How to Build Native Ecommerce Apps with MobiLoud Canvas (WooCommerce to Mobile App Guide)

WooCommerce is the answer to creating a successful, secure online store with WordPress. If WordPress is the operating system of your site, WooCommerce is the program that turns it into a eCommerce machine.

The figures speak for themselves. WooCommerce powers 28.19% of all online stores, and 22% of the top 1 million eCommerce sites! The great thing about WooCommerce is the huge ecosystem of themes and plugins surrounding it. You can customize your site exactly how you like it to provide a better customer experience and boost sales and conversions.

If you chose WooCommerce, you made a great choice. Perhaps you run a thriving online store, having leveraged WooCommerce’s flexible platform to create a great eCommerce experience and a healthy flow of sales and profits. What now? How can you create an even better experience, make even more sales, and grow into new channels?

One great option is to go all in on mobile commerce by building iOS and Android mobile apps. Expanding your store to a mobile app provides numerous benefits for web-based eCommerce brands. All the big players like Amazon, Walmart, and Nike all leverage eCommerce apps heavily – and you can too.

A MobiLoud Canvas fashion app

In this article we’re going to take a look at the benefits of building a WooCommerce mobile app, then we’re going to look at how to do in just weeks, for a small fraction of the standard cost. All you need is MobiLoud Canvas.

Why Convert Your WooCommerce Store to Mobile Apps?

Your WooCommerce store probably works great right now. You rank for some good keywords, your ads bring in people from search and social platforms, and your UX is optimised to convert well. So why would you build mobile apps too?

Not too long ago, many retailers were questioning whether it made sense to even have a website – wasn’t a nice shopfront and ads in the local paper enough?

Times change, technology changes, consumer habits change. Not only are we now in a digital-first world, but a mobile-first one. Worldwide – over 50% of total web traffic is now mobile, and mobile commerce has grown in line with the larger trend.

We’ve seen how the traditional web has gradually been usurped by the mobile web and the unstoppable rise of smartphones.

The trend isn’t slowing down. As we can see from the above chart:

“In 2021, mobile e-commerce could rake in some $3.5 trillion and then make up almost three quarters (72.9 percent) of e-commerce sales”


WooCommerce Mobile Apps

I can hear you saying “OK, so what? My WooCommerce store works fine on mobile!”

That’s great. A responsive site, well optimized for mobile, is a non-negotiable piece. After all, a mobile friendly site makes a sale 67% more likely. The question is – is it enough to stand out in your market and cover all bases? Perhaps not, because of a parallel trend – the rise of apps.

Emarketer research showed that in 2019, around 90% of total smartphone time was spent in-app. Granted, most of this time is spent engrossed in social media apps or games.  That’s not the full picture though, as we can see from the impressive growth of eCommerce apps in particular.

Over the past few years, sales through eCommerce apps have grown at an impressive rate, to the point where 78% of users would rather access a store via a mobile app than a mobile site.

eCommerce apps also drive 3x higher conversion rates compared to the mobile web.

Why do eCommerce apps convert at such a higher rate?

There are three main reasons.

  1. Mobile app users are more loyal
  2. Apps provide a better user experience
  3. Push notifications are very powerful

Let’s take a look at these in more detail, as they are important for understanding the reasons why you should use a WooCommerce mobile app builder to convert your site to Android and iOS apps.

eCommerce Apps & Loyalty

One of the great things about building apps is the loyalty factor.

Apps not only foster loyalty through a better user experience and better communication through push notifications, but they self-select your most loyal customers.

If someone downloads your mobile app, it’s a sign that they feel positively about your brand. Over time, the apps will gather a core of your biggest fans, bringing them together all in one place so you can deepen your relationship and engagement with them.

This is extremely valuable. Your site is like a storefront on a busy high street. It’s there to pick up organic traffic, show people what you’re about, and entice new customers to buy. eCommerce apps are more like a catalogue for fans of your products to browse regularly – only much better.

eCommerce Apps Drive up Lifetime Value, Repeat Purchases and Retention

To be successful in eCommerce, thinking only in terms of raw sales isn’t always good enough. The focus should be on lifetime value, repeat purchases, and building a loyal fanbase.

A lot of eCommerce businesses generate around 80% of their revenue from about 20% of their customers. These are the customers most likely to download your eCommerce app, and so it becomes the ideal vehicle to build even deeper loyalty with those that are likely to be most receptive to your efforts.

eCommerce app users return to online stores 50% more often within 30 days, and spend an average of 201 minutes per month shopping, compared to 10.9 minutes for website users

These figures are impressive, and surprising. How can WooCommerce mobile apps perform so much higher?

