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Flipkart’s Ping was dead on arrival anyway


(with inputs from Salman SH)

Flipkart will shut down its Ping chat feature starting June 25th, 2016, and shut its image search as well, the company told to MediaNama.While shutting the image search, which allowed users to take photographs of clothing and search for similar items of Flipkart, is odd, Ping was dead on arrival anyway.

At the launch, Punit Soni, Flipkart’s now former Chief Product Officer talked about a social graph for Flipkart, and wanted these discussions to take place within Flipkart’s own application, instead of allowing discussions to happen anywhere, on any platform. Flipkart was trying to compete with social networks, and to some extent, shift users from what was their natural behavior, by building a network of Flipkart shoppers connected to each other. Network effects are in place, user behavior is defined, and it is going to take a significantly focused and great communication product, with a new way of doing things, to get people to adapt to a new platform. If you want to share an T-shirt you like, you will want to share it on a platform where your friend already is, and is already active. In its app, Flipkart effectively de-emphasised sharing on other platforms, and emphasised Ping.

How many people check the Flipkart application every day, or multiple times a day? Users who sent a “Ping” to a friend who didn’t have the Flipkart app, forced them to download the application to check or respond to the message. The floating blue chat blob in the app didn’t exactly improve user experience either, and it’s no surprise that the word on the street was that there isn’t much traction for the product. Try this (easy) tongue twister: Shoppers use shopping apps to shop.

It’s no surprise that, now that the (financial) year that Flipkart took its eyes off the ball and focused on vanity features like this, is past us, Ping has been shut down. Flipkart is probably better off bringing shopping to social, than social to shopping. To their credit, they are quick to shut down products that they don’t think are working.

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Thankfully, the daily notification spam (which is why I had uninstalled Flipkart’s app then) has also stopped.

Reworking Ping for customer care

Shoppers updated for consumers to address product related queries with sellers, while contacting customer care executives. Other issues arising from orders, returns or refund related will also be addressed in the new chat feature. Flipkart has started testing the user-to-seller chat with a few sellers since April 2016 and claims to have “received a great response from both sellers and customers”; it will expand the feature gradually. Remember that Paytm tried this after its Plustxt acquisition.

It is instead piloting the chat feature for ‘user-to seller-chat’ and ‘user-to-customer care’ chat. Users can still search for products that are ‘visually similar’ to an image taken from within Flipkart’s platform, while the ‘upload and search’ feature has been shut down.

Why image search was shut down

The company says that its customers ‘struggled’ with understanding how to upload an image to search, while more users were seen actively utilizing the Visually Similar search feature. At the time of launch in September 2015, Flipkart said that image search was mainly meant for the fashion category shoppers, who wish to buy products online by uploading images of a desired product.

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Recent developments from Flipkart:

-Last month, Flipkart’s logistics company Ekart had launched a courier service called Ekart Courier in a bid to build a direct consumer facing business.

-In April, it bought bought payments company PhonePe. The PhonePe team will transition to Flipkart but will function as an independent business unit.

-In March, the company started testing a pilot digital wallet service named ‘Flipkart Money’, primarily aimed at cutting costs while handling cash refunds. It can also be used as a payment method

– In February, Flipkart shut down its grocery delivery service ‘Nearby’ just five months after its launch in October 2015.

– In the same month, Flipkart launched same-day seller service called ‘Spotlist’ for sellers including SMEs, artisans, and other businesses across the country.

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– In December 2015, Flipkart exited its e-books business saying that the division was not a strategic fit for the company. It added that the ebooks purchased on the platform would be serviced by Canada’s Rakuten Kobo.

Our Flipkart coverage here

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