With eye on small cities, Flipkart to introduce guided navigation in app

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Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce firm, will introduce in-app guided navigation and multilingual labels in Hindi and some other Indian languages, in a major upgrade aimed at drawing non-metro users to buy online.

According to sources, the Walmart-owned retailer may roll out the upgrades to select users as early as next month and review gains in the run up to Big Billion Days, Flipkart’s annual flagship sales event, in September. 

The features are part of what is internally called “The Next 100 Million’, a banner term for projects and initiatives aimed at bring in first-time, non-English native users in tier-II, -III and -IV cities onto the platform. The move assumes significance, as e-commerce firms are looking to smaller towns and cities, with growth saturating in tier-I markets like Delhi and Mumbai.

Guided navigation, the company expects, will not only help users navigate through the app but also help them make purchases, a key goal of the project. “Flipkart has reach through app installs but a lot of people, especially, in smaller towns and cities, do not go so far as buying stuff on it,” said one of the sources.

To that end, voice commands and a circular “ripple-like” pointer will now take users through pre-installed workflows like ‘Buy a new product’, ‘Return the product last bought’, and ‘See latest offers’, according to a source, who has seen the demo. 

‘App-localisation’, the other part of the upgrade, will be rolled out simultaneously. Flipkart will change certain labels to vernacular script. For example, ‘Product Description’ will be changed to ‘Samaan Ka Description’ and so on. 

According to sources, Flipkart understands that a mix of English and vernacular is better suited than having all text information in vernacular. For this, the company has created an automated engine that will replace ‘select’ words to vernacular, depending on the profile of the user, on its own.

Flipkart did not respond to a request for comment. The upgrades are part of a larger effort on the product design side to attract new shoppers. 

Flipkart, through its acquisition of Liv.ai, is also working on fine-tuning its search for colloquial terms and will introduce voice search capability at some point. Liv.ai, which Flipkart snapped in August 2018, came with technology to convert speech to text in 10 Indian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.

Flipkart’s Chief Data Scientist Mayur Datar told Business Standard in April that the evolved the search, “the first point of interaction between consumers and Flipkart”, to understand terms like “kaala Juta” and “half pants” and show relevant search results. 

In 2018, the company also launched a sub-10 MB mobile app, optimised for users of low-end smartphones. “We want the app, and through it, Flipkart, to be accessible to even the most basic Android device, in the most remote of cities,” Aishwarya Kumar, an engineering manager at Flipkart’s user acquisition, had said in a blog on the company’s website. 

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