How to Turn a Shopify Store into a Mobile App (Shopify App Builder)

Are you a Shopify store owner? Are you looking for ways to boost your reach, conversions and revenue? That’s exactly what you can get by turning your Shopify store into a mobile app.

Mobile is one of the biggest rising trends in ecommerce. More than ever, people are shopping on their smartphones. If you’re still thinking desktop-first, you’re ignoring a large chunk of your customer base.

Turning your store into a mobile app will allow you to provide the best possible experience for the ~70% of your customers who prefer to shop on mobile. Read on and we’ll explain why, as well as how anyone can build a fully-functional Shopify mobile app.

The Importance of Mobile Commerce Today

Once upon a time, mobile optimization was a “nice to have” feature, after ensuring that your desktop site is up to scratch.

Today, you can argue that it has flipped. Data from Statista suggests that mobile ecommerce makes up over 70% of the total ecommerce market share – a significant rise over the last 5 years.

This is part of the overall trend of mobile vs desktop, which is tipping more and more each year in favor of mobile. Mobile now has over 60% market share, over desktop and tablet. 

And it’s rising every day. In the space of just four months in 2022, mobile’s market share has gone from 56% to nearly 61%.

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What’s more, 15% of Americans today are smartphone-only, meaning they only access the internet via their mobile devices. This is the future of ecommerce – customers who aren’t just mobile-first, but mobile-only

Why You Should Turn Your Shopify Store to a Mobile App

There’s no doubt mobile is important for today’s consumers. But isn’t a mobile-optimized website good enough?

It’s a start, and certainly something you should do before anything else. However, if you want to get the most out of your mobile customers, you should go one step further and launch your own iOS and Android mobile apps.

Native apps are easier to use, and help you generate more return traffic, and a higher lifetime value out of your loyal customers. They also allow you to broaden your reach, by getting into the app stores.

Let’s look a little deeper into the benefits of mobile apps over mobile-optimized websites.

Better user experience = improved metrics

Apps offer a better user experience than mobile browsers, hands down.

Apps are purpose-built for mobile, touch screens in particular. While mobile websites are overall much better than they used to be, there are still distractions, such as browser tabs, and other niggling issues that detract from your ability to offer a seamless mobile shopping experience.

An app is more immersive. You can load it up straight from your home screen, and get where you want to go faster, with less typing or waiting around.

The improvements in user experience directly correlates to key metrics. Data shows that ecommerce mobile app users are twice as likely to return to the store within 30 days, compared to those on mobile browsers. Customers view 4.6 times more products on mobile apps, conversion rates at 3 times higher than mobile browsers, and average order value is 140% higher.

It’s clear that people prefer to use apps, particularly when shopping on mobile devices. This translates to more revenue, if you can give them the user experience they’re looking for.

Boost engagement and sessions with push notifications

Another way mobile apps deliver higher engagement and increased usage metrics is through push notifications.

Push notifications give you a direct, low-friction communication channel with your customers. You can send messages straight to your user’s mobile device, cutting out third parties like email clients and social media sites.

This can result in a huge increase in sessions, due to the fact that your push notifications are easy to see, and make it easy for the user to go to your store after seeing the notification.

Compare that with email, probably the next most effective marketing channel, through which a lot of your emails will simply remain unopened. Push notifications give you a huge competitive advantage over other stores who are browser-only.

An owned channel

With the rise of privacy concerns, cross-platform trackers being blocked, and the reduced efficacy of marketing channels like Facebook ads, it’s clearer than ever that you need a direct line to your customers.

A lot of online stores are almost totally dependent on third parties for their traffic. If one day your Facebook ad account gets banned, or a Google search update knocks off your top keywords, your traffic might go almost to zero.

Many advertisers are also feeling the cost of increased advertising costs due to the Facebook pixel and iOS privacy changes from the last year or so. If that’s your primary source of traffic, you’re probably dealing with significantly lower profit margins right now.

Apps give you a channel and a platform that you own. You’re not as reliant on social media advertising or the Google search algorithm. Through your app, you’ve got a base of loyal customers, occupying a place in their headspace through your app icon on their home screen.

Through push notifications, as mentioned above, you can get in touch with your customers without the risk of a third party like Facebook shutting you down.

The power of being in the app stores

Finally, getting into the Apple App Store and Google Play Store can be a big plus for your business.

These are two new potential acquisition channels, for one thing. They’re also a big show of social proof.

Trust is huge for ecommerce stores. Your customers need a number of trust signals to be comfortable enough to make a purchase, and showing them you have your own mobile apps in the app stores is a big one.

You’ll even get a couple of powerful 95+ DR SEO backlinks, which can prove extremely valuable if Google SEO is part of your marketing strategy.

Shopify to App: 3 Options

Most people think that only the biggest brands have the resources to launch mobile apps – the likes of Nike, Target, Zara, etc.

This is a big misconception. There are tools available today that let any brand, even small to medium-sized online stores, launch their very own iOS & Android mobile apps.

However, it all depends on how you approach it. Turning your Shopify store into a mobile app can be long, complicated and expensive. It can also be deceptively easy and affordable, by choosing the right mobile app builder.

Here are three options to consider.

Build Natively

Your first option is to build native mobile apps from the ground up.

This is probably what you have in mind when we talk about turning your Shopify store into a mobile app. While this option gives you flexibility over every pixel of your mobile app, it’s not the optimal way to go.

Mobile app development is a very specialized area. Those who can do it, don’t do it for cheap, so you can expect to pay a lot for a mobile app developer.

