Last Updated on
July 11, 2024

Retail App Development Blueprint (How to Save $100k+ and Assure a Positive ROI)

Published in
Key takeaways:
  • Retail app development is expensive, complicated, and it takes a lot of time to get a complete product.
  • With the amount you're investing into an app, it can be hard to justify with a cost-benefit analysis.
  • MobiLoud gives you a way to launch your own app that's not a huge gamble, by replicating your existing web UX for a low cost, making it extremely easy to get a positive return on your investment.

Mobile shoppers in the US spend more than $500 billion per year (and over $2 trillion worldwide). 

Apps still contribute a fairly low percentage of this revenue, but it’s rising, with approximately 15% growth in shopping app revenue each year.

If you’re thinking about building your own retail app, there’s never been a better time. But, despite the benefits to be had of launching a retail app, there are very real risks that put many retailers off the idea.

We’re going to give you a blueprint for retail app development to avoid almost all of the risk, without robbing you of the potential benefits of launching your own app.

We’ve been in the app development business for more than 10 years, and know what it takes to launch a great app, and we know that the process can get out of hand fast if you’re not careful.

Keep reading to learn how to avoid the downsides and maximize the upside in retail app development.

Why Traditional Retail App Development is Risky

Every business decision involves a cost/benefit analysis.

You need to weigh the benefits you expect to gain, with the cost it will take to achieve.

With retail app development, the risks often outweigh the benefits, at least when we’re talking about the traditional way to build apps.

Generally, this means hiring developers, a development agency, or using in-house talent to develop native apps for iOS and Android.

Mobile app development is a brand new area for most retail businesses. Even those with a successful eCommerce presence managed in-house likely only have experience with web development.

App development is another area altogether. It can be costly, complex, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a positive result from it.

App Development is An Expensive, Complicated and Drawn-Out Process

It takes a long time, and costs a lot of money, to build a high-quality native app.

The actual cost can vary greatly depending on multiple factors. 

Some apps are just simpler, with less to build, than others. And you can find developers in many different price brackets (but generally, you do get what you pay for).

A broad estimate is that a mobile app can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $300,000.

A retail app is likely to come in at the lower to middle end of this range. So you’re looking at $50,000-$100,000 to build.

In terms of the time frame, expect it to take anywhere from three to nine months.

And all these figures are assuming that everything goes more or less according to plan.

There are many moving parts in software development, issues come up, and timetables invariably get pushed back.

As development time lengthens, so does the cost.

So we’ll say, if you’re fortunate, you can get an app for $50,000, in around six months’ development time.

“We did consider building a custom app. But we don't have a developer we're comfortable with, and having to go through iterations and then parts not working… and as a small business, it's just not worth it.”

- Jamie from Sleefs

The Cost of Maintaining Native Apps

A big mistake many businesses make when deciding to build an app is ignoring the ongoing cost of having an app, outside of the initial investment.

You don’t build an app and never have to touch it again.

Apps require constant updates and maintenance. You need to make sure your app remains fast and bug-free, you need to build new features, improve existing features, and continually work on your app to keep it current.

That means keeping developers on staff, or a development agency on retainer, which costs money.

So expect to spend 10-15% of the initial cost (at a minimum) each year on maintaining your app (assuming you go with a custom native build).

“If we had unlimited time and money, we would probably go for a custom native app, but that is half a million to a million a year to maintain.”

- David Cost, Rainbow Shops

“When you develop an app you can't just have one person. When we built our app in 2014, the maintenance became very heavy. To keep a platform like this in-house I feel like you’d probably need around six people.”

- Kenneth Chan, Tobi

If You Build It, Will They Come?

The popular phrase, “if you build it, they will come,” doesn’t usually translate well to software.

You can spend hundreds of thousands building an app, but there’s no guarantee that people will use it.

If you don’t promote it well, or you don’t build an experience that’s as good or better than your mobile website, you could be left with an expensive “asset” that only a small share of your customer base uses.

This is an important part of the cost-benefit analysis - the likelihood that the benefits will actually come to fruition.

Simpler Alternatives Can Be a Sunk Cost Altogether

There are ways to reduce the cost of building a retail app, such as using no-code app builders.

With an app builder, you don’t need to hire expensive developers, and can launch an app for a couple of hundred dollars (or less).

While this is tempting, the results are often underwhelming. These apps tend to look like stock apps built from a template.

Worst, you’ll struggle to recreate the experience on your mobile website. The app builder may not be able to integrate all the apps and plugins on your website, and any custom features or any tweaks you’ve made to optimize UX and boost conversions.

If your app is just a weak reflection of your mobile website, why are customers going to use the app in the first place? They’ll just shop on your website instead.

You might save hundreds of thousands of dollars on your app by using an app builder, but if you can’t build something that’s at least as good as your website, there’s little to no upside, even if you promote it well.

“The app needs to be at least as functional as the website. It doesn’t need to be better than the website, but the user experience can’t be worse.”

