How to Convert Your Online Marketplace into a Mobile App

Online marketplaces are a great business to be in. Consumers love marketplaces because they make it super easy to find numerous options from different brands or sellers in one place. 

The marketplace business model, where you act as a middleman between buyers and sellers, can also be insanely profitable - just ask Jeff Bezos and Amazon, who do more than $510 billion in yearly net revenue.

If you’ve built your own marketplace website, the next step you need to take is to launch a mobile app for your marketplace. Read on and we’ll explain why, and then show you in detail the best way to do it (as well as two options to avoid).

The Amazon Shopping app, one of the best examples of online marketplace app development

Why Your Marketplace Needs a Mobile App

Any online marketplace in 2024 needs a mobile app, to match changing consumer habits, meet your users where they are, and benefit from higher engagement and retention.

More people than ever are using mobile when they want to go online and buy things. More than 57% of internet traffic around the world comes on mobile. And during Cyber Week 2023, mobile accounted for 51% of all online sales, rising to 59% on Thanksgiving.

All these figures are increasing year-on-year.

Having an app lets you provide a mobile-first experience for your mobile-first users. People prefer browsing and shopping on apps over mobile websites, which is why mobile apps have 157% higher conversion rates than mobile websites, 4.2x more products viewed per session, and account for 90% of the time spent online on smartphones.

People want to use apps, and you should want your users to use apps too. An app gives you a retention machine - app users are much more likely to come back again than website visitors, because of the constant reminder and convenient access route of the app icon on their home screen.

You can also reach out to users with push notifications to re-engage them and encourage higher usage rates, much more effectively than you can with people who only use your website.

The eBay marketplace mobile app uses push notifications to boost user engagement

Launching an App is Easier Than Ever in 2024

This information might be nothing new to you. There’s a good chance you know an app would bring a lot of value to your business, but feel like you don’t have the resources to pull it off and ensure a positive ROI.

If that’s the case for you, you’ll be glad to know that the barrier of entry for launching a mobile app is not what it once was. Even small businesses that don’t have an in-house mobile development team or boatloads of capital to play with can launch their own app, as we’re about to show you.

How NOT to Build a Mobile App for Your Marketplace

There are a few ways you can approach launching your marketplace’s mobile app. First, we’ll share two options that you might consider, which we would advise against.

1. No-Code App Builders

No-code app builders are one way in which the barrier of entry to mobile app development has been drastically reduced today.

These tools allow anyone to build and launch an app with little to no coding (or even knowledge of coding) required.

They use pre-made blocks and templates and a drag-and-drop builder to let non-developers build functional apps. This can work for simple apps. But for marketplaces, these platforms will prove too limiting.

Online marketplaces have a lot of moving parts, which simple no-code tools are not built to support. If you use one of these tools to build an app for your site, you’re going to end up with a bare-bones app that doesn’t measure up to the user experience of your website, and you’ll find it hard to encourage people to use your app instead of the website.

You’ll also find that there’s more work required with these tools than you expect. It takes a lot of tinkering to build an app that’s consistent with your website (you’ll never really be able to get it perfect either). And once you launch, you’re left with another platform to manage, doubling your workload whenever you make a change and adding extra work to maintain and support your app.

2. Custom App Development

You might also consider going in the other direction, and paying to hire developers or a development agency to build fully custom native apps for your marketplace.

If money is no object, building your app from scratch might be the best route, as it offers the highest upside and complete flexibility to build the perfect app. But there are three big downsides with this option.

  • Cost: custom apps take tens of thousands of dollars to build at a minimum. For a project like a marketplace app, you can expect it to be closer to the hundred thousand mark. And that’s for one platform - if you want to build native iOS and Android apps, double it.
  • Time: an app development project, even with a team of developers working full-time, will take around 4-6 months at the bare minimum. You’re going to be waiting a long time before you can even see a first version of your app.
  • Maintenance: custom apps require a huge amount of time, effort and cost to maintain. You’ll essentially need multiple full-time developers on staff, costing you tens or hundreds of thousands per year, as well as significant complexity to keep your site and apps’ user experience consistent. 

Gavin McGarry from Gear2Go explored this option when they were trying to launch an app for their website:

"If we take into account that our developers are working part-time, this would have taken months to do, if not a year. So from a time standpoint, it didn't make sense. We talked with a couple of third-party app builders and in both cases, the price points were incredibly high."

So too with David Cost from online fashion brand Rainbow Shops:

“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.”

The bottom line is that custom development is great if you’ve got the resources of a huge company like Amazon, Facebook, AirBnb or Uber.