We’ve already looked at how apps self-select your biggest fans in the first place, but it’s more than that.

Of course, the icon on their home screen is a constant reminder of your brand and offers. The real keys though are the improved user experience and push notifications. 

Let’s take a look at these two in turn.

WooCommerce Apps Provide a More Engaging, Less Distracting UX

In 2020, a portion of users simply expect an “app like” experience – whether they are learning, socialising or shopping. They want a visible icon on their home screen, to receive notifications about orders and offers, and to have an “enclosed” experience.

According to eMarketer principle analyst Catherine Boyle:

“Native apps can deliver more immersive shopping experiences, give brands access to smartphones’ location services to trigger geotargeted offers and create a permanent brand presence on the phone, which boosts awareness”

This immersive experience is key. According to a Walker study, by the end of 2020 customer experience will surpass price and product as the most important brand differentiator.

Pulling up a mobile browser, entering a URL, logging in, waiting for everything to load then navigating to find what you want is simply not an ideal experience. In contrast, think about how your mobile UX will improve when you convert your WooCommerce site to a mobile app……

Canvas apps provide a much better eCommerce UX

Just one tap on the user’s home screen takes them right into the app. There are no other browser tabs to distract them, no frustrating loading times or typing, and the native navigation is smooth and intuitive. The mobile app also keeps the user logged in, which not only reduces frustration but also friction around checkouts and payments. Perhaps this is why carts are only abandoned 20% of the time in apps compared to 80% of the time on mobile sites!

The experience factor along with the baked-in loyalty we discussed earlier is why app users generate 84.5% of Amazon’s total mobile time.

Although the total number of unique visitors is similar on app vs web, Amazon’s mobile app users spend a lot more time engaging with the platform. The apps are a way to serve regular, habitual buyers. You can replicate the same effect by converting your WooCommerce site to mobile apps!

The native tab bar, navigation, superior speed, reduced friction and enclosed experience are all crucial. Together they make a far more convenient UX responsible for much of the success of apps in general as well as eCommerce apps in particular.

So we’ve seen how apps foster loyalty and provide a superior mobile UX. There’s another big advantage – push notifications. Let’s look at them in a little more detail.

Push Notifications

A WooCommerce mobile app gives you the ability to send push notifications directly to the devices of your most valuable customers.

You probably use email to reach your key customers right now – but push notifications are much better. According to a study by IBM partner Xtify, open rates for push notifications vary between 30% and 60%, and the interaction is as high as 40%. Take a look at the following image for comparison with email.

Your customers are far less likely to miss them, – they are highly visible on the lock screen. Even if they don’t open it right away, that’s no problem – it will simply be stored in the app’s message center.

Push works great for eCommerce, supporting both your marketing campaigns and the customer journey. An eMarketer report even found that eCommerce apps that use push notifications to boost opens saw 278% more app launches than those that did not!

You can send notifications out to alert users to new offers, new products, and to keep them up to date with the delivery process. You can also use them to deliver special app-only coupon codes to users which will make them even more enthusiastic about it and function as a little bribe to get more downloads.

If you use a high-quality WooCommerce app builder, your users will also have push preferences and a message center to improve their experience and boost the effectiveness of your messages.

Canvas apps give you all the push notification tools you need

Overall, there is no better way to reach your customers on their most valued device whenever you want to.

Get More Visibility and Make a Great First Impression

On smartphones, some people use the App Stores to search for solutions to their problems. That’s why apps allow you to pick up new customers as well as please existing ones.

If you optimize well for App Store SEO, users will find you by searching for keywords related to your products. They could be searching for your exact products and offers. If you aren’t there you’re not even in the game. You’ll lose them to a competitor who does have an app store presence, or they’ll just default to Amazon!

This opens up a whole new user acquisition channel and gets you in front of people who would likely not have found your WooCommerce store through the crowded mobile web, or worse, would have found another shop through the App Stores and built a relationship with them instead.

eCommerce brands with iOS and Android apps also look more serious, professional and established. Just look at all the huge eCommerce brands like H&M, Asos, Sephora, Nike and Amazon that have made apps a key part of their strategy.

In 2021, mobile apps are like a mark of quality and make you look good in the eyes of potential customers, partners and investors.

We’ve looked at some of the main reasons to convert WooCommerce to mobile apps. Are you ready to join top online brands on the App Stores?

How to Build a WooCommerce Mobile App

But wait – this all sounds fine – but aren’t eCommerce apps massive projects that take half a year and cost $50K plus? They certainly can be.

When committing this much time and money – you would need to be pretty certain of the benefits. It would be a lot of risk for a small company. There’s a better, lower risk route, which we’ll cover shortly.

