Looking for a WooCommerce app builder to turn your store into fast, conversion-optimized WooCommerce mobile apps? This is the guide for you.
WooCommerce offers a huge ecosystem of themes and plugins, and lets you customize your site to provide a great customer experience, tailored to sales and conversions.
Perhaps you’re happy with WooCommerce. You’re running a thriving online store, with a healthy flow of sales and profit. So where do you go from here?
One option is to go all in on mobile, by converting your store to native mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Massive brands like Amazon, Walmart, and Nike all leverage eCommerce apps heavily – and you can too.
In this article we’re going to take a look at the benefits of building apps for your commerce store, then we’re going to look at how to do it, with MobiLoud’s WooCommerce App Builder.
Why You Should Build a WooCommerce Mobile App
Your WooCommerce website probably works great right now. You rank for some good keywords, your ads bring in people from search and social platforms, and your UX is optimized to convert well.
So why would you want to build a mobile app?
Not too long ago, many retailers were questioning whether it made sense to even have a website – wasn’t a nice shopfront and ads in the local paper enough?
Times change, technology changes, consumer habits change. Not only are we now in a digital-first world, but a mobile-first one. Worldwide – over 50% of total web traffic is now mobile, and mobile commerce has grown in line with the larger trend.
We’ve seen how the traditional web has gradually been usurped by the mobile web and the unstoppable rise of smartphones.
The trend isn’t slowing down. As we can see from the above chart:
“In 2021, mobile e-commerce could rake in some $3.5 trillion and then make up almost three quarters (72.9 percent) of e-commerce sales”
eCommerce & WooCommerce Apps
“Ok, so what? My WooCommerce store works fine on mobile!”
That’s great, a responsive site well optimized for mobile is a non-negotiable piece – a mobile friendly site makes a sale 67% more likely. The question is – is it enough to stand out in your market and cover all bases?
Perhaps not, because of a parallel trend – the rise of apps.
Emarketer research showed that in 2019, around 90% of total smartphone time was spent in-app. Granted, most of this time is spent engrossed in social media apps or games.
That’s not the full picture though, as we can see from the impressive growth of eCommerce apps in particular.
Over the past few years, sales through eCommerce apps have grown at an impressive rate, to the point where 78% of users would rather access a store via a mobile app than a mobile site.
eCommerce apps also drive 3x higher conversion rates compared to the mobile web.
Why do apps convert at such a higher rate?
There are three main reasons.
The first is that mobile app users are more loyal. The second is that they provide a better user experience. The third is that mobile push notifications are very powerful.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail, as they are important for understanding the reasons why you should convert your WooCommerce store to a WooCommerce mobile app.
eCommerce Apps & Loyalty
One of the great things about building apps is the loyalty factor.
Apps not only foster loyalty through a better user experience and better communication through push notifications, but they self-select your most loyal customers.
If someone downloads your app, it’s a sign that they feel positively about your brand. Over time, the apps will gather a core of your biggest fans, bringing them together all in one place so you can deepen your relationship and engagement with them.
This is extremely valuable. Your site is like a storefront on a busy high street. It’s there to pick up organic traffic, show people what you’re about, and entice new customers to buy. eCommerce apps are more like a catalogue for fans of your products to browse regularly – only much better.
eCommerce Apps Drive up Lifetime Value, Repeat Purchases and Retention
To be successful in eCommerce, thinking only in terms of raw sales isn’t always good enough. The focus should be on lifetime value, repeat purchases, and building a loyal fanbase.
A lot of eCommerce businesses generate around 80% of their revenue from about 20% of their customers. These are the customers most likely to download your eCommerce app, and so it becomes the ideal vehicle to build even deeper loyalty with those that are likely to be most receptive to your efforts.
These figures are impressive, and surprising. How can we explain them?
We’ve already looked at how apps self-select your biggest fans in the first place, but it’s more than that.
Of course, the icon on their homescreen is a constant reminder of your brand and offers. The real keys though are the improved user experience and push notifications.
A More Engaging, Less Distracting eCommerce User Experience
Today, mobile users simply expect an “app like” experience – whether they are learning, socializing or shopping. They want a visible icon on their home screen, to receive notifications about orders and offers, and to have an “enclosed” experience.
According to eMarketer principle analyst Catherine Boyle:
“Native apps can deliver more immersive shopping experiences, give brands access to smartphones’ location services to trigger geotargeted offers and create a permanent brand presence on the phone, which boosts awareness.”
This immersive experience is key.
According to a Walker study, customer experience is set to surpass price and product as the most important brand differentiator.
Pulling up a mobile browser, entering a URL, logging in, waiting for everything to load then navigating to find what you want is just not an ideal experience.
