There are more than 275 million smartphone users in the United States. And 79% of those smartphone users have purchased online through their mobile device in the past six months.
Because of that, it’s not surprising that in 2019, around one-third of all ecommerce sales were made through a smartphone. And this fact has forced even the most stubborn online store owners to reconcile with the fact that apps are no longer optional; they are an absolute necessity.
The added functionality and better user experience of ecommerce apps make them an integral part of running a successful online business, and not having an app will impact every part of your business, from how many sales you can make to how quickly you can grow your customer base.
Therefore, when figuring out how to create an app that meets customer expectations without breaking the bank, using sound practices and a structured approach are essential to make sure your customers are happy and that the app becomes an integral part of your online sales.
So, to help you get started, let’s break down the process into actionable steps that will make the entire process much easier to understand.
Analyze Your Audience
Every decision that you make as an ecommerce business owner should be based on the audience that you’re trying to appeal to. Even when it comes to industry best practices or choosing a B2B ecommerce platform, you should always be thinking in terms of the value that you can offer to your target customer and how different decisions affect them.
Luckily, by the time you’re likely to consider developing an app, you should have a pretty good understanding of who your customers are, how they behave, and what the primary focus of the app should be centered around.
Still, before going any further, you should map out a detailed profile of your audience and look at who they are, what technologies they use, how they like to buy, and what functions they might be missing in your current sales process.
Another crucial consideration is the age of your target customer. If you are primarily selling to a younger audience, you will need to use a more contemporary design and make the experience center around visuals that help make your products more appealing.
Meanwhile, if you are primarily dealing with an older audience, you should make sure that your app is as easy to use as possible, offering plenty of help and guidelines to new users, as you don’t want them to have any issues when trying to add items to a cart to finalize their purchase.
Look at the Competitors
Once you have a better understanding of the people that will be using your app, you will also need to look at what are some of the more common practices employed by your competition.
For one thing, that will help you ensure that you don’t miss any integral features and that you provide an experience that your typical customer is used to. But even more importantly, it will allow you to spot opportunities for implementing features that are neglected by others, giving your app a significant advantage and potentially making it the go-to option in your market.
Looking at the competitors will also provide you insights about how complex your app should be, how many features are necessary, and what areas you might be able to forego based on what seems to be the most prominent or used features.
Just like with everything, you are not running your business in a vacuum, so the decisions that you make need to be in line with the current market environment. Thus, your app must also offer features that are relevant, innovative, and sought after by the audience that you’re trying to reach.
Choose a Platform
Figuring out how to choose the right app platform is one of the most critical steps of the process. But at the same time, it can be one of the most difficult.
Since the mobile user world is split into two major platforms – Android and iOS – you will need to cater to both of these segments if you don’t want to alienate a large percentage of your prospective customers.
Therefore, in most situations, you will likely go with one of two approaches: native or hybrid.
With a native approach, you would use a development system that is designated for a specific platform. Android is built using Java, and Swift or Objective-C are often used for iOS, and both will have to be developed separately to make the most out of what each platform has to offer.
Going with the native development approach can be a hassle, but it will help make the most out of what each platform has to offer, providing the best possible experience to all of your users and giving you the highest chance possible that the app will run smoothly on all devices.
However, if you’re just not willing to run two separate development projects and want a more affordable approach, you should consider a hybrid app approach. This way, you would develop a web-based app that would then be configured to run on different platforms.
This approach will save you a significant amount of money and will also allow you to develop a finished product quicker. Still, there will be limitations to the features that you can add, and you might have to work out some usability or compatibility issues after the initial launch.
Remember, the functionality of your app will impact every part of your business, including how many customers can access your store and even how much your website is worth. So be very mindful about the platform that you focus on and always put the needs of your audience first.
Determine What to Include
Every feature that will make it to your app will require time, resources, and money to include. Therefore, you should be very deliberate about what makes it to the final product, as that will allow you to get the most with what you have available and make the app more focused and functional.
However, figuring out what features to include isn’t always easy, and you will need to carefully consider the aforementioned audience preferences and competitor apps, as well as the emerging trends of app development if you are going to achieve the best results.
A comprehensive survey performed by Clutch found a wide range of interesting insights about what app users like, and how they typically use the apps that they have on their phones.
For one thing, a significant percentage of respondents said that they preferred online retail apps with shopping functionality as they provided more features and better overall user experience.
What’s more, while the vast majority used the app for making purchases or looking for the best deals, others used them to find relevant information about brick & mortar stores, which is why you should consider providing more information about your locations and availability.
Finally, when promoting the use of your app, many ecommerce stores offer exclusive discounts that are only available through app purchases. However, while this can be a very effective approach, you should eventually encourage people to use the app because of its functionality and convenience rather than just for a lower price.
In the end, whether your app succeeds or fails will largely depend on how well you can understand how your audience likes to shop. You might even want to consider performing similar surveys of your own, which can provide you with invaluable insights about the best course of action you should take.
If you’re using a comprehensive ecommerce platform, you may find that they offer app functionality as well, so you should explore whether it could be a viable option in your situation.
Sometimes, you might not even need to go through a lengthy development process and can simply take advantage of the feature-rich and refined mobile app solution that is already available, allowing you to roll out your app much sooner and at a much more affordable price.
Sure, getting to know your audience and what others are doing will still be essential when developing features, but adding them to an already-established framework will likely be much easier.
|Dave Schneider is the founder of LessChurn, churn reduction app. In 2012 he quit his job to travel the world, and has visited over 65 countries. In his spare time, he writes about SaaS and business at DaveSchneider.me