Last Updated on
January 20, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Building an E-commerce Mobile App in 2024

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Key takeaways:

All e-commerce site owners can take their business to the next level by launching their own branded e-commerce mobile app. And we're going to show you how.

Much like the introduction of online shopping forced physical retailers to adapt, mobile commerce is changing the game today. An increasing number of people prefer to shop on mobile, and launching an app is the best way to cater to those users.

This is an A to Z guide on how online store owners can convert their existing website into an app, get in the app stores, and access numerous benefits from having their own app. You'll finish reading it with the knowledge that building an app is the right decision, and know exactly how to get it done.

What's in this guide?

This guide contains four sections and eight topics altogether. Here's a summary of the content to come, with links to a deep dive on each topic:

Background Information

Website to App Basics

"How To"s

App Launch Phase

If you want to jump ahead and discuss this with one of our mobile app experts, you can book a personalized consultation here. Otherwise, read on for everything you need to know in preparation for launching your own e-commerce app.

Background Information

This section covers the background information you need to know in order to make the decision to launch your own app.

We’ll first explain why mobile commerce is the new revolution and how valuable it is in the wider e-commerce ecosystem.

Next we’ll jump into why e-commerce sites today need a mobile app, and how mobile apps provide a significant advantage over simply a mobile-optimized website.

At the end of this section, you should be convinced of the value that a mobile app will bring to your business. If you’re already at this stage, feel free to jump ahead as we begin sharing actionable steps on how to do it.

The Basics of Mobile Commerce

M-Commerce is the new e-commerce. Mobile shopping, in-app purchases in mobile apps and mobile payment solutions are fast becoming the norm for today’s consumers.

More than half of global internet traffic comes on mobile. There are 7 billion smartphone users around the world, and nearly 100% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 own a smartphone.

These statistics translate to the mobile commerce market, which is valued at over $400 billion and still growing.

There are significant benefits available to businesses who take advantage of the mobile commerce wave and give modern consumers what they want.

Read More: The Basics of Mobile Commerce

The Need for a Mobile App

Modern business need to cater to mobile users. With the value of the m-commerce market, rising smartphone penetration/preference and rising popularity of mobile shopping, you’re leaving money on the table if your store is not mobile friendly.

Smart businesses go one step further and launch their own app. Mobile apps offer huge benefits for the mobile shopping experience, including:

  • Fewer distractions and better use of smaller mobile screens.
  • Faster load speed.
  • A more streamlined checkout process.
  • Convenient one-tap access to the store.
  • Better use of device features.
  • Native push notifications.
  • A higher level of personalization.

These benefits help brands achieve better results in the following ways:

  • Higher revenue per visit.
  • More impulse buys.
  • More loyal, repeat customers.
  • A more professional and authoritative brand image.
  • Wider reach.
  • Stronger website authority.
  • Stronger business fundamentals.

The benefits far outweigh the cost of building a mobile app, assuming you go about it the right way (we’ll explain what this is shortly).

Read More: The Need for a Mobile App

Website to App Basics

When you already have a working, optimized website, you're much closer to launching your own app than you might think.

In this section we discuss the basic things you need to know about converting your e-commerce website to a mobile app, including why most e-commerce websites are perfectly suited for conversion to apps, then share some examples of online stores that made this conversion.

The second part of this section will show how to ensure your site is fully responsive and optimized for mobile visitors before you think about converting it into an app.

Why Ecommerce Websites Are Good Enough to Turn Into Mobile Apps

Most e-commerce websites provide 90% of what an app does already. Only small touches to the UI and UX are needed to deliver a true mobile app experience.

The one condition is that the website is already mobile-friendly. A well-made mobile website follows the same best practices as with designing an app.

If your site is fast, images and videos are optimized for size, your UI uses space efficiently, and you’ve optimized your navigation and checkout process for touch screens, you're close to being able to launch your own e-commerce mobile app.

More good news is that e-commerce sites, with their simplicity, lack of complex features and natural fit for vertical orientation are better suited than most types of site to convert to an app.

Read More: Why Ecommerce Websites Are Good Enough to Turn Into Mobile Apps

Tips To Design And Optimize A Mobile Friendly E-Commerce Website

Before anything else, your first priority is to make sure your website is optimized for mobile visitors.

Even after you launch your app, and even if your app ends up being successful, you’ll still get a lot of mobile visitors, new and returning. You should still provide these people the best user experience possible. It’ll also be easier to convert your site into an app if it’s already optimized for mobile. So don’t skip this step just because you plan to launch an app.

A mobile-friendly website is:

  • Easy and intuitive to browse on mobile.
  • Responsive to different devices and screen sizes.
  • Optimized to hold the attention and convert mobile visitors.