Firstly though, let’s go over all the options.

WooCommerce App Development Options

If you aren’t a skilled mobile developer already, forget about building a mobile app yourself from scratch.

You can simply pay someone who does have those skills of course. You can find developers capable of building you apps from scratch that recreate the functionality of your site and sync seamlessly with WooCommerce.

You’ll need at least two, one to work on the Swift iOS app, and one who’s focused on the Java-based Android version. You would probably need another to manage the entire project too. If you don’t have such people on-staff already, which you don’t as a small/medium eCommerce company, you’ll need to take them on at their day rate of around $800 minimum – and they will be billing for a lot of days.

The project will likely take them six months. That’s because building apps from scratch is painstaking work. Every piece of functionality in your existing site will need to be recreated on the iOS app and Android app, then connected with your WooCommerce backend through an API.

Of course, you don’t need to hire developers directly. You can contract an app development agency. Someone at the agency will also mostly manage the project, potentially saving you stress. The costs will likely be even higher though, and the timescale just as long.

eCommerce specialists SimiCart estimate that even a barebones eCommerce app will cost $30,000 to $45,000 and 3 months to develop. This rises to $60-80K (5-8 months) for a merely “average” app and $120-250K (9-18 months) for a “complex” one.

We’d say you’re looking at a total of around $40,000 – $90,000 for something “decent”. You can double that if you want to launch on Android and iOS which you definitely should. With both these options the work will never really be done. Updates, maintenance, and tweaks will add around 20% of the cost yearly.

On the plus side, this can get you great apps. They will be truly native and after many costly iterations highly functional for your users. That is a lot of money though. Money that could be spent on stock, payroll, and marketing.

Do you really need apps after all? At this price tag – it’s a hard decision without a clear answer.

The decision becomes easier though as the barriers to app development drop. What was a painful, stressful and expensive decision can become a no brainer.

Let’s look at a few more efficient options.

React Native

Another way to make native mobile apps is to develop the apps using React Native. This could lead to a good end result, but would still be rather time-consuming and expensive. The benefit of React Native is that you can share code across the iOS and Android versions of your app, and it’s faster. It’s faster, because apps can be built using JavaScript, which also makes it more affordable.

That said, it is still no walk in the park to build good apps with React Native. You need to hire a team of JavaScript experts who have experience building eCommerce projects.

They will be able to build the apps faster than purely native developers – but will still take months and run up bills into the multiple five figures.

Even if everything goes well, you’ll really struggle to completely recreate the functionality of your site in the apps. You can’t reuse any of your existing web code, and custom components will have to be rebuilt from scratch. You’ll then need to connect your backend to the apps with an API. Although code can be shared well between Android and iOS apps, it is still a ton of work.

With both of these options, you would need to replicate the functionality of your site in the apps, then ensure a flawless communication between the iOS and Android apps and your WooCommerce backend. Both will have you investing months of effort and tens of thousands to get a great result, and then you’ll have the ongoing hassle and expense of maintaining separate codebases.

The more complexity, plugins and custom code there is already on your site, the harder it will be to replicate that in an app.

Let’s look at something a little more manageable.

Template-Based WooCommerce App Solutions

One way to cut down the financial burden of building apps for your WooCommerce site is for your brand is to go with a template-based solution.

At the low end these are simple, general WooCommerce mobile app templates. They are cheap, but pretty hopeless if you want to recreate your WooCommerce site’s functionality and features.

On the higher end there are better template based builders. They can work well, but the problem is there are limited customization options, you’re always ultimately restricted to their template. If you have a complex site they will never be able to recreate the site’s functionality entirely in-app.

Frankly, none of these options are that great.

You need a dedicated WooCommerce app builder that lets you recreate your site entirely within fully native eCommerce apps that are just as good as Amazon’s or Etsy’s. You don’t want to just push elements of your site into an app template – you want to completely convert WooCommerce to apps.

The answer is MobiLoud Canvas – the ultimate WooCommerce mobile app builder. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Convert your WooCommerce site to mobile apps with MobiLoud Canvas

We have been building native mobile apps for WordPress sites for over 7 years. After building platforms for news publishers, eLearning sites, and web apps – we saw that there were no great WooCommerce mobile app builders out there. So we decided to make our own.

The platform we built, Canvas, let’s you build native eCommerce apps in just days – for a fraction of the standard cost. There’s no coding involved, and the apps will sync 100% with your WooCommerce store!

Simple product listings in a Canvas app

Forget paying $50K each and spending 6+ months building WooCommerce mobile apps. Canvas gives you a shortcut without compromising on the end result.

