How to Build a Mobile App For Retail Business?
The digitalization of e-Commerce is one of the largest markets that is being significantly influenced by digital technologies over the past decade. And when it comes to mobile commerce, this market is constantly growing.
For the next several years, the average annual growth is projected to reach 27%, with an overall increase in smartphone adoption by no less than 10%.
For you as a business owner, it means that the demand for m-Commerce solutions is consistently increasing and surely will be high in the future.
If we take more “down-to-earth” numbers, nearly half of all online shoppers use their mobile devices to make purchases, being the most used type of devices for online shopping.
So, your own retail app with good UI/UX design can help your business in many ways from expanding your clientele to using modern technologies to allow users to take a look at the product virtually.
If you’d like to learn more about it, build your own retail mobile app, or improve the existing solution — welcome!
📈 How a Retail App Can Help You Improve Your Business
Businesses in the retail industry can benefit from having their own app in many ways. Sales, loyalty, data analysis — all of that can be significantly improved with a well-developed app.
Let’s take a look at how exactly your retail business can make use of developing an app.
In case you’re already well-informed about all the benefits, feel free to start reading the next section by following this link.
# 1: Reach a Wider Audience 📣
By developing a retail mobile app, you can extend the boundaries of your location. For example, you can start addressing not only people who walk nearby the store or live in the same area but all online shoppers in your country or even abroad — depending on your business model.
Besides, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the industry fundamentally. First and foremost, many people had to become familiar with online shopping to minimize the risks of getting infected.
Thus, the part of the population who simply prefer shopping online is now compounded by those who got used to it due to the pandemic.
If we take a look at small retailers, compared to the other years, their online sales went up by 110% in winter 2020-2021, especially holidays. Consequently, the demand is steadily increasing, and more people are getting involved in online shopping.
# 2: Boost Sales 💸
A retail mobile app is a great tool to increase sales rapidly & long-standing.
If we take a look at numbers, mobile apps are leaders in terms of increasing sales in the retail business:
- Mobile app users’ add-to-basket rate is **90% **higher.
- The overall conversion rate is about 120% higher on retail apps than on websites & other platforms.
You can also use an eCommerce mobile application to introduce loyalty programs and improve the in-store experience, which also contributes to a sales increase.
Additionally, a retail mobile app allows you to use push-notifications that are great for boosting sales. You can use them to send personalized offers, remind about the items users review, inform them about special deals, etc.
# 3: Increase Brand Loyalty 😀
A retail mobile app can help you keep your brand prominent in the marketplace. Let’s take a look at how exactly it can help you increase customers’ loyalty.
Loyalty programs make customers feel special and personally treated, which can make them more interested in the regular use of your app. On the other hand, these programs provide users with exclusive content, such as:
A gamification element is a proven way to create a fascinating UX. The 2 main rules that apply here: it should be useful and creative.
For example, you can implement in-app currency (it may be something unique like stars in the Starbucks app or simply “points” like in the Pinkberry online app). Users can get this currency for visiting your store, making purchases, taking part in various activities, etc. Afterward, they can exchange these points for other goods, discounts, and so on.
Coupons & Cashback
Another thing that’s good for loyalty improvement a retail app can provide is coupons for free gifts, special discounts — simply anything you want.
Additionally, you can provide coupons for inviting new friends to the app. Or you can draw attention to the new products by providing coupons for buying them.
Besides, cashback is something that you can offer to increase brand loyalty as well.
# 4: Analyze Customer Behavior for Personalization 📑
A retail mobile app can offer you wide analysis capabilities. One of the most useful features is that you can quickly access the statistics of users’ purchases and analyze their shopping data.
In terms of improving your business, gaining this data can help you with personalizing offers that you send to your customers. By knowing what a customer bought in the past and what they’re browsing now, you can send them an offer that’ll fully meet their current needs, which naturally increases the chance of purchase.
Apart from that, you can analyze other statistics, such as:
- Average time spent in the app.
- Shopping cart abandonment rate.
- The time between adding an item to a cart and purchasing it & others.
# 5: Add Specific Integrations 📲
In case you already have an app that’s developed on an app builder like Appypie so-called “out-of-the-box” apps), it can happen that certain integrations with your POS, ERP, or other systems aren’t possible because of the app builder’s limitations.
Conversely, a custom retail app can be fully tailored to your business needs & enable all needed integrations. Thus, it’s more beneficial in the long run since you won’t have to pay for features that you don’t need.
Besides, you should take into account that certain features are accessible for mobile apps only. For instance, push-notifications — websites can be modified with desktop notifications instead, while PWAs are unable to use both of these options.
