Thursday, 13 November 2014

Mobile Ecommerce Optimization for Indian Consumers

Mobile ecommerce is a global phenomenon. While ecommerce as a whole is growing at a rapid clip, mobile ecommerce is growing still faster. The two drivers of growth in mobile ecommerce are:
1) Adoption of mobile devices is increasing rapidly. The number of first-time users of mobile devices far exceeds the number of first-time users of laptops and desktops.
2) The much-acclaimed convenience of mobile shopping seems to be a reality, leading to tablet commerce being the largest growing ecommerce segment.
General Guidelines for Mobile Ecommerce Optimization 
Some immutable principles of mobile ecommerce optimization involve designing responsive websites, creating fast loading web pages, and coding visually oriented apps. But in this article, I want to focus on factors specific to India, one of the fastest growing ecommerce markets.
India Has Unique Characteristics, and They Influence Mobile Ecommerce Optimization 
India is home to one-seventh of the world’s population. It is multiracial and multilingual. The past two decades have seen India rapidly adopting information technology, but IT penetration is still pretty low compared to developed economies. Per capita spending power is also low, but given the large population, the cumulative spending power is very high compared to most nations of the world. Urban centers are densely populated — the only two cities in the world with a population density greater than 20,000 people per square kilometer are in India (Mumbai with 29650 and Kolkata with 23900 people per square kilometer). When designing for the Indian consumer, including mobile optimization, keep these characteristics in mind:
1. India Is a Multilingual Nation With a Fairly Low Level of Literacy 
One of the first repercussions of this fact is that you should avoid using text-heavy design. If possible, you should eliminate text entirely. Web designers usually recommend using the local language for ecommerce websites, but perish that thought in India. There are dozens of languages and thousands of dialects. Furthermore, there is no clear geographic segregation of languages. That, coupled with rapid mobile penetration in the lower strata of society, where literacy is lower too, dictates that you should convey your message without using text.
2. Even Indians Who Aren’t Literate Can Read and Type Numbers I
n a recent engagement with an entrepreneur in the telecom space, I discovered a startling fact that in hindsight should have been obvious. Even the most illiterate Indian can read digits and numbers. Though we need to minimize text, we do not need to worry about miscommunicating price and other numeric information.
3. Affordable Mobile Devices Have Captured the Indian Market
Though there are many Indians who use the iPhone and other expensive handheld smart devices, the bulk of the Indian market uses lower end smartphones, with prices usually not exceeding US$100 or so. At this price point, most devices are Android-based from brands that aren’t globally popular.
As a consequence, your software should not require a great deal of memory, processor speed, or bandwidth. If you ignore this suggestion, then you are alienating 80% of India’s market.
4. 98% of Mobile Phone Plans in India Are Prepaid
There are very few markets in the world that demonstrate a figure remotely as startling. And if this did not get you to fall off your seat, I am sure I will get you when I say that the most popular kind of refill for prepaid phones is the 10 rupee refill (10 rupees is approximately 17 US cents). In light of this, you know that the largest market for mobile ecommerce is for low priced goods. Indeed, the Indian market is driven by value for money.
A related issue to keep in mind is that you could consider using the telecom service provider as your payment processor. Since the connections are prepaid, this move will ensure a high degree of reliability in payment collections. Telecom service providers as payment processors are not popular yet, as there are some regulatory gray areas. But the benefits could be so great that you should keep this option in mind.
5. Ecommerce Accounts for 0.5% of Retail Sales in India
The retail sector in India is highly unorganized. Recent estimates put organized retail at well under 20%. Ecommerce, mobile or otherwise, only accounts for about 0.5% of Indian retail. What this means is that ecommerce is actually competing with unorganized retail. This is unlike what you would experience in a developed market, such as the U.S. The repercussions of this market characteristic on mobile ecommerce optimization are not entirely clear, but the same approach that some physical retailers take in advertising the virtues of organized retail over unorganized can probably influence your ecommerce venture’s mobile design.
Final Words
India is a vast market for mobile ecommerce. As expected, it has its nuances and idiosyncrasies. In this article, I have attempted to scratch the surface by highlighting some ways in which India is different. And these differences should influence your ecommerce strategy in India, including mobile ecommerce optimization.


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