But for most, it’s just not worth the cost, time and effort, not just to launch your app but to keep it running. Even if you can afford it, you can put that time and money elsewhere and use a more affordable and more straightforward option to build your marketplace’s mobile app.

How to Build an App for Your Marketplace the Right Way

The best way to build a mobile app for your online marketplace is MobiLoud.

MobiLoud is our platform that can turn any website into native mobile apps. It’s a done-for-you service that has the best elements of the two options we introduced earlier.

It lets you launch apps with zero coding and zero technical ability. There’s no need to hire and manage developers, and not close to the level of investment needed to build fully custom apps from the ground up.

Yet our solution doesn’t limit you to blocks and templates. It fully converts your existing website into apps, which are fully synced with your site to make the apps simple to update and maintain.

You can ship a full-featured mobile app that carries over all the features of your website, and feels like a fully custom native app to the end user, for minimal cost, done in less than a month.

How It Works

With MobiLoud, your app will be a full, live reflection of your mobile website. We strip away the browser tabs, and add a few small native mobile touches, such as navigation UI, a tab menu and splash screens. We then put together native code to allow your app to run in Android and iOS operating systems, and let you send native mobile push notifications.

Our approach has a number of advantages:

  • It lets you quickly and easily go to market with an app, as you don’t need to rebuild or drastically redesign anything.
  • Maintenance is much easier, since you’re using the same codebase for your site and your apps. When you update your site, your apps update automatically.
  • All the features on your website, such as plugins, themes, widgets, integrations, payment gateways and any custom features will work in the app in the same way.
  • There’s no coding, no technical knowledge needed from you or your team.
  • You can be totally hands-off and launch with zero addition to your existing workflow.

Our full-service approach covers every part of the process. This includes:

  • Development work to convert your site into apps and deploy it for Android and iOS.
  • Configuring your app to ensure it feels fully native to the end user.
  • Custom UI/UX tweaks to your mobile website to maximize your mobile user experience in both app and website.
  • Submitting your app to the Apple and Google Play app stores, and handling all back-and-forths to ensure your app and listing meet their standards.
  • Handling technical updates and maintenance for your app after launching.

The process starts with a kick-off call with one of our project managers. We’ll discuss your needs and what you want to get out of the project, and make sure MobiLoud is right for you.

From there, we take over to build and launch your apps, keeping you updated every step of the way.

From start to finish, you can be live and in the app stores in less than a month, for a low-four figure investment. We also offer a 60-day money back guarantee if you’re not happy, plus a guarantee that your app will be accepted into the app stores, so it’s completely risk-free.

Learn more about our pricing here.

What Types of Marketplaces Does MobiLoud Work For?

MobiLoud works for any website, on any platform, CMS or tech stack. And it’s perfect for any kind of online marketplace.

Gear2Go is one example of an online marketplace that used MobiLoud to build their mobile app. They built the “Airbnb for everything in your garage”, had traction on the website, but felt that an app was the necessary next step.

The Gear2Go marketplace app, built with MobiLoud

They didn’t have the time, expertise or money to build an app from scratch, but with MobiLoud they were able to launch an app with a perfect 5/5 rating on the App Store.

"Truthfully, I expected the app to be somewhat functional, but I thought it wouldn't be as high quality as some of the apps I've seen that have been built from scratch. But I was incredibly surprised. I saw no difference in terms of quality or functionality in our app and an app built from the ground up that could have cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Read about their story here.

MobiLoud is great for peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplaces like the example above, Business-to-Customer (B2C) retail marketplaces like Amazon, Temu and Shein, Business-to-Business (B2B) marketplaces like Alibaba, service marketplaces like UpWork, buy and sell platforms like Poshmark, or any other type of marketplace built for the web.

It works if your site is built on Shopify, WooCommerce, any other CMS, or your own custom tech stack.

By using MobiLoud you can focus on what you know - your website - and let us handle the mobile app development for your marketplace.

Getting Started: Launch Your Marketplace Mobile App in Under a Month

Whether you’re ready to get started or you just want to learn more about how MobiLoud can help you, schedule a free demo call with one of our experts now.

Assuming you already have an online marketplace built for the web, and you’ve got a steady flow of users and revenue, launching a mobile app with MobiLoud is the best thing you can do to grow your business.

With little to no time investment required, a low upfront cost, and minimal cost and effort to maintain, achieving a positive ROI is easy, and you’ll get all the benefits of getting your brand in the app stores and increasing engagement and retention from your existing users.

Get in touch now and start building your marketplace app into a larger and more profitable business.

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