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E-commerce Mobile App Development: The Ultimate Guide

February 3, 2017

I guess you are looking to build a fresh mobile app for your e-commerce website, an app that can quickly go international over 20 countries. An app that not only works, but also inspires – right? I get it. I’m guessing you want results from your e-commerce app as well – you want some nice ROI (who doesn’t?)

But the problem is – there are too many moving parts involved in mobile app development. To make sense of it all, you spend a few hours trying to browse through the websites and the blogs of some of the top mobile app development vendors – only to realize you’ve wasted your time.

None of their content is actually relevant to the app you want to build. While they talk about the UI designs of mobile apps, they don’t really tell you how to design an e-commerce app, which is what your product is. Not a media app, not a game app, not a productivity app. But an e-commerce app.

Here is what I can do to help you.

My extensive experience, gathered over 15 years of working in the tech industry, has positioned me to understand the dynamics of mobile app development and marketing. Also, having spent a number of years as a business buyer, I have been on the receiving end of many targeted marketing campaigns. I know what clients want and I can draw on my knowledge to help you navigate through your journey.

To get a clear understanding of the e-commerce space, let’s start by looking at some of the top grossing ecommerce apps:

  • Keep Shopping
  • Fancy
  • Canopy
  • Grofers
  • Victoria’s Secret

With all things being equal, the app with the best design approach wins. The e-commerce apps that I have listed differentiate themselves on the basis of their designs and their user experience. If you browse through each of them, you’ll see a pattern emerge: most of them sport a monochrome color scheme, have a clean and a legible typeface and have small (but clearly discernible) buttons.

If you’d like to understand the design standpoint of each of these apps in detail, you can read The Top 5 E-commerce Apps You Must Check Out.

Next, your e-commerce app will need to have a robust feature set. When I say ‘robust’, I don’t mean crowding your app with every possible feature you can think of. Think engagement, think stickiness while building the feature set for your app. To help your creative neurons fire, here is a list of 7 features that can make your e-commerce app more engaging.

After you brainstorm and list all the features that you can come up with, build a strategy and segregate the list of features into 3 different sets – ‘Must haves’, ‘good to haves’, ‘No value.’ Then, kick off the app prototyping with the ‘must have’ list. If and only if you have perfected this feature set should you proceed to work on the ‘good to haves.’  And do not forget to send the ‘No value’ list to the trash can.

And yes, one important thing to note while working on your engaging feature set – pay special attention to your checkout process. While there are many reasons why some e-commerce apps fail to keep their customers engaged, one fundamental reason is their checkout experience. Believe it or not, there are apps with checkout processes designed like a fortress – once you’re inside, there’s no going out. You may want to read this piece on How to Simplify the Checkout Process on Your Ecommerce App while designing it.

A successful checkout process is largely dependent on the payment gateway that you integrate in your app.  In my experience, users are likely to cancel their purchase if their preferred payment option isn’t available. So you need to put a lot of thought into choosing a payment gateway that will work for your app. Some of the questions that can help you select the right one are:

  • Can it handle your current traffic and scale with you as you grow?
    If the system you’re using works for you today, great! But will it work for you tomorrow? How do you plan on expanding your business?
  • What tools and which markets do you want to move into?
  • What are the fees and charges per transaction for each tool?
  • How long does it take to get your money?

Reading this article on payment gateways will give you more clarity about the selecting the right one for your needs.

Now that you have a fair idea about the design and features of your app, let’s move onto the other important aspects of your e-commerce app – Selecting the right CMS and integrating back office systems (accounting, finance, order management, inventory management, etc.). I have seen many startups and product marketing managers focus heavily on the external factors of their app without realizing that the success of their app is also dependent on these invisibles.

There are a number of CMS players – you may even know a few by name. But selecting the right platform requires knowing more than just brand names. You need to ask the right questions before selecting the one that most aligns with your business needs – what’s the usability of the backend, what are the specific/niche functions, what’s the level of support each offers and what are the associated costs? I recommend reading this article on Best Ecommerce Platforms for 2017 to streamline your selection process.

Without proper back office support, it would be impossible to achieve operational efficiency. But here are some challenges you are likely to encounter with back office integration:

  • Not being able to customize as per your business needs
  • Not having enough development expertise to handle integration at all levels
  • Not being able to maintain security of your data and your operations

If you are hiring an app development company to help you with your app, you must assess if they have enough experience working on e-commerce apps because every e-commerce business is different (and so are their mobile needs). An e-commerce app designed for a B2B company is different from a B2C one. Some require partial back office integration whereas others require it to be complete. Some want one-way integration, others prefer two-way integration. So, it is recommended not to approach back office integration with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. To understand and overcome the challenges better, here’s an article on back office integration in an e-commerce mobile app.

We have covered the design and development aspects of your e-commerce app. The final part is app marketing. This is where you need to do some real legwork. With millions of apps vying for the attention of your users, only a smart and a targeted marketing strategy will get your app the love and attention it deserves.

Instead of the old and hackneyed marketing gimmicks, you must try something new; something like gamification. Because our lives are gamified in more ways than we think. If your e-commerce app can take advantage of the competitive human spirit, it can definitely help boost sales. Our article entitled How Gamification Can Increase Sales on your Retail App can help you formulate your marketing strategy and score big.

Hope we helped you put together all the moving parts of e-commerce app development. If you have any additional questions, we’d be happy to provide you with a free consultation.

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