The Complete Guide To Developing And Launching An E-Commerce App

An ecommerce app that looks great, is easy to use and delivers an exceptional shopping experience is an integral part of many retailers’ growth strategies.

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The future of mcommerce is dazzlingly bright, and by 2021, mobile is predicted to dominate the online shopping market, driving 54% of all online sales and providing approximately $659 billion in annual revenue.

With so many retailers now offering brilliant, user-focused and responsive mobile site experiences, downloading an ecommerce app is an extra commitment for your customer. They need a reason to download your app, which means you need to deliver an exceptional shopping experience from download and sign up, all the way through browsing to checkout and beyond.

When designing and developing your ecommerce mobile app, a high level of personalisation is required. Your customers want to be wowed by their experience. Google research shows 73% of consumers will switch from a poorly designed mobile experience to one that makes purchasing easier. And they may never come back.

In this guide to developing and launching a stand-out retail app, we look at what customers actually want, how to create a great in-app shopping experience, and how to get your new app noticed. We’ll also offer our expert insight into the ecommerce mobile app development process.

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What Do I Need to Know Before I Begin Developing My App?

Before you begin developing your retail app, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

1. The type of retail app you should build

The type of app you should develop comes down to your customers and their needs, as well as the type of products you’re offering. A great app is not only intuitive, making it easy for your customers to browse and purchase, it’s also enjoyable to use and personalised to the customer. Whether you’re using your in-house development team or are hiring an agency, always ask the question: “How does this app make life better for the user?”

2. Your timeline and budget

A great retail app is an investment, and there’s little sense in cutting corners when it comes to development. With that said, prices and timelines vary depending on the scope of the project. On the lower end of the scale, a basic ecommerce app will cost between £20-50k and takes a couple of months to develop. A bespoke infrastructure that meets specific requirements will cost upwards of £100k with a development time of six months or more.

3. Your key goals

As with any project, your objectives are important. Ask yourself why you’re investing in a mobile app and what you want back from that investment. Setting clear KPIs before you begin the development process will help you stay aligned with your business goals and measure the success of your investment.

4. How you’re going to stand out

A standout app isn’t just a downloadable, native version of your mobile site. In order to compete in the crowded app marketplace, you’ve got to bring something extra to the table. Before you begin, consider how your app can take advantage of new developments such as AR technology to enhance the customer experience. If you’re a bricks-and-mortar retailer, you can also explore creative ways of using your mobile app to integrate with and enhance the in-store experience .

5. Who needs to be involved in the app development process

To develop a retail app, you’ll need a team of designers, developers and digital marketing specialists. Whether you opt for an in-house team or an agency to support with this, it’s important no one works in silo. For your ecommerce app to be successful, a holistic approach, including all of the appropriate stakeholders, is required.

Read more here:

featured image of the Ziffit and Waterstones app for: Developing A Stand-out E-commerce App: Your Questions Answered
Developing A Stand-out E-commerce App: Your Questions Answered

When it comes to ecommerce app creation, a customer-led approach is key.

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Always Start With The User

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Meaningful technology is always user-focused. It asks:

  • “What do people actually want and need?”
  • “How can this be reflected in the retail app experience?”
  • “Why would someone choose to download my ecommerce app over one of my competitors?”

Of course your brand identity and product line are important in the decision making process, but with so many retailers now offering high quality, user-friendly and responsive mobile app experiences, customers are looking for more from an ecommerce app experience. Understanding exactly what they want, and delivering on this, will set you apart from competitors’ apps.

Get to know your customers before you begin developing your retail app. You can do this by gathering data from your existing ecommerce site, including typical basket values, the mobile shopping habits of your customers, at which point they typically drop off of the journey to purchase, the most common devices used, and general audience demographics.

Additional research into what makes a great ecommerce app and what is out there already will give you valuable insight into what your competitors and other like-minded businesses are up to.

You can also harness the power of audience insight by asking existing customers the right questions. What do they want from a retail app shopping experience? What annoys them? What gets them excited? Armed with all of this information, you can create an ecommerce mobile app strategy that is truly user-centric.

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Featured image of the Ziffit and KitchenCraft app for: What Do Your Customers Expect From Your Retail App?
What Do Your Customers Expect From Your Retail App?

When one of your customers chooses to download your retail app, they’ve made a commitment to you.

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Focus on Designing A Phenomenal User Experience

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Before the development phase can begin, you’ll need to create an app design that focuses on providing a fantastic user experience, from download to purchase and beyond. This is what avoids customers dropping out of the buying journey before they purchase, and what will get them coming back time and again.

For your app to be successful, you’ll need to consider both the UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) design. These two approaches to design work together to create an experience that’s visually pleasing, as well as intuitive and easy for your customers to interact with.

Always start with your customer. Building on the market research you’ve already done, this is your opportunity to take a deep dive into your audiences and really get to