Let’s take a deeper look at why you should use Canvas to convert your WooCommerce store to a mobile app.

Deep WooCommerce Integration

Our platform has been refined and improved over 7 years and 1000+ app projects. We have the deepest integration with WordPress on the market.

With Commerce, this now extends to the WooCommerce platform too.

Not only can Canvas integrate all WooCommerce features and functionalities into the apps – including any WooCommerce plugins you currently use – but you can also integrate any other WordPress plugins you use on your site!

Canvas let’s you easily integrate everything from your site!

You can keep your existing cart, checkout, and payment gateway, along with any other key parts of your tech stack.

This gives you really broad possibilities for creating custom, unique eCommerce apps by leveraging the whole WooCommerce and WordPress ecosystem. No other WooCommerce app builder will give you the same level of flexibility.

We designed the Canvas platform with all the feature and UX needs of professional eCommerce brands in mind. For example – with Canvas you can build WooCommerce apps with all the following features:

  • Custom design and white label
  • Rich media content including image galleries and video/audio players
  • Full integration for payment gateways
  • Product recommendations
  • eCommerce analytics
  • Native search
  • Native sharing

This is just a summary of the features your eCommerce app can have. Check out the main page for more.

We also set up your eCommerce apps with unlimited push notifications on iOS and Android. You can notify your customers of new products, update them on delivery, and send them app-only coupon codes to drive up conversions and customer satisfaction!

Easy Management

After you’ve built iOS and Android apps with our WooCommerce app builder – managing them is simple.

The apps will sync 100% with your WooCommerce website. Your existing catalogue will be available immediately in the mobile app, and any changes you make on the web will be reflected instantly.

For sending push notifications and managing all other aspects of the app, you’ll use a simple plugin that sites right next to WooCommerce in your WordPress admin panel. There’s really no duplication of effort, and nothing to add to your existing workflow.

Full Service

When it does come to the tricky parts of app development and maintenance, our team is on hand to handle it. We don’t just sell you WooCommerce app builder software – we partner with you to help you succeed in mobile eCommerce.

We take a hands on approach to customer support through the configuration process – and handle the fiddly job of submission to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store 100%, guaranteeing approval and a successful launch.

What’s more, we handle all ongoing updates and maintenance of the apps, saving you thousands every year! Our service is personalised. We don’t leave you hanging with a ticket – we’re a call or an email away and you’ll know us by name. No other WooCommerce app builder comes close to our level of service.

Changing The Logic of WooCommerce App Development

We saw earlier that building apps natively is an expensive headache, and other WooCommerce app builders leave you with restrictive templates and figuring out the tough parts yourself.

Commerce allows you to avoid those downsides, defeating the risk/reward argument and the “hassle” argument against building mobile apps for WooCommerce. Forget about building a mobile app from scratch – it’s a much better idea to convert WooCommerce to apps!

You can get apps just as good as the eCommerce giants for 90% off the price tag – and you can launch them in just weeks without worrying about unforeseen struggles and expenses. You’ll just have a predictable monthly license fee to pay that covers everything – and peace of mind knowing that your WooCommerce apps will keep humming along smoothly and bringing in sales month after month.

Chat about Canvas with one of our team

As well as a moderate financial investment, Canvas also keeps your time and energy investment under control. Since the apps sync with your WooCommerce site and update automatically – you don’t need to worry about any extra workload burdens for you and your team.

Our WooCommerce mobile app builder gives you the chance to ride the mobile eCommerce wave that is sweeping the space. According to eCommerce expert Berry De Kort:

“Even before the pandemic the majority of traffic to web retailers was coming from smartphones. We’ve been seeing steady increases in app usage over the year. However, the year-on-year figures prove it’s more than a short-term blip. Mobile shoppers are impatient and have high expectations. All retailers will need to continually demonstrate that their app shopping experience can make life better or easier for them“

Berry De Kort, CEO of JMango360

The improved mobile UX, push notifications, and ability to occupy valuable real estate on your customers’ home screens will give you an unfair advantage against your competitors.

As De Kort adds:

“Shoppers have embraced mobile apps and they won’t be going back to the slow and cumbersome purchase journeys offered by mobile responsive websites.”

Are you ready to embrace them too?

There’s no risk with Canvas. You can cancel and get a full refund for any reason within 60 days, and we don’t tie you up with long term contracts.

The process is simple. It starts with booking a demo call with one of our app team. We’ll go over the whole process and explore the possibilities.

If you decide that this is the WooCommerce mobile app builder for you – we’ll come up with a vision for the apps and a roadmap to bring them live. You could be launching on the App Store and Google Play in under a month!

Let’s get your brand on the App Stores – get started with a free demo today!