✅ e-Commerce App Builders vs. Custom Retail App: What Is the Difference
However, many of them eventually build a custom solution. Let’s review the main use cases when one of the options might meet your business needs better and why businesses switch to a custom one.
App Builders: Use Cases
App builders are used by businesses at the early stages of digitalization. It can be beneficial for your business in several ways:
- The development is fast.
- It’s intended for low-budget development.
- “Out-of-the-box” solutions almost never require coding skills.
- It’s not likely that you’ll have to hire additional staff to work with a pre-packaged solution.
On the other hand, app builders have limited functionality & design templates, with having a lower security level than custom solutions normally do.
Besides, it often happens that “out-of-the-box” apps aren’t compatible with APIs, ERP, and other systems, which can be problematic for businesses in the future — in case they’d want an additional feature, it won’t be possible to integrate it.
So, based on these pros & cons, these are the 2 most popular use cases of app builders:
# 1: If one isn’t sure whether an app is something that would fully meet their business needs, they can opt for a cheaper and less time-consuming solution to test out the idea and provide an MVP to customers.
# 2: Some businesses aren’t ready to spend money on the development at once. Thus, it’s easier for them to pay a monthly subscription for an app builder than to hire a development team.
Yet, such apps aren’t always successful since they have quite a basic UI, limited functionality, and lack uniqueness. Thus, it can create a wrong impression that mobile apps in general are not that helpful for your business while the problem will be in a poor experience.
Custom Retail App
Normally, custom apps are more advanced solutions that businesses build after making sure that it’s what their business needs. It’s mostly beneficial for them since:
- It can be fully tailored to the business needs.
- It’s flexible & unique. Meaning that design, functionality, and branding is fully up to you. Besides, you can change or modify it at any time.
- It’s more beneficial in the long run since there’s no need to spend on features that you won’t need.
However, a custom retail app isn’t that affordable and requires more time, compared to using app builders.
Taking these positive and negative sides of custom solutions into account, here are the most popular use cases:
# 1: You know that the idea you have will work — meaning you either successfully trade on third-party services or have made an MVP that came out successful after a testing time.
# 2: The app builder solution isn’t able to cover your new business needs or you’ve overgrown the stage when it was enough — you have more users now, you need more advanced functionality & design, etc.
# 3: Your business needs a specific combination of features or additional integrations that an “out-of-the-box” app can’t provide or prohibits adding. However, those who do provide non-custom experience often set a price level for such luxuries too high.
A little sidenote: if you were doubting whether you should develop a mobile or web-based app, take a look at these statistics. 93% of mobile consumers would prefer online shopping using retail apps over the PWA.
However, if you plan to improve the in-store experience only, it might be more reasonable to create a PWA so customers won’t have to download your app for a quick tour around the store — it can be discouraging.
⚙️ Top Features of an eCommerce App
In this section, we’ll review the main features of a retail mobile app. Sure thing, you might need something additional or don’t need a certain feature — each case is unique.
# 1: Sign Up & Profiles 🔐
We often recommend making this feature optional so that users won’t be discouraged by the sign-up process. As for retail business, our recommendation would be to make it optional yet encourage customers to do it.
For instance, offer to save all details like a payment option, phone number, etc., so that the next time users won’t have to type it in again.
Additionally, chosen items are deleted from the cart when a user closes the app without having an account. So, to allow users to save or choose them as “Favourites”, an account needs to be created.
If you want to ask for the registration at the very beginning, a name and email/phone number should do it. After that, you might additionally need:
- Delivery address (if you provide it).
- Banking card details.
- Birthday (you could offer discounts, special offers, etc.) & others.
Besides, it might be a good idea to offer Social Sign Up. In this way, users would be able to share their experiences at your store on their accounts, providing you with additional advertising.
# 2: Home Screen 📊
On this screen, users should be able to have quick access to all main features. It can include:
- Search bar.
- Categories of products (if you have such).
You can also add an “About us” tab somewhere on the Home Screen and place contact information — phone numbers, addresses, etc., and links to Social Media accounts so users could quickly find it without the need to search it on the internet.
Besides, this is a great place for you to place special offers, weekly deals, promote products, and so on.
# 3: Filtering & Sorting 🔍
The need of this feature and filters will strongly depend on the type of your business.
However, you’ll most likely need a search bar so users could quickly find what they need if they have a specific request.
If we generalize the list of features, you can include filters by:
- Price (you can either set the range of prices or sometimes companies evaluate the price and put $, $$, $$$ next to each product).
- Availability of the product in a certain store (if you have several).
- Category & others.
# 4: Product Lists 📃
Since most retail stores have several categories of products, you might need to add different product lists to your app.
