Last Updated on
July 5, 2024

Why You Should Turn Your Ecommerce Store Into a Mobile App

Published in
Key takeaways:

If you have a mobile-optimized website, you’re already very close to being able to launch your own app.

Converting a mobile-friendly e-commerce website to a mobile app is simple from a design standpoint. E-Commerce sites in particular are perfectly suited to make this conversion.

Read on and we’ll explain why, along with giving some examples of successful e-commerce stores that made this transition.

Quick Summary:
  • Any decent website today has already built a mobile-friendly UI.
  • E-commerce websites are particularly well set up to convert into apps, as the mobile web experience is very similar to what you want from an app.
  • Assuming your site is optimized for mobile, an app conversion adds just a few small touches to elevate the mobile user experience.

Most E-Commerce Stores Are 90% of the Way to an App Already

Today, any successful e-commerce website looks and runs great on mobile. The reasons for this we’ve gone over in-depth in previous articles. A growing percentage of the population today prefers to shop on mobile, so optimizing your site for mobile and ensuring it’s responsive for different screen sizes and devices is essential.

The great news is that, if you want to build an app for your site, a large part of the process is already done.

The design stage of building an app can take months to complete. It often takes extensive back-and-forth with expensive designers iterating on design until you’re happy to sign off and let development begin.

But if you already have a responsive website, you’re past this point, putting your timeline well ahead of schedule.

Why E-Commerce Websites Are Well Positioned for Conversion to Apps

While all mobile-optimized websites are straightforward to convert to apps, e-commerce websites are particularly well suited for this. It’s so easy, in fact, that it really makes little sense not to launch an app if you have an online store, even if you don’t plan to promote it that heavily.

Here’s why e-commerce websites are so perfect for apps.

Mobile Commerce is Already a Priority

The value and popularity of mobile commerce (online shopping on mobile devices) means that any online store worth a buck today is built to work well on mobile.

Many online stores are actually now building mobile-first, then converting their mobile design to work on desktop, because the majority of their customers actually come on mobile.

This means your site is most likely better suited for mobile than the average website or web app that’s still desktop-first.

Everything Important for Mobile Web Optimization is Important for Apps Too

All the features of a well-optimized mobile website are also important for a user-friendly mobile app.

This includes:

  • Fast loading speed.
  • Images and videos optimized for size.
  • Elements that are well spaced and easy to click on touch screens.
  • Efficient use of space on smaller screens.
  • User-friendly, touch-optimized navigation.
  • Intuitive checkout process (that doesn’t require extensive text inputs).
  • No intrusive or invasive pop-ups and ads.
  • No large blocks of text or large blocks of empty whitespace.
  • Key parts of the page, such as CTAs and product images, above the fold.

These points all take mobile app designers months of work to get right. But in building your website for mobile, you’ve already done all of this.

E-Commerce Page Design Suits Vertical Orientation

Content-heavy websites can be harder to optimize for mobile, specifically fitting large blocks of content into a smaller, vertically-oriented screen.

E-commerce product pages, however, fit vertical screens perfectly. One can argue it’s actually a more intuitive experience shopping on mobile. You get the most important information - product name, images, price, buy button - above the fold, and scroll down to view more.

This makes translating site design to mobile easy and logical, where doing the same for other types of sites can take a lot of thought.

The Best E-Commerce Sites Are Simple

There’s not a lot of complicated, advanced features on most e-commerce sites. You’ve just got product pages, collections, an account page and a checkout flow. All of this is really easy to translate to a mobile app.

It gets more difficult to convert a browser-based site into an app when it has a lot of interactive components and intricate design. Luckily, overcomplicated and overdeveloped e-commerce sites don’t work as well in the first place. If your site is successful, you’re probably following a simple, conversion-optimized formula that will work well in an app.

Advantages of Apps vs Mobile Websites

So if your mobile website does everything the app is supposed to do, why do you need an app?

The idea of building an app isn’t to add any big new functionality to your website. It’s to offer an easier shopping experience on mobile, one that helps turn casual shoppers into loyal customers when they download the app.

It’s to remove the distractions of other browser tabs, which take away the user’s attention, resulting in abandoned carts and lost sales, to make your site work faster and smoother, and to let users get into the app and start shopping with less friction.

An app also lets you send more customizable, more reliable push notifications to your app users to re-engage them, instead of relying on web push or email only as communication channels.

Then there are the benefits for brand perception and additional user acquisition potential from getting your brand in the app stores.

Outside of that, everything that makes your e-commerce website work great on mobile will also make your app smooth and easy to use.

Great E-Commerce Website-to-App Conversions

Now we’re going to show you a few examples of successful online stores that did the website to app conversion perfectly. These sites are optimized and responsive for mobile browsers, and in doing so made a smooth conversion into mobile apps.

Rainbow Shops

WebsiteApp (iOS) | App (Android)

The Rainbow Shops app is a clean and simple re-imagining of their mobile website. A copy of the website in app form was actually exactly what they wanted in an app, as their VP of E-Commerce and Marketing David Cost explained:

“Our apps never had any functionality or usability beyond what we offer on the web. The reason to have an app is not to have something that isn’t on the website, but for people who prefer that way to access Rainbow content.”

Learn more about the Rainbow Shops app.

John Varvatos

WebsiteApp (iOS) | App (Android)

From their home page, to category pages, product pages and store locator, everything that makes the John Varvatos mobile website great transitions perfectly to their mobile apps.

Director of IT Nick Barbarise loved how their app is more or less a copy of the website, but works faster and makes it easier for customers to get in.

"Even if the app works exactly like the website, being able to launch it from a button on your phone makes it feel so modern. And the app actually works faster than the website!”

Learn more about the John Varvatos app.


WebsiteApp (iOS) | App (Android)

Customers love the app from womens’ fashion brand ONLY, which is their mobile website packaged in app form. The app has generated over 250,000 downloads across Android and iOS, with a 4.6/5 rating on the Apple App Store.

The transition worked out so well that ONLY’s parent company, BESTSELLER, decided to do the same for at least three more e-commerce brands.

Learn more about the ONLY app.

Summing Up

Building a shopping app from scratch and converting a successful, mobile-friendly e-commerce website into a mobile app are two completely different things.

If you’ve already got an e-commerce site that looks and works great on mobile, you’ve got the bulk of a mobile app already. All you need is someone to do the work under the hood to bring it to life as an app.

If your site isn’t yet mobile-ready, the next chapter in our series explains why this should be your first priority, and how to do it. After that, we’ll get into the specific steps on how you can turn your e-commerce site into a professional, high-quality app.

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