It should also feel like it’s made for mobile users, as opposed to being a desktop site converted to mobile. That’s why it's a good idea to design your site for mobile first, or at least design the mobile UI separately from desktop.

Some key elements of a mobile-friendly website include:

  • Clear images.
  • Easy to read text.
  • Optimal use of white space.
  • Key information (images, product details, pricing, CTA) above the fold or high up on the page.
  • Smooth, fast navigation.
  • A simple/intuitive checkout flow.
  • UX designed for touch screens (made for swiping, no use of hover for key actions).
  • Easily clickable buttons and elements, particularly on touch screens.
  • Few text inputs and forms.
  • Minimal popups.

You’ll want to check off all these key elements when designing your mobile web experience. Then, ensure you actually test it on real mobile devices to find any bugs, usability issues or anything else that’s suboptimal about the site on mobile.

This is a must for any e-commerce site, whether or not you plan to launch an app or not. Today, you need to be mobile-friendly.

Read More: Tips To Design And Optimize A Mobile Friendly E-Commerce Website

"How To"s

This section delivers actionable steps required to convert an existing, mobile-optimized website into an app.

First we look at three ways to convert your e-commerce website into an app, the factors you should consider in choosing the right solution for your business and how the options compare for each of these factors.

Next we take a step-by-step walk through converting your store into an app using (in our opinion) the most effective option. We’ll also lay out the differences in the process required for the other two options and give a quick overview comparing the three ways to build your e-commerce app.

Choosing the Right Solution

To convert your e-commerce store into an app, there are three ways to do it.

  1. Use a managed service like MobiLoud.
  2. Native development (hiring developers to code your app).
  3. Use a no-code app builder and do it yourself.

To pick the one that’s best for your business, you’ll need to consider several factors and their importance in your particular situation. These include:

  • The budget you have to work with.
  • Your desired timeframe to launch.
  • Complexity and feature set you need from your app.
  • Which platforms you want to launch on.
  • Your technical skills (yourself or your team).
  • How much time you want to spend (again from yourself or your team) on the project.
  • How much you can afford to spend on maintenance and recurring costs post-launch.

Native development is the most custom, powerful option. However, it’s also the most costly and time-consuming. You can expect to pay 5-6 figures to build your app, and the project will take, at minimum, a few months to get an initial version ready for testing.

It also carries more recurring cost, as you’ll need to pay developers to maintain the app and keep it up to date.

No-code app builders are the cheapest way, on the surface. However they’re also the least flexible and make it hard to build a professional, unique, feature-rich app.

You should also consider that, though the cost of using a no-code app builder may be low, you or your team needs to do all the work. Ensure you take the extra time investment into account.

A managed service is the best value, and the best mix of features, flexibility, convenience and affordability. A service like MobiLoud allows you to fully convert your website into an app, retaining all the features and design of your website, with minimal time investment. 

The cost is more than a simple no-code app builder, but significantly less than native development. The timeframe to launch is also attractive, allowing you to launch a professional, functional app in under a month. This is also the best option when it comes to recurring cost, with a cheap and predictable subscription that covers maintenance and updates.

We believe that MobiLoud is the best way for e-commerce store owners to launch an app. However, go through the list of things to consider, weigh up their importance for you, and come to your own conclusion before moving forward.

Read More: Choosing the Right Solution

Steps to Convert Your Ecommerce Store into an App

All up, there’s a seven-step process required to convert your store into an app using MobiLoud's managed service:

  1. Optimize your site for mobile.
  2. Connect with a MobiLoud project manager for a kick-off call.
  3. Work with us to configure a few small app-specific touches.
  4. Wait 1-2 weeks for the MobiLoud team to code your iOS and Android apps.
  5. Test and give feedback on the first build.
  6. We make the final changes and ship a version ready for launch.
  7. Launch the app (MobiLoud handles app store submission for you).

If you choose to go the native development route, you’ll add on several additional steps, including:

  • Assembling a development team.
  • Putting together a project brief.
  • Managing the project.
  • Full testing & QA.
  • App store submission.

Building an app with a no-code app builder requires the following steps:

  • Finding the right tool to fit your needs and budget, and integrates with the platform your website is built on.
  • Putting together the UI of your app with the tools provided.
  • Integrating the backend of the app with your website backend.
  • Testing the app to ensure everything works as expected.
  • App store submission.

Building an app with developers is long, complicated and requires significant planning and back and forth to ensure the app meets your expectations.

No-code app builders can be quick, but it can also be a long and frustrating process as you’re left to your own devices to try and compile a working, professional app (that stays consistent with your brand).

MobiLoud is the easiest, most straightforward option. The technical work is done for you, and since you’re just converting your existing mobile website into an app, most of the design is done as well.

