How to Build an App for Your Ecommerce Business

ecommerce app

You have a successful ecommerce website, but you want to expand your footprint, connect with new audiences and engage your customers when they are not at their computers. Launching an ecommerce app, may be the right solution for you.

But how do you create an ecommerce app that builds up your ecommerce business, instead of wasting your valuable time, money and resources? In this article we outline important points you need to consider when building an ecommerce app.

While technology, audience and costs should factor high in your decision making, one often overlooked consideration is what resources you have or do not yet have at the ready to develop, launch, market and support an app throughout its lifetime. Selling online through a website is subtly but significantly different than a mobile app. Having the right people, technology and partners already in place is key to creating and rolling out a successful ecommerce app. Do you have a development team with mobile experience in place? Is your marketing team ready to market an app? Will your fulfillment process support app sales? Ensuring you have the right resources in place will have a measurable impact on the ease or difficulty, and the success, of your mobile endeavors.

Once you have the resources in place or at least identified, you can start considering important issues such as your overall goals, audience, and technology.

Why Am I Building an Ecommerce App?

We’re talking about goals. Your goals and how you're going to identify and achieve them. Before you start creating your app, it’s important to know what you want – and how you will measure success. Your goals and KPIs will directly impact the features you need, your development process, and more. Identifying goals can often be accomplished by analyzing your businesses current and historical trends. Are your website's sales going down or up? How much of your current sales are currently generated by mobile users compared to customers using computers. What is the difference in their conversion rates? How many of your sales are repeat customers. What time of day do most sales occur?

Understanding your ecommerce business trends is key to establishing realistic, measurable and achievable goals, such as optimizing your checkout process, maximizing conversions, increasing return customers or tapping into new potential customers.

Who is Your Target Audience and Why Do They Need an App?

While it may be true that if you build it, they will come, it doesn’t mean they will also buy. While you might believe that an ecommerce app will be good for your business, you also need to verify whether your customers need it and if so, why. Who are your customers? How old are they? What products do they currently buy? Are they businesses or consumers? If both, how much of both. It may be a good exercise to go back to your goals and break them down by customer attributes. Finding out, for example, that your B2B customers have a low conversion rate on the mobile version of your website, could be a vital insight into how a mobile app could address a serious sales problem.

What Am I Building and More Importantly Why?

Now that you have outlined your goals and audience, it’s time to start thinking about what you should build. Knowing you need an ecommerce app and who you’re building it for, isn’t good enough. Zeroing in on the features that are tied directly to both the goals for your business as well as the needs of your customers is extremely important. Adding trendy or cool features to your app that don’t support your customers' needs will ultimately backfire. Always ask, why do we need this feature? If you can’t draw a connection between a feature and your business' goals or customer needs, it’s probably best to leave it out.

If you already have an ecommerce website, important features on your website should be considered for an app. But you have to keep in mind that a mobile app is not a mobile version of your website. It is a separate mobile application with unique features, such as push notifications, as well as actions, such as swiping and tapping. In addition, features, such as reviews or Apple and Google payment options, that you hadn't considered for your website may work well in an app.

How Will I Build My App?

Your decisions around technology can be some the most difficult and significant of the app building process. From the type of app you decide to build to the development frameworks and languages you use, each technology choice can mean the difference between success and failure.

For example, one of the first technology decisions you will need to make is whether to build a native app or a web app.

A web app is delivered to users over the web and is essentially a separate mobile website. A web app can offer similar kinds of speed, interactivity, and performance as a native app, but without having to download it from an app store. It's delivered over the web, just like your website. If you already have a lot of mobile traffic on your website, a web app could be a good option.

A native app is downloaded from an app store and stored in a user’s phone. Currently there are two flavors of native apps, iOS and Android. Unless you know your users are heavily concentrated on iOS or Android you will need to develop a separate iOS and Android app to reach broad adoption. The extra work of building and maintaining two separate native apps can be somewhat mitigated by using a development framework that allows you to build an app once and deploy it to both stores simultaneously.

How Should I Market My App?

If you already have experience successfully marketing a website, you won’t need to learn many new skills to market an app. Paid ads, PR, social media posts and endorsements should all be considered as potential marketing channels.

If you plan on launching a native app, you can also direct visitors to download your app when they visit your website, especially if they are visiting using a mobile device. Furthermore, a native app comes with its own potential advertising, owing the hundreds of million of visitors to Apple’s and Google’s app stores.

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