Published: June 15, 2017
16 min read
Last updated: May 2, 2022
In this article, you'll learn:
📈 How a Retail App Can Help You Improve Your Business
✅ e-Commerce App Builders vs. Custom Retail App: What Is the Difference
⚙️ Top Features of an eCommerce App
🤖 Tech Stack for Retail Mobile App
The digitization of e-Commerce is one of the largest markets that has been significantly influenced by digital technologies over the past decade. When it comes to mobile commerce, this market is still 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, that means that the demand for m-Commerce solutions is consistently increasing and will surely be high in the future.
Many retail companies build their mobile applications since the industry is actively growing (image by Hesam.Keramati)
If we take more “down-to-earth” numbers, nearly half of all online shoppers use their mobile devices to make purchases, making them the most used type of device for online shopping.
So, your own retail app with a 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 virtual look at your product.
If you want to learn more about it, build your own retail mobile app, or improve the existing solution — welcome!
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 improve with an app. In case you’re already well-informed about all the benefits, feel free to skip to the next section by following this link.
By developing a retail mobile app, you can extend the boundaries of your location. For example, you can start not only “targeting” the people who walk past your store or live in the same area, but also all online shoppers in your country or even abroad, depending on your business model.
An e-Commerce application can help your company expand the clientele (image by DRY)
Besides, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally transformed the industry. 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 has now been “compounded” by those who just got used to it due to the pandemic.
If we take a closer look at small retailers, compared to other years, their online sales went up by 110% in winter 2020-2021, eespecially during the holidays. Consequently, the demand has been steadily increasing, and more and more people are getting involved in online shopping.
A retail mobile app is a great tool that can help rapidly (but still long-term) increase sales.
An e-Commerce mobile app development can help your company increase sales (image by Nicola Badenhorst)
If we take a look at the numbers, mobile apps are leaders in terms of increasing sales in the retail business:
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 users about the items they have reviewed, inform them about special deals, etc.
A retail mobile app can help you keep your brand prominent on the market. Let’s take a look at how exactly it can help you increase your customers’ loyalty.
On the one hand, loyalty programs can make customers feel special and personally treated, which can make them more interested in your app, and they may start using it regularly. On the other hand, these programs provide users with exclusive content, such as:
Gamification is a proven way that can create a fascinating UX design. The 2 main rules that apply here: it should be useful and creative.
An app for your eCommerce company can help you increase brand loyalty (image by Patryk Polak)
For example, you can implement in-app currency (it can be something unique like stars on the Starbucks app or simply “points” like on the Pinkberry online app). Users can get this currency for visiting your store, making purchases, taking part in various activities, etc. Afterwards, they can exchange these points for other goods, discounts, and so on.
Another thing that can be great for loyalty improvement is coupons for free gifts and special discounts — simply, anything you want.
Furthermore, you can offer coupons for inviting new friends to your app. Alternatively, you can draw attention to new products by providing coupons for buying them.
Coupons in eCommerce apps are great for improving shopping experience (image by Divan Raj)
Besides, cashback is something that you can offer to increase brand loyalty as well.
A retail mobile app can offer you many options for a wide analysis. One of the most useful features is that you can quickly access the statistics of users’ purchases and analyze their shopping data.
For better customer experience and sales increase, you can create an e-Commerce app (image by Vadim Demenko)
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 will naturally increase the chance of purchase.
Apart from that, you can analyze other statistics, such as:
In case you already have an app that was developed with the help of 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 won’t be possible because of the app builder’s limitations.
Conversely, a custom retail app can be fully tailored to your business needs with all the needed integrations. Thus, it’s more beneficial in the long run since you don’t have to pay for features that you most likely won’t need.
You can add various features through integrations into custom eCommerce apps (image by Diana Malewicz)
Besides, you should take into account that certain features are only accessible for mobile apps. For instance, push-notifications. Websites can be modified with desktop notifications instead, while PWAs are unable to use either one of these options.
However, many of them eventually do build a custom solution. Let’s review the main use cases; hopefully, they will help you understand which one of the options might meet your business needs better and why you should consider switching to a custom one.
App builders are used by businesses at early stages of digitization. They can be beneficial for your business in several different ways:
If you want to create retail mobile app quickly, you can use app builders (image by Q Sodexo)
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 become problematic for businesses in the future: in case they want any additional features, it won’t be possible to integrate them.
So, based on these pros & cons, there are 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 all at once. Thus, it’s easier for them to pay for a monthly subscription on an app builder than to hire a full-on development team.
Nevertheless, such apps aren’t always successful since they have a pretty basic UI design, limited functionality, and lack uniqueness. That can create the wrong impression that mobile apps in general aren’t really helpful for businesses.