- David Cost, Rainbow Shops

Rainbow Shops' mobile app is essentially a recreation of their website, with minor changes to optimize the user experience in the app.

Is Building an App Worth It?

So, after all of that, is it really worth it to build a mobile app, if you’re a retail business?

The answer is yes - with the caveat that you need to find the right development approach.

Assuming you market your app well, and assuming it provides a user experience as good or better than your website, you can estimate that 15-30% of your web customers will download your app. 

You should get somewhere between 1.5-3x the conversion rate on the app as you do on your mobile website, and around a 20% higher average order value.

There will likely also be a higher lifetime value from people who download your app.

These figures need to match with the estimated cost. If you’re spending $100,000 on your app (plus tens of thousands per year in maintenance), it’s hard to make the math work.

But finding a simpler and more cost-effective approach to retail app development (that doesn’t sacrifice on quality), you can get it to where the app only needs to do a fraction of these estimated figures, and it will already pay for itself.

MobiLoud lets you build amazing retail apps with no risk. Read on to find out how.

The Best Way to Build a Retail App (and Almost Guarantee a Positive ROI)

With MobiLoud, you can build a retail app with zero risk, and be confident that you’ll come away with a positive return on your investment.

MobiLoud is a full service app builder that lets you convert any website into mobile apps, without rebuilding anything, and without the huge cost that comes with traditional retail app development.

The apps are native, with all the features you need, such as native UI, push notifications, and fully customizable branding and design.

Your iOS and Android apps will be fully synchronized with your website, and everything from your website will work inside of the apps.

App users will get the same shopping experience as they do on your website (realistically a slightly better experience, with the quality of life enhancements they get from the app).

MobiLoud removes the risk in retail app development, meaning even with a small boost in revenue from the app, you’ll have made back your investment and then some.

Why MobiLoud is Virtually Risk-Free

Here’s why MobiLoud carries almost zero risk, compared to other forms of retail app development:

  • It’s a low cost, starting from as little as a few hundred dollars per month. You’re not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a speculative investment.
  • It takes less than a month to get working apps. You don’t need to wait half a year to a year to find out whether your app will actually work out.
  • You don’t need to hire developers or manage the project in-house. Everything is done for you, by an experienced team.
  • The apps fully replicate everything on your website, so you can be sure that they will be at least as good as your website - if not better.
  • You still have the freedom to make changes exclusive to the apps, such as removing elements from your website or adding app-only experiences.
  • There’s minimal overhead. Technical maintenance is included for a low monthly cost, and you can update the UI, UX or add new features yourself, just by adding them on your website.
  • MobiLoud also handles the app store publishing process, and guarantees your apps will be approved by Apple and Google.
  • On top of everything, MobiLoud offers a 60 day money-back guarantee if for whatever reason you’re not happy with the end product.

With the low cost, almost no effort required, and complete feature parity with your website, there’s no downside.

Even very small eCommerce sites can expect to get a boost in revenue of at least $1,000-$2,000 per month from launching an app, which is enough to pay for the app and then some.

Learn more about how MobiLoud is the best way to build an eCommerce app today.

How to Build a Retail App with MobiLoud (Step by Step)

Part of what makes MobiLoud risk-free is how simple it makes retail app development.

It takes just a few steps, and minimal effort, to launch your own eCommerce app, and get in the app stores alongside some of the world’s largest retail brands.

  1. The first step is to ensure your website is fast and mobile-friendly. If your site is already optimized for mobile, it’s likely good enough to be turned into an app.
  2. Get in touch with the MobiLoud team. We'll show you a free, interactive preview of your site as an app to see what’s possible before committing to anything, and you'll be able to talk with our team about any concerns you may have, or share any special requirements.
  3. Give the go-ahead, and sit back and wait while our team builds your apps.
  4. Test the apps before launching, to be sure the end result is something you’re happy with.
  5. Finally (and within a month, in most cases), we’ll get your apps published on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

In just a few weeks, you can have your own app, live in the app stores and ready for customers to download.

MobiLoud is perfect for businesses on any eCommerce platform - from Shopify to BigCommerce to custom-built websites. All your plugins and integrations will work in the app, and you can easily make changes to the app through your website, without having to hire new developers. Book a demo now to learn more about how we help you build the perfect retail app.

Wrapping Up: A Blueprint for Launching Risk-Free, High-Return Retail Mobile Apps

As a retailer, launching your own app can have some amazing benefits. But if you’re paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for an app, the risk can just seem too much.

With MobiLoud, you get the perfect approach to retail app development.

You can get native apps for a low investment, which takes just a tiny increase in revenue in order to recoup.

Your apps will be at least as good, if not better, than your website, giving every incentive for your best customers to use the app and spend more money.

All of this with no work from your team, no addition to your workflow, virtually no overhead, and a money-back guarantee on top of everything else.

Get in touch now for a free preview of your app, and to talk with our team about how to make your project a success.

Get a working preview of your app prepared by our team. Your MobiLoud app integrates with your entire tech stack, works with all custom features, and automatically syncs with everything on your site in real time.
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.
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