Snapdeal, one of India’s largest e-commerce companies, will spend $100 million over the next three years on its Bengaluru-based research and development center. Called the Multimedia Research Lab, the unit just launched a fashion discovery site called findmystyle.in, which gives a hint about what direction its future R&D will take.
Findmystyle.in was helmed by the founders of Fashiate, a startup Snapdeal acquired earlier this year. Fashiate is the latest of several discovery and recommendation startups Snapdeal has snapped up over the past 16 months, including Dootzon and Wishpicker.
Good recommendation engines that help customers find the products they want among thousands of listings are important because they not only increase revenue, but also user engagement and loyalty.
India’s e-commerce market is the fastest-growing in Asia and Snapdeal is one of the biggest players in the country. It is engaged in a fierce and expensive competition, however, with market leader Flipkart, Amazon India and Paytm.
In a statement, Snapdeal chief product officer Anand Chandrasekaran said findmystyle.in, which uses image recognition technology and machine learning algorithms, will “further enhance customer experience and make online shopping faster, better and more informative. With the introduction of findmystyle.in, we are looking to create an experimental playground and set the base for our image modelling, product search and discovery technology.”
Like recommendation engines built by other e-commerce businesses, findmystyle.in uses algorithms that analyze what items customers browse and purchase. Snapdeal, however, says that it also plans to localize its search engines and discovery tools to fit the needs of local consumers.
The company did not give further details, but challenges faced by online shoppers in India include slow mobile speeds, which makes browsing tediously slow and limits the amount of content, like detailed product photos, in each listing.
Since the majority of online shoppers use smartphones to access the Internet, other e-commerce companies, including Flipkart, have decided to take an “app-only” approach by shutting down their websites to focus on building their mobile apps.
Snapdeal has rejected an app-only strategy, however, because it does not want to lose desktop-only shoppers, which means that it faces the double challenge of improving the technology behind its apps and websites at the same time.