Normally, custom apps are more advanced solutions that businesses build after making sure that it’s exactly what their business needs. They are beneficial for them since:
Many retail companies build custom mobile applications for better flexibility and uniqueness (image by Lorenzo Perniciaro)
However, a custom retail app isn’t that affordable and requires more time compared to app builders.
Taking these benefits and drawbacks 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 already successfully trade on third-party services or have made an MVP that came out successfully after a certain testing time.
# 2: The app builder solution isn’t able to cover all of your new business needs or you’ve outgrown 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 pretty high.
A little sidenote: if you weren’t sure 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 PWA.
However, if you only plan to improve the in-store experience, it might be more reasonable to create a PWA so that customers won’t have to download your app for a quick tour around the store — that can be pretty discouraging.
In this section, we’ll review the main features of a retail mobile app. Sure thing, you might need something additional or might not need a certain feature — each case is unique.
We often recommend making this feature optional so users don’t get discouraged by the sign-up process. As for retail businesses, our advice would be to still make the sign up 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, previously chosen items are deleted from the cart when a user with no account closes the app. So, to allow users to save items as “Favorites,” an account needs to be created.
For custom mobile app development for retail business, think about adding the sign-up feature (image by B A H U R 7 8)
If you want to ask for registration at the very beginning, name and email/phone number should do it. After that, you might additionally need:
Besides, it might be a good idea to offer Social Sign Up. This way, users will be able to share their experiences at your store on their accounts, providing you with additional advertising.
On this screen, users should be able to have quick access to all the main features. That can include:
To develop a shopping app, you can add Home Screen (image by DStudio®)
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 can quickly find you online without having to look for you themselves.
Furthermore, it’s a great place for you to place special offers, weekly deals, promote products, and so on.
The need for this feature and filters will strongly depend on the type of your business. However, you’ll most likely need a search bar so users can quickly find what they need if they have a specific request.
For shopping app development, you might need to add filtering & searching systems, depending on the type of your app (image by Ivanna Spodyniuk)
If we generalize the list of features, you can include filters by:
Since most retail stores have several categories of products, you might need to add different product lists to your app.
To create a retail mobile app, think about adding a product list into it (image by DStudio®)
You can also sort these lists in several different ways:
This feature is intended to provide all information about each product that’s on the app.
It might be a good idea to add a screen for each item during eCommerce app development (image by tubik)
Each description can include:
This feature is really similar to the carts you have in real stores — users add every item they want here. However, online, customers are also able to pay, change their details, choose delivery type (if needed), etc.
Most e-Commerce mobile apps have an online shopping cart for order management and payment (image by Nicholas.design)
Its main functionalities can include:
A mobile retail app can digitize many navigation processes, which can significantly improve the customer experience.
Think about adding features for in-store shopping experience during e-Commerce app development (image by Dawid Pietrasiak)
That can include:
You can also help save customers’ time by offering to create a shopping list right in the app.
This feature is something pretty similar to QR-code scanning — customers point their cameras at a code, the app scans it, provides information about the product, and adds it to the cart or wish list (if customers approve by pressing a button).
Barcode Scanning is a great tool to add during eCommerce app development (image by Tribhuvan Suthar)
You can do that by either integrating a camera in the app itself or “asking” to pair it with the ones on users’ phones.
This feature is used mostly for improving the in-store experience — users don’t have to stay in line to pay for their chosen items; they can simply do it in the app and show the e-receipt on their way out.
It might be a good idea to allow users to choose different 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.
For in-app or in-store purchases, think about adding great payment gateway (image by Mahima Mahajan)
To enable safe & secure payments, you’ll need a reliable Payment Gateway. We recommend making it:
Push-notifications are great for marketing purposes such as:
So the customer/user experience isn't worsened by simple-to-solve trouble, you should provide well-organized customer support.
Development companies often recommend to add well-organized customer support (image by Michelly Sugui)
Best support services normally have:
Retail mobile apps can be modified with many advanced technologies and APIs. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
By integrating iBeacons into your store, you can enable interaction between your customers’ phones & these devices. The use cases are quite wide — from greeting your customers when they enter the store to sending notifications about ongoing sales to special offers to providing indoor mapping.
For e-Commerce software development, you should educate yourself technological integrations opportunities (image by Timo)
Indoor mapping can include leading customers to desired products, certain departments of the store, checkout points, exit, etc.
Instead of describing it theoretically, we decided to show you some real-life use cases that best represent how you can use it:
You can add various integrations to your app:
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 own retail mobile app:
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!
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