Contrast this with the experience in eCommerce apps.
Just one tap on the user’s home screen takes them right into the app. There are no other browser tabs to distract them, no frustrating loading times or typing, and the native navigation is smooth and intuitive.
The Apps also keep the user logged in, which not only reduces frustration but also friction around checkouts and payments. Perhaps this is why carts are only abandoned 20% of the time in apps compared to 80% of the time on mobile sites!
Why People Spend More Time in Apps
The experience factor along with the baked-in loyalty we discussed earlier is why app users generate 84.5% of Amazon’s total mobile time.
Although the total number of unique visitors is similar on app vs web, Amazon’s app users spend a lot more time engaging with the platform. The apps are a way to serve regular, habitual buyers. You can replicate the same effect by building your own WooCommerce mobile app.
The native tab bar, navigation, superior speed, reduced friction and enclosed experience are all crucial. Together they make a far more convenient UX responsible for much of the success of apps in general as well as eCommerce apps in particular.
So we’ve seen how apps foster loyalty and provide a superior mobile UX. There’s another big advantage – push notifications. Let’s look at them in a little more detail.
With a mobile app, you can send push notifications directly to the devices of your most valuable customers.
You probably use email to reach your key customers right now – but push notifications are much better. According to a study by IBM partner Xtify, open rates for push notifications vary between 30% and 60%, and the interaction is as high as 40%. Take a look at the following image for comparison with email.
Your customers are far less likely to miss them, – they are highly visible on the lock screen. Even if they don’t open it right away, that’s no problem – it will simply be stored in the app’s message center.
Push works great for eCommerce, supporting both your marketing campaigns and the customer journey. An eMarketer report even found that eCommerce apps that use push notifications to boost opens saw 278% more app launches than those that did not!
You can send notifications out to alert users to new offers, new products, and to keep them up to date with the delivery process. You can also use them to deliver special app-only coupon codes to users which will make them even more enthusiastic about it and function as a little bribe to get more downloads.
Overall, there is no better way to reach your customers on their most valued device whenever you want to.
Get More Visibility and Make a Great First Impression
On smartphones, some people use the App Stores to search for solutions to their problems. That’s why apps allow you to pick up new customers as well as please existing ones.
If you optimize well for App Store SEO, users will find you by searching for keywords related to your products.
They could be searching for your exact kind of offers. If you aren’t there you’re not even in the game. You’ll lose them to a competitor who does have an app store presence, or they’ll just default to Amazon.
This opens up a whole new user acquisition channel and gets you in front of people who would likely not have found your WooCommerce store through the crowded mobile web, or worse, would have found another shop through the App Stores and built a relationship with them instead.
eCommerce brands with apps live on the Apple App Store and Google Play store also look more serious, professional and established. Just look at all the huge eCommerce brands like H&M, Asos, Sephora, Nike and Amazon that have made apps a key part of their strategy.
A mobile app is like a mark of quality, and makes you look good in the eyes of potential customers, partners and investors.
Are you ready to join the top online brands in the Apple App Store and Google Play store?
You might say yes – but isn’t building a mobile app a massive project, that takes half a year and $50k plus to complete?
They certainly can be.
When committing this much time and money – you would need to be pretty certain of the benefits. It would be a lot of risk for a small company.
There is another way though, that allows you to launch your mobile app on the App Store and Google Play for a manageable investment in just a week or two.
Let’s go over all the options.
How to Turn Your WooCommerce Store into Android and iOS Apps
If you aren’t a skilled mobile developer already, forget about building a WooCommerce app yourself from scratch unless you want to dedicate years to learning.
You can, of course, find developers capable of building apps from scratch that recreate the functionality of your site and sync seamlessly with WooCommerce.
You’ll need at least two, one to work on the Swift iOS app, and one who’s focused on the Java-based Android app. You would probably need another to manage the entire project too. If you don’t have such people on-staff already, which you don’t as a small/medium eCommerce company, you’ll need to take them on at their day rate of around $800 minimum – and they will be billing for a lot of days.
The project will likely take them six months. That’s because building even just a single mobile app from scratch is painstaking work. Every piece of functionality in your existing site will need to be recreated on iOS and Android, then connected with your WooCommerce backend through an API.
You could just contract an app development agency. Someone at the agency will also mostly manage the project, potentially saving you stress. The costs will likely be even higher though, and the timescale just as long.
The Budget for Native Development
Appinventive estimate the cost of building an eCommerce mobile app (comparable to Amazon’s) at:
- Wireframing $800-£1000
- Design $7000-$10,000
- Development $30,000-$80,000
So you’re looking at a total of around $40,000 – $90,000 depending on the features required. And you can double that if you want to launch on Android and iOS – which you definitely should.
