more than 65% of Amazon’s orders and the demographics of the new customer base is from tier 2 cities like Aurangabad, Dhanbad, and Kannur etc. and below. As per data received from Ola, the launch of ride aggregator’s dedicated lightweight platform Ola Lite has contributed majorly towards the rise in ride bookings in tier 2 and 3 cities. Flipkart-Lite consumes just 100KB to download while repeat visits take less than 10KB to download. The app is 100 times smaller in size than its Android app and 300 times smaller than its iOS app. Flipkart-Lite is only second to its Android app in terms of a transaction channel. The company’s statistics reveal that one-third of the company’s total customer base who access the lightweight app are from small towns.
Given that the improvement in internet connectivity scenario in India is a long-term process requiring major overhauling in terms of government policies as well as infrastructural support, lighter versions of mobile apps of online service providers are here to stay in order to satisfy the needs of the Indian consumers as well as to keep the players profitably in business.