Last Updated on
June 7, 2024

How to Build an eCommerce App in 2024

Published in
Key takeaways:
  • To build an eCommerce app, you have three options: hire developers to build a custom app, use an eCommerce app builder, or use a managed service like MobiLoud.
  • Ideally you should build and optimize your website first, then convert your web store into a mobile app.
  • MobiLoud is the best option for most businesses because it allows you to go live quickly and affordably, while keeping all the features from your website in the app.

Online shopping habits are increasingly trending in the direction of mobile, as shown by mobile making up the majority - 51.8% - of online sales during Cyber Week 2023.

With more people than ever using their smartphone to shop, apps are becoming a must-have for ecommerce businesses. eCommerce apps provide a more mobile-friendly shopping experience, which many consumers prefer to mobile websites.

As a result, apps perform better for brands than mobile websites in a number of metrics, including:

  • 157% higher conversion rates than mobile websites.
  • 4.2x more products viewed per session.
  • More than 7x as much time spent in apps vs mobile websites.

If you do it the right way, and have already built a functional website, building an eCommerce app is not as difficult as you might think. That means even small brands today can launch their own app.

In this article we’re going to walk you through how to build an eCommerce app, and ensure your business stays relevant as the share of app-first shoppers continues to grow.

Developing an eCommerce App in 5 Steps

Let’s go in-depth on the eCommerce app development process.

For this, we’re going to assume your eCommerce business already has a website. While you can build an eCommerce app from scratch, it’s generally not a good idea to be app-only.

The majority of online sales still come through the mobile web. Your website is where most new customers will find you, and where first-time buyers are more likely to make a purchase.

An app should be an extension of your website. But with most businesses, the website should come first.

If you’re just starting your eCommerce business, use a platform like Shopify or Squarespace to create a simple website for your business. We’d advise you to build and grow your website first, ensuring that it’s fast and responsive on mobile screens, and once you’ve built up steady revenue from your online store, start thinking about launching your app.

1. Research

Don’t jump right into developing your eCommerce app from day one. The first step is the research phase.

You’ll need a good plan for your app before moving forward. If you fail to plan, you could end up in a situation where you’re halfway through development and run into a roadblock or something you want to change, resulting in a lot of lost time and money.

Research other eCommerce apps in the same industry as yours and see what you like and don’t like about them. Also think about any unique characteristics of your audience, and how your app can play towards these.

Identify Must-Have Features, Budget, and Time Requirements

As part of the research phase you should come up with a blueprint for developing your app.

Make a list of features you want to include in your app. Some of these might be:

  • Push notifications
  • Native navigation UI
  • Specific integrations you can’t do without
  • Checkout features/payment options (e.g. Apple Pay, Google Pay)
  • Biometric integration
  • Social login
  • Abandoned cart notifications
  • AR/VR features
  • Personalized product recommendations
  • Ratings, reviews & UGC
  • Custom widgets

You may not need all these features, and the fewer features you try to squeeze into your app the cheaper it will be, so consider which are “must-haves” and which are just “nice to haves”.

Then make a plan for your budget and time requirements.

You should know the maximum you’re willing to spend on your app before you start thinking about how to build it. If you don’t plan for this, the cost can easily spiral out of control.

Think as well about the time frame in which you want the project to be completed. Again, if you don’t set a deadline, you’ll find the process drags on and on, and a year from now you might still be sitting here waiting for your app.

2. Choose Your Tech Stack

Now decide on the technology you’re going to use to build your eCommerce app.

Options include:

  • Native development (building specific, separate apps for iOS and Android).
  • Cross-platform development (custom apps that run on both iPhone and Android with the same code).
  • No-code app builders.
  • Managed eCommerce mobile app development services.

If you’re not technical, and the terms Swift, Java, Kotlin, React Native, etc mean nothing to you, you don’t necessarily need to learn and decide which one to use.

You’re basically going to narrow the decision down to:

  • Building a custom application (in which case you’ll have to hire developers or a development agency).
  • Using a no-code eCommerce app builder to create an eCommerce app yourself.
  • Using a managed service like MobiLoud to build your app.

In our opinion, custom apps are too expensive, have too much overhead, and are overkill for building eCommerce apps.

No-code app builders are too simple, and make it hard to build the app you want, with the features you want (you can read more about why these tools are not ideal in this article).

The ideal solution is MobiLoud - our service to convert websites into apps.

We take care of the entire process for you, using your current website to create high-quality apps (like Rainbow Shops and John Varvatos, to give a couple of examples), in less than a month.

The John Varvatos e-commerce app, built by MobiLoud

Most eCommerce businesses don’t need any major changes in their app from what already exists on their website. If this is the case for you, MobiLoud is perfect, because you don’t need to rebuild anything - you’re just reusing what already works.

Get a free preview of your app to see what’s possible.

3. Create a Development Plan

Once you’ve decided on how to build your eCommerce app, create an operational plan for how it’s going to get done.

If you choose to build a custom app, this might mean hiring a development team, hiring someone to manage the developers, and building a timeline for key milestones the developers need to hit.

If you go with MobiLoud, you don’t need to do anything here. 

One of our project managers will get on a call with you and explain what we’re going to do and how long it will take (which will likely be around two weeks for a first working version).

We’ve got a tried and tested workflow that we’ll use to develop your eCommerce app with none of the hassle that comes from dealing with developers or a development agency.

4. Test Your App and Deliver Feedback to the Development Team

At some point, your app will be ready for testing.

It’s important you don’t skip over the testing phase, as releasing a half-built, buggy app could do serious damage to your brand’s reputation.