You can also sort these lists by different in several ways:
- Lists by categories. Let’s take a look at the picture above: Watches, Glasses, Shoes, Perfume.
- “Trending”. Such lists are great for promoting certain products & increasing sales.
- “New in”. These lists are intended to present newly available products to users. Or a product that was only available offline can now be bought through an app.
# 5: Product Screen 📱
This feature is intended to provide all information about each product that’s on the app.
Each description can include:
- HD product photos.
- Product description — depends on the type of it.
- Similar goods.
- Availability & the quantity (if it’s considerably limited)
# 6: Shopping Cart 🛒
This feature is really close to the cart in real stores — users add every item they want here. Except it allows customers to pay, change the details, choose the delivery (if needed), and all the other processes right in the app.
Its main functionality can include:
- Change the items (add/delete, change quantity, etc.).
- Compare products (maybe a customer would want to compare different brands with one another by price, characteristics, etc.)
- Choose the way of delivery.
- Conduct payment.
# 7: Navigation & In-Store Experience 🧭
A mobile retail app can digitize many navigation processes, which can significantly improve customer experience.
It can include:
- Find stores nearby.
- Lists of good & availability checks.
- “Tap the map”. This feature implies that users can open the map where all your stores would be pinned. Then, users choose an item and check if this particular one is available in a needed store.
You can also help to save customers’ time by offering to create a shopping list right in the app.
# 8: Barcode Scanner 📷
This feature is something close to QR-code scanning — customers point their cameras at the code, an app scans it, provides information about the product, and then adds to the cart or wish list (if customers approve it by the tap on the button).
You can do it by either integrating a camera in the app or ask to pair it with the one on users’ phones.
# 9: Instant Checkout 💳
This feature is mostly used for improving the in-store experience — users don’t have to stay in the line to pay for the chosen items, they can simply do it in the app and show the e-receipt on the way out.
It might be a good idea to allow users to choose the items, pay for them in the app offering various payment options, and pick them up in the store without having to go through the brick-and-mortar shopping stages.
To enable safe & secure payments, you’ll need a reliable Payment Gateway. We recommend making it:
- Consistent with different OS options, browsers, devices (iOS, Android), etc.
- Compatible with all popular payment options like PayPal, Apple & Google, banking cards, etc.
- Fast without delays.
- Secure so users’ personal data is strongly protected.
# 10: Push-notifications 🔔
Push-notifications are great for marketing purposes such as:
- Remind about items that are left in a cart.
- Send personalized offers.
- Inform about new products.
- Send coupons, discounts & others.
# 11: Customer Support 💬
So the customer/user experience won’t be worsened by simple-to-solve trouble, you should provide well-organized customer support.
Best support services normally have:
- A chatbot that’s able to answer simple requests and pass them to specialists.
- Live chats with real specialists.
- Multiple FAQs with possible pre-answered questions.
- Phone support.
- A list of contacts with phone numbers, email addresses, links to Social Media accounts, messengers like Viber and WhatsApp.
🤖 Tech Stack for Retail Mobile App
Retail mobile apps can be modified with many advanced technologies and APIs. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
By placing iBeacons inside your store, you can enable interaction of your customers’ phones & these devices. The use cases are quite wide — from greeting your customers when they enter the store and sending notifications about ongoing sales and special offers to providing indoor mapping.
Indoor mapping can include leading customers to the desired product, a certain department of the store, checkout points, exit, etc.
Augmented & Virtual Reality
Instead of describing it theoretically, we decided to show you some real-life use cases that best represent how you can use it:
- Famous cosmetic giant Sephora enriched its app with the “Virtual Artist” feature. It allows users to test a company's products directly in the app by using the photos or in a live mode without putting any real makeup on.
- IKEA Catalog app uses well-developed augmented reality technologies and provides users with the possibility to virtually place furniture in the room.
- You can also use virtual reality like Alibaba’s Taobao app — they support 3D viewing of products.
You can add various integrations to your app:
- To enable secure payments, you can use Braintree, Stripe, PayPal.
- For shipping integration, these APIs might be suitable: FedEx, UPS.
- For marketing automation, you can use Mailchimp, Zoho Campaigns, etc.
- To analyze customer data, there’s a great solution — Google Analytics.
To sum up, retail mobile apps are highly beneficial for most businesses — they can help to increase sales & improve brand liability, modify a business with different integrations.
So, here are the main steps you should take to build your retail mobile app:
- Choose between using app builders & custom apps.
- Decide on what features you want to have in your app.
- Find a Tech Partner team & start the development process.
If you need any help with the development or have some questions left, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll find a way to help you!