With both these options the work will never really be done. Updates, maintenance, and tweaks add 10-20% of the cost yearly.
On the plus side, this option can get you great apps. They will be truly native and after many costly iterations highly functional for your users.
That is a lot of money though. Money that could be spent on stock, payroll, and marketing.
Do you really need apps after all? At this price tag – it’s a hard decision without a clear answer.
The decision becomes easier though as the barriers to developing a mobile app drop. What was a painful, stressful and expensive decision can become a no brainer.
Let’s look at a few more efficient options.
They will be able to build the apps faster than purely native developers – but will still take months and run up bills into the multiple five figures.
Even if everything goes well, you’ll really struggle to completely recreate the functionality of your site in the apps. You can’t reuse any of your existing web code, and custom components will have to be rebuilt from scratch. You’ll then need to connect your backend to the apps with an API. Although code can be shared well between iOS and Android versions, it is still a ton of work.
With both of these options, you would need to replicate the functionality of your site in the apps, then ensure a flawless communication between the iOS and Android apps and your WooCommerce backend. Both will have you investing months of effort and tens of thousands to get a great result, and then you’ll have the ongoing hassle and expense of maintaining separate codebases.
The more complexity, plugins and custom code there is already on your site, the harder it will be to replicate that in a mobile app.
Let’s look at something a little more manageable.
One way to cut down the financial burden is to go with a template-based WooCommerce mobile app builder.
At the low end these are simple, general app builder templates. They are cheap, but pretty hopeless if you want to recreate your WooCommerce store’s functionality and features.
On the higher end there are much better template based builders. They can work well, but there are limited customization options. You’re always ultimately restricted to their template. If you have a complex site with a lot of different plugins, they will struggle to recreate the site’s functionality entirely in-app, and if they can it will likely require a lot of custom work.
There’s a final route we’re going to look at. A way you can build WooCommerce mobile apps that mirror your store exactly, in weeks not months, and for a fraction of the usual cost.
Using MobiLoud Canvas to Convert Your Site to a WooCommerce Mobile App
Our platform, Canvas, is the best “wrapper” on the market for building iOS and Android mobile apps from WooCommerce.
With Canvas, you can instantly reuse 100% of your site’s plugins and functionality – there’s nothing to rebuild and nothing extra to manage going forward.
There is no ‘recreating’ your eCommerce experience in the app. Canvas is ‘putting’ your existing experience in an app!
How Does Canvas Work?
Canvas takes your WooCommerce store, along with all its functionality and plugins, and wraps it in your own Android and iOS apps that work like a dedicated browser with a customizable native tab menu.
Like any other app, it will be installed on your user’s phones, gets you push notifications across iOS and Android and a presence on the users’ valuable homescreen. Your app will be distributed through the AppStore and Google Play.
We will take care of the whole process of preparing, submitting and publishing the apps for you.
It is your existing site, with all its features – WooCommerce or otherwise. It’s more than that though. We’ve built everything you need to get your eCommerce experience running smoothly as a mobile app. Native navigation, native animations, splash screen, spinners, an internal browser, push notifications inbox, loading indicators, and much more.
There is nothing to rebuild or recreate natively, everything works out of the box.
Converting your site to a WooCommerce mobile app with Canvas gives you many, if not all, of the same functional benefits of a true native app, without the cost!
Changing The Logic of WooCommerce App Development
We saw earlier that building apps natively is an expensive headache.
Canvas allows you to avoid those downsides, defeating the risk/reward argument against building apps by bringing the barriers way down.
Your Canvas apps will be ready to publish in a few weeks and cost less than 10% of custom developed apps – spread out over a manageable, stable monthly fee rather than a lump sum. There will be no unexpected expense going forward, as we handle everything for you forever as part of our full service.
We also saw that It would be impossible to create a truly custom, full featured experience in a template-based app builder.
Luckily, Canvas helps you get around this too. As your Canvas apps will be an exact mirror of your existing site, you customize them simply by customizing your WooCommerce website. Any changes will be automatically reflected in both Android app and iOS app. Create a unique, engaging experience for the web and the apps will take care of themselves!
We’ve looked at the reasons to convert WooCommerce to Android and iOS apps, some ways to get it done, and why MobiLoud Canvas is a great option in our (completely biased) opinion.
Let’s wrap up by going over a few key benefits you’ll get with Canvas.
Move Fast and Get to Market In Days
As we mentioned, true native apps will take months to build. Using React Native would be faster than traditional app development – but it’s far from being a fast solution to turn your WooCommerce site into apps.