The project will be quite complex – building an ecommerce app from scratch, then connecting it via APIs to the backend of your Shopify store. That means it’s going to take a long time – likely 6 months or more – during which time you’re paying the high rate of your mobile developer.

And guess what? You’re going to need to multiply this cost by two, since you’re actually going to need two separate developers, one for the native iOS app and one for the native Android app. You may even need to hire a project manager to oversee everything.

All-in, expect to pay $50,000+ for your apps. If you’re lucky, you will at least be able to recreate the experience of your website in the apps. But realistically, the experience won’t be 100% consistent across both platforms, since the mobile apps have been rebuilt from a blank slate.

That’s also not the end of the project. You’ll need to keep developers on-hand, or on-call, to do routine updates, maintenance, or make any changes to the apps after the initial launch. This will add around 10-20% of the initial cost as an ongoing expense each year.

All things considered, the cost, time investment and complexity of building natively is not feasible for most businesses.

Use a Template-Based Shopify App Creator

Luckily, you don’t have to code an Android/iOS mobile app from square one. Using a Shopify mobile app builder, you can go from Shopify to app without needing to know how to code, or hire developers.

This cuts down the barrier of entry greatly, and allows just about any store owner to build and launch a Shopify mobile app.

There are many different kinds of mobile app builder to choose from. Many of those you find in the Shopify app store work by fitting your Shopify website into a template, and publishing it as a mobile app.

These Shopify apps are generally easy to use, and some are very affordable, but they are restricting. The quality of template-based tools varies, but even on the high end, you may have trouble really recreating all the functionality and features of your Shopify store.

Any plugins, custom Shopify apps, themes, and custom-built features probably won’t work in your mobile app. That means you may need to go without a lot of things you rely on to deliver revenue and get conversions.

Better than building from scratch? Yes. But you’re probably going to end up with a generic, cookie-cutter app that’s hard to improve on.

A Hybrid Solution – MobiLoud Canvas

We come to the third option – and the most effective in most cases – using a Shopify mobile app builder that works as a hybrid between native development and template-based app builders.

MobiLoud Canvas gives you the best mix of affordability, ease of use, and power, and it’s the first place you should look if you have an existing website you want to turn into a mobile app.

Canvas lets you reuse all the functionality of your existing Shopify store. Plugins, themes, widgets, payment gateways, abandoned cart notifications, social proof banners… all of this will work in your app as it does on your website.

It’s essentially your site, as it appears on the web, packaged as Android and iOS apps. That makes it easy to launch, with a tiny fraction of the cost and time investment of building natively, and much easier to maintain.

And unlike template-based builders, you still have the flexibility and power to launch a unique, conversion-optimized and scalable mobile app.

How Does MobiLoud’s Shopify Mobile App Builder Work?

MobiLoud Canvas makes something called a “wrapper app”. This means your existing, mobile-optimized site gets “wrapped” in the exterior of a native mobile app.

Your app can be downloaded to your users’ phones, published to the app stores and you can add mobile-specific customizations (like a native tab menu and splash screen). You’ll also get the use of mobile-specific features, such as unlimited push notifications and location services.

The mobile app is basically a dedicated browser for your website. It’s 100% synced with your Shopify store, as it is. Everything that already works on your site will work on the apps, out of the box. There’s nothing to rebuild or recreate.

This also makes it super easy to maintain your app down the line, as whenever you make changes to your website, your apps will update as well.

Best of all, our team does all the setup work for you. All you need to do is wait and sign off when your iOS and Android apps are delivered. The entire process takes just a couple of weeks – we even publish your apps to the app stores for you.

If you need proof of how well MobiLoud Canvas works, check out these customer stories from real businesses who used Canvas to build their own mobile apps.

How to Turn a Shopify Store Into a Mobile App with MobiLoud

The process to convert your online store to apps with MobiLoud Canvas is extremely straightforward.

  1. Get on a demo call with us to see how it works, and discuss your project and your specific needs.
  2. Sign up for Canvas. We offer plans with no long-term commitment, and a 60-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.
  3. Configure your apps, and your mobile-specific settings (such as menus, navigation, splash screen and notification settings). We also offer a full-service done-for-you package if you would rather skip this step.
  4. Wait – we’ll build your apps, and get back to you when they’re ready for testing.
  5. Download your apps and test them on your own device.
  6. If you’re happy, we’ll publish your apps to the app stores. We’ve done this for thousands of apps, and can guarantee approval.

We also handle any further technical maintenance, updates, and changes you want to make after the initial launch. You’ll have a team member just a phone call or email away, for any issues or questions that come up.

This is the part that most people don’t think about when it comes to building an app. If you build natively, you’re still going to need to keep a developer on staff, or freelancers at an arm’s reach. And with a template-based mobile app builder, you’re basically on your own. You can’t expect much in the way of support from these tools.

MobiLoud, though, is more than just a mobile app builder. We’re a service, and for a predictable (and affordable) monthly fee, we’ll be there to make sure your app stays in top condition.

Wrapping Up

The mobile revolution is upon us. The majority of your revenue today probably comes from mobile. If not, it will soon.

Your Shopify store needs more than just a mobile-optimized website. To capture all the revenue you can from your mobile users, you should be offering your own branded app.

Today, turning a Shopify store into a mobile app is easier than ever. You don’t need the budget to hire a team of developers. Instead, a mobile app builder like MobiLoud Canvas means launching an app is affordable, and takes very little work on your part.

Get in touch with us now to learn more about Canvas, and how we can help you launch an app for your Shopify store.