Check out the link below for a full walk through the process, along with a checklist to see whether you’re ready to start development on your app.

Read More: Steps to Convert Your Ecommerce Store into an App

App Launch Phase

Though you’ve finished development and you have a functional, usable mobile app, the job’s not finished. You still need to get users.

We split the launch phase into two parts. The first is getting your app listed in the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, which is a must for any commercial app.

The second includes more proactive ways to launch your app, such as utilizing existing user acquisition channels and properly optimizing your app store listings for SEO.

This topic covers both of these sections, giving you all you need to not just create an app for your business, but to get your first real users.

App Store Requirements and Pitfalls

The app stores are the first place you should go to get your app out to the public. You'l want to list your app in the big two: the Apple App Store (for iPhone/iOS apps) and the Google Play Store (for Android apps).

This process can be quite complicated, though. App store requirements can be strict, and it can cost you a lot of time, money and energy if you’re constantly re-submitting your apps because you didn’t meet the requirements.

Though Apple’s requirements are generally considered to be more strict than Google’s, both app stores follow a few core principles:

  • Your app’s content shouldn’t be objectionable, offensive, harmful, dangerous or abusive.
  • The app should meet a certain minimum functionality for an app (i.e. offering an app-like experience).
  • It should meet minimum standards for UI and UX.
  • The app should handle data in a secure and private way.
  • You need to follow Apple and Google’s rules regarding payments and monetization.
  • You cannot violate any intellectual property laws, or unfairly/unlawfully impersonate a person/brand/app.
  • Your app should not contain any malware or harmful software.

At MobiLoud, we handle this process for you. We know the process inside and out, having submitted over 2,000 apps (and counting). 

In this time, we’ve seen a lot of common pitfalls that app publishers make to have their app submissions rejected, including:

  • Submitting incomplete apps or incomplete information together with the app.
  • Including broken links or placeholder text in the app.
  • Not meeting minimum functionality for an app.
  • Poor UI and UX (such as creating apps from websites that are not optimized for mobile).
  • Not giving reviewers the necessary information/access to test key app features.
  • Mentioning other platforms in the app store copy (e.g. talking about your Android app in the iOS app store listing)

With an understanding of the app stores’ submission requirements, how the review process works and the most common areas publishers slip up, you’ll be able to get your submission right the first time and speed up the time to launch (or simply use MobiLoud, and you don’t have to worry about any of this).

Read More: App Store Requirements and Pitfalls

App Promotion and User Acquisition

The last part covers proactive steps to get app users.

You may strike gold with your app store listings and start getting users immediately. But more likely, you’ll need to do more to get the ball rolling.

App store optimization is the low-hanging fruit. Comb through your app store listings to ensure they’re set up to attract visibility and downloads.

Key parts of good app store optimization include:

  • A unique, descriptive title.
  • An app description that clearly explains the benefits of your app.
  • Finding keywords with the right mix of relevance (matching what your app does) and volume (a lot of people searching for these terms). Bonus points if you can find keywords with relatively low competition.
  • Including these keywords naturally in your title and app description.
  • Engaging, clear, high-quality screenshots.
  • An effective app icon.
  • Getting a lot of positive reviews.

Hitting of these points will make a huge difference to your download numbers, especially if you’re able to get your app featured in the App Store and/or Google Play Store.

App store optimization should be the first thing you focus on for user acquisition. After that, consider other options to generate visibility for your app, such as:

  • Contacting existing customers and encouraging them to download the app.
  • Leveraging your website traffic to get app downloads. You can add app store badges on your website that link to your listing, smart app banners that show on mobile, and offer app-specific discounts to encourage people to download it.
  • Promoting your app on social media or through paid ads.
  • Partnering with influencers to promote your app to their audience.

The one essential step is to make use of any existing traffic channels to get users onto your app. Once they download, they’ll see your app icon whenever they open their phone and you’ll be able to start reaching out to them directly on their device with push notifications.

Putting in the work to promote your app will help ensure your investment in building the app pays off.

Read More: App Promotion and User Acquisition

Ready to Convert Your E-Commerce Store to An App?

You're much closer than you think to launching your own e-commerce mobile app.

Launching an app will help grow your brand and boost average order value, retention and overall revenue. If you can get all these benefits with a manageable investment, why would you say no?

MobiLoud is the way to do this. It's affordable, easy and allows you to convert your mobile-optimize website into Android and iOS apps in a matter of a few weeks. You don't need to know anything about mobile app development, or keep expensive developers on staff.

Talk to an expert today to get a first-hand look at the process and to answer any questions or concerns. With the continued growth of mobile commerce, you’re leaving money on the table by not fully embracing mobile. Grow your business today with your own branded e-commerce app.

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