Download the app to your own mobile device and test extensively to make sure it’s fast, easy to use, and that all your desired features are working in the app.

Communicate any feedback or issues back to the development team so they can work on them and make fixes or changes where necessary.

With MobiLoud, we test your app for you, but you’ll also have the opportunity here to test it yourself and communicate with us on what you like or don’t like about the app, or any issues you come across.

5. Re-Test and Submit to the App Stores

If you’ve delivered feedback, the development team will action that feedback and deliver a new version of the app for you to test again.

Keep repeating this process until you have an app you’re happy to release to the public.

You may also want to include user testing in this phase, like inviting a small group of your customers to test the app and give feedback.

Once everything passes, your first step to launch the app will be to submit it to the app stores (the Apple App Store and the Google Play store).

Note that part of MobiLoud’s process is handling app store submission for you. You don’t need to do anything here, as we submit your apps for publishing, take care of any issues that arise, and even guarantee that your apps will be approved.

This marks the end of the app development process. Once your app is live, you’ll want to market it to your audience (use banners on your website and message your email list to encourage existing customers to download your app), and continue to gather feedback from your users and improve your app over time.

Why MobiLoud is the Best Way to Develop eCommerce Apps

We mentioned that MobiLoud is the best way for eCommerce stores to develop apps. Over the course of 10+ years, we’ve worked with over 2,000 companies, providing a complete service to turn websites into mobile apps.

Our process works for any kind of website, but it’s perfect for eCommerce sites, because there’s so little that needs to be changed from your website to your app.

Your mobile website does 95% of what your app should do. When someone downloads your eCommerce app, they’re usually doing it because they prefer the convenience of shopping on an app.

They want the same features as they’d get on your website, with a few small touches to make the customer experience smoother and more inviting.

That’s what we do. Everything that works on your website will work in your app, with zero rebuilding.

Our small extra touches - such as a native tab menu, splash screens and push notifications - give your app a native feel while remaining fully synchronized with your website.

MobiLoud is significantly more affordable than building a custom app, which can run into six figures easily, plus five to six figures each year in maintenance. MobiLoud, in comparison, might cost you just a few hundred dollars up front, plus a small ongoing cost (which will look tiny next to the extra revenue your app is bringing in).

If you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, go with MobiLoud, to launch your eCommerce app fast and risk-free.

Learn more about building eCommerce mobile apps with MobiLoud, or get a free preview of your app now.

eCommerce App Development FAQs

How to create an eCommerce app from scratch?

If you’re starting from square one, with no website or any existing platform, we recommend you build a website first with something like Shopify or Squarespace, then convert it to an app with MobiLoud. 

Have your app in mind when you’re building your website, so you can design your mobile web UI and UX as close as possible to what you anticipate your app looking like.

Can I create an eCommerce app without a website?

It is possible to create an eCommerce app on its own, without a website (though most businesses should have a website too). 

You can hire developers to build a custom app with eCommerce functionality, or use an app builder like GoodBarber or Buildfire to build your eCommerce app without coding.

How much does an eCommerce app cost?

The cost to build an eCommerce app can vary greatly depending on the mode of development. 

At the low end, a no-code app builder could cost you less than $100 upfront, plus the same amount as a recurring monthly fee.

Alternatively, custom apps are likely to cost $100,000+ for the initial build, then $10,000-$20,000 per year in ongoing maintenance (in some cases, even more).

MobiLoud’s cost ranges from a few hundred dollars, up to low four figures, depending on your requirements, plus a manageable recurring cost for maintenance and updates.

How long does it take to make an eCommerce app?

This again depends on your development method. You could develop a simple app with a no-code app builder in just a few days, while a custom app may take six months or more.

MobiLoud delivers your app in less than a month - potentially even less.

Should I build an Android eCommerce app or iPhone eCommerce app?

Android and iPhone together make up more than 99% of the smartphone market. The most dominant operating system changes in different areas of the world, but ultimately to get the best coverage possible of your target audience, you’ll want to launch apps for both Android and iOS devices.

Do you need to know how to code to create an eCommerce app?

No, you don’t need any coding ability to make an eCommerce app. When you use MobiLoud, we do all the technical work for you. Even once the app is live, you don’t need to touch the app code at all. We’ll take care of all the app maintenance, and you just change anything you want to change through your MobiLoud dashboard or by changing it on your website.

Create Your eCommerce App Today

Mobile commerce and mobile apps are well and truly on the rise in the 2020s, and today, any eCommerce business with decent revenue should have their own app.

When MobiLoud exists, there’s no reason not to try out your own eCommerce mobile app. You don’t need to rebuild anything, hire developers, or invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to enter the eCommerce app market.

It’s easy, quick, affordable, and we’ve got a proven track record of delivering great apps for high-revenue eCommerce brands.

Get your free app preview now to learn more about what’s possible and kick-start the process.

eCommerce App Development Guide
Mobile apps are a great loyalty amplifier and made for your best customers. Understand your options for launching your own app with our ecommerce app development guide.
By submitting, you agree to receive emails from MobiLoud. Unsubscribe anytime.
Thanks for your interest! Click the button below to download our free resource.
Get a free app preview
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Convert your website into a mobile app

Get custom mobile apps for iOS and Android that update automatically with your site and work with your entire tech stack.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Or Book Free Consultation
Rainbow Shops logo.Bestseller's logo.John Varvatos logo.
Only & Sons iOS app.

Read more posts like this.

Thank you! We'll be in touch within 48 hours :)
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.