eCommerce Mobile App Development: 6 Tips for a Successful Shopping App

ecommerce mobile app development

Retail brands that haven’t started developing an eCommerce mobile app risk being left behind by shoppers. Business Insider predicts that by 2025, eCommerce mobile app shopping will more than double its current sales to $728.28 billion, meaning it will claim 44.2% of retail eCommerce sales in the US.

Mobile eCommerce is so big that it now has its own moniker: mCommerce. Yep, just like Brangelina and Bennifer. So if you’re a retail brand, even a small one, you should start planning your mCommerce app development. Yesterday.

But don’t panic. Building a shopping app is an exciting opportunity for your eCommerce business, and you want to do it right. You only get one chance to make a first mCommerce impression with your shoppers, so before you start developing, consider these tips to ensure your development goes smoothly.

1. Consider Whether You Want Native vs. Web App Development

Shopping apps can be developed as either a native app, a web app, or a hybrid of the two. Cost and functionality will determine what’s right for your business, but here’s a quick breakdown of the three types of mCommerce apps.

Native Apps

“Native” means that this type has been natively developed in Android or iOS software, so it’s downloaded via the App Store as an app onto a mobile device. The advantage is that they’re faster to use, get updated quicker, and perform better for the shopper. But, they’re costly to code, and you’ll need to build two apps – one for iOS users and one for Android users – so you’re essentially doubling your already-expensive budget.

Web Apps

Web apps are developed for desktop devices using programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JS which are cheaper to hire. They’re actually a website that looks like an app when accessed via a mobile device. Not only are web apps less expensive to develop, you only need to create one app instead of two separate ones (one for iOS and one for Android) as you would with a native app. But you can’t submit a web app to the App Store – users access it through their browser like a website.

Hybrid Apps

As you may guess, hybrid apps combine the advantages of both web and native apps. They’re built on HTML/CSS/JS, so they’re cheaper than a native app, but shoppers can still download them from the App Store. They’re slower than a native app (but cheaper!) and pricier than a web app (but easier for users to find and download!).

2. Greet Shoppers With A Clean, Easy-to-Navigate Interface

Shopping on a mobile device means looking at a smaller screen, so it’s more important than ever that your mCommerce landing page be clean and straightforward. If your UI is fussy or confused with a lot of shouty graphic elements, shoppers will bounce pretty quickly. Sticking with light backgrounds and plenty of whitespace will help your UI feel uncluttered. It encourages them to keep clicking, exploring, and shopping.

When shoppers arrive at your mCommerce landing page, it should be immediately obvious how to find the products they want. You want to provide direct links to your product categories on that landing page, so if you’re a clothing retailer, shoppers may see MEN, WOMEN, CHILDREN, MATERNITY, SHOES, etc., as soon as they land. And that main menu navigation should be easy to find no matter where they are in the app.

Make it easy to find the products shoppers want with robust filters and sorting. Customers will stay in your mCommerce app longer and add more things to their carts if it’s easy to find products. So categorise each product by price, size, and colour, and then add even more detail with categorisations like (for a clothing retailer) occasion, use, sleeve length, neckline, style, etc.

3. Present Your Products Professionally

Don’t cut costs by cheaping out on the product images. If your product images look unprofessional, so will your mCommerce app and, by association, your brand. Hire a professional product photographer and pull out all the stops: lighting, sets, mannequins, and even models if you can afford them. Images should be beautifully and professionally shot, high quality, and high resolution.

Get three or four angles for each product, and make sure they are the SAME three or four angles for every product to make your product presentation uniform. If you can afford it, include a video clip featuring each product.

Name each video or image correctly (with the product’s name) and consistently, using a predetermined naming convention. Save them in the proper file format and the right size for faster loading.

Keep your product descriptions around 300 words, and make sure they follow a consistent voice – a voice that resonates with your ideal customer. So if your brand is fun and hip, let your brand personality shine with fun, hip product descriptions. If you’re trying to attract a higher-end, more formal buyer, write your product descriptions to reflect their tastes.

Make sure your app accurately reflects your inventory and note when items are scarce. It’s a great way to create a sense of urgency for the shopper and encourage conversions.

And if a shopper isn’t ready to buy, let them add items to a “Love” or “Wish List” section so they can save the products they’re interested in buying at a later date.

4. Prioritise Shopping Cart Transparency & Simple Purchases

Allow shoppers to see exactly what’s in their cart by displaying realistic images, quantity, size, and all prices (including tax). Shoppers are more likely to convert to a sale when they can change sizes and quantities easily from the cart screen.

When it comes to the shipping screen, display all available options and prices. Again, shoppers like choice, so give it to them whenever possible.

Autofill as much billing and shipping information as you can with info from their customer account. Shoppers can be daunted by row after row of blank boxes to fill, especially on a mobile screen, so help them sail over that hurdle to clicking purchase.

Many customers would prefer to skip the “Create Account” step altogether. But you, of course, want to capture all that sweet, sweet customer data. So make account creation as simple as possible: ideally, about two steps.

There is some debate on when to require shoppers to create an account. Many retailers recommend that you ask for account signup as soon as shoppers open your mCommerce app. You risk putting a few shoppers off, but if you make it easy to sign up – through Gmail, Facebook, etc. – you can personalise the customer experience as soon as they start using the app.

Since the shopper has already created an account, their checkout process can focus solely on checking out. Keep the interface clean and autofill as much as possible to promote impulse buying.

5. Make Returns a Breeze and Customer Service Accessible

Returns are a constant annoyance for retailers, but there’s no avoiding them. And customers have the upper hand in returns as eCommerce has long promoted an easy return culture. 

But lenient returns policies are here to stay for the foreseeable future, and customers love them, so you may as well lean in. Make the return process easy for customers and assist them with helpful perks like automatically creating shipping labels.

On the returns screen, make it easy to see where their item is in the returns process. When they need to access customer support, invest in a quality chatbot service and real, actionable FAQs that can field most customer questions.

You’ll still need a human contact to help with some returns and customer issues. But if you’ve built solid returns and chatbot functionality into your mCommerce app, you should be able to keep the human representatives costs to a minimum.

6. Design Around Re-engagement

As with any customer touchpoint, a thoughtfully-designed mCommerce app yields great loyalty-building potential. 

Customers love personalisation, even relatively simple touches like displaying a “Hello, NAME” message when they open the app. Displaying “Recommended for You” products at the bottom of the screen can increase cart sizes and give customers that delicious feeling of personal, bespoke attention.

Your existing customer engagement should be built on loyalty programs, and your mCommerce app is no different. So segment your users into loyalty program tiers like VIP, returning, or loyal customers, and then communicate their special status to them. 

A great way of stoking engagement is with personalised discount codes based on their previous purchases. You’ll have to think hard about how you want to segment your shoppers before you build it into the app’s functionality. But if you develop your mCommerce app with brilliant UX, UI, and shopper engagement as the top priorities, you’ll deliver an app shoppers love and an app they return to.

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