If you signed up for Canvas today, you could be ready to launch straight onto your customers’ smartphones in under two weeks.
You save countless hours, weeks, and months – and keep your team focused on product and marketing.
Save 90% Of The Cost
Developing a native mobile app costs tens of thousands of dollars (or more). Using a decent template-based app builder will take you into the low five figures upfront too, and that’s with minimal customization.
MobiLoud Canvas takes all the labor out of the development process, and we pass the savings on to you in both time and money.
That’s why you can get great-looking, functional apps for 10% of the standard cost – and for a manageable monthly fee rather than a lump sum investment. Take the savings and reinvest them in building out your core WooCommerce store, acquiring new customers, and growing your business.
Even if, longer term, you want to build true native apps, Canvas is a great option for building an MVP, launching fast, and testing the market before the larger investment.
Nothing To Rebuild, Nothing New to Manage – Save Your Effort and Resources
Canvas is the best way to build apps from WooCommerce fast. Because it is a conversion process, there is nothing to rebuild natively, and no need to touch a line of code. Everything works automatically. All your existing plugins aside from WooCommerce will work perfectly too.
How about payments, carts, and wishlists? If they work right now on your site – they’ll work just as well in-app. When we say there’s nothing to rebuild, we mean nothing.
Everything can be managed through a simple no-code interface. You don’t need to update or tweak the apps, they will update automatically with any changes, product updates, or new items on your site. If it works perfectly on WordPress, it will work perfectly through the apps too.
The apps can grow with your core business into the future
Unlimited Push Notifications
Over time, your app audience will start to reflect your most loyal and engaged learners. Push gives you a direct line to these most valuable customers.
Canvas integrates with the best push provider on the market, OneSignal, and we set it up for you so you can send unlimited notifications that you can configure to go out automatically or manually whenever you see fit.
If you’d like to integrate push deeper into your site, you can just follow OneSignal’s excellent documentation. You can integrate your site with OneSignal’s REST API – Canvas allows you to send notifications to individual users, on top of broadcast messages. Just get in touch with our team to discuss the details of what you need.
You can set up push notifications to go out with shipping and delivery information, promote new products or sales, and send out coupons and app-only discounts.
Canvas provides a whole control panel for your users to manage their preferences for push notifications, so they can easily choose what they’ll be notified for. On your end, you’ll just need to attach a tag to notifications, to match what’s available to choose in your app.
The Canvas native “Alerts” screen also allows users to review all the notifications they’ve received. You can configure this to load a built-in list of notifications or to load an internal notifications screen in your web app.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage and re-engage customers with timely notifications.
A Powerful App Builder with All The Features You Need
We’ve built hundreds of apps with Canvas and have seen almost every edge case possible.
Chances are we have a solution for the issue or request you have in mind.
Native animations, splash screen, loading spinners, native tab menus, internal or external screens, everything can be controlled from MobiLoud’s simple configuration dashboard.
App Submission Done For You
You will use Canvas to configure and customize your apps, then our team will take it from there.
Not remotely technical, or too busy?
We also offer a full service package so there’s nothing at all to do on your end, we configure and build your app from start to finish.
We always take care of building, testing, compiling and submitting your mobile apps.
We’ll dedicate several hours to review your app with you and ensure it’s working smoothly, with the best performance and experience achievable, so you have the highest chances of approval in the stores.
Because we help you with the build process and manually test your apps we can guarantee we’ll get your app approved on the stores – or you can get 100% of your money back. There’s absolutely no risk for you.
Our team will also handle all ongoing technical maintenance and new version updates for your apps. We are your mobile partners, handle anything that crops up fast and effectively, and are never more than a phone call or email away.
You won’t have to worry about security issues, new iOS versions or phones coming on the market, we’ll take care of all of that for you and update your iOS and Android apps as needed.
You’re Fully in Control with Our WooCommerce App Builder
These are your own apps, you’ll be listed as the developer on the stores and every account used will be your own – you just invite us as your developer. So don’t worry about being able to replace the apps or being stuck with a provider – you’re in control and can switch away any time.
Whichever way you choose to build mobile apps from your WooCommerce website, you’re making a good decision.
Mobile apps are a great asset for any online store. They give you the opportunity to grow through a whole new channel. One with loyalty and engagement baked in.
We’ve built over a thousand apps which have been enjoyed by millions of users – and we can help you launch in under two weeks for less than a contract developer’s day rate.
You’ve worked hard to build a great mobile site – but what are you doing for your core customer base? Many of them wish you had an app right now, and would probably buy more from you if you did! It’s time to give them what they want.
There’s zero risk with our 60 days guarantee, and you’ll be launching on the app stores before you know it. Try Canvas out today!