Flipkart Ping No More…What Happened to the Experiment?
In 2015, nearly a year back, Flipkart introduced an in-app social chat service called ‘Ping’, all set to take online shopping to a new level. The service was expected to mimic real-time shopping scenarios by chatting with friends and family before deciding on the product.
No doubt the idea was good, in fact it was the closest to an offline shopping experience, and even had options to share images and discuss before buying anything online. This was also something no other website had, and the idea seemed extremely relevant and unique to buyers. Who does not need a second opinion these days?
However, fast forward one year and the company has decided to shut down the service. What’s funny is that Flipkart decided to go app-only, and then decided to come back to its mobile browser edition. The same was the case for Myntra, Flipkart’s subsidiary. This shows that the company did not forecast its mobile users accurately.
Flipkart has now decided to replace the Ping service with a two way interaction between buyers and sellers. The new chatting service will be active from July and allow real-time chatting between the two entities.
The company’s statement read, “After 25th June, 2016 users will not be able to chat with their friends or family on Ping but will be able to browse through their existing chats on the app. Customers will continue to be able to share any messages or products through any social media platform of their choice.”
What went wrong with the service?
At the time of launch, the chat service received good reviews for having thought out of the box and an launching an intuitive service. At that time, the company was looking to go mobile-only, because maximum revenues were coming from its mobile app.
However, it looks like that the consumers did not like the idea and the number of mobile users also dwindled. Flipkart says that the chat app is being closed because of low interest from users, which means that the offline shopping experience could not be translated well into the online shopping experience.
Of course, everyone has to be online at the same time for you to select your product, everyone needs to have the app downloaded on their smartphone and such hurdles need to have been overcome first. One also cannot discount the fact that online shopping cannot come close to offline shopping and the gap to be bridged is huge.
There has also been shuffling in Flipkart’s technology team owing to Punit Soni’s exit from the company, who was the Chief Product Officer at Flipkart and led many initiatives. This could be one of the reasons the chat app was discontinued, to focus on other things.
In any case, failures are a part of life and it is commendable for a company to embrace them. First the app-only mistake and now the in-app chatting service, Flipkart is experimenting with the Indian buyers and this provides so many lessons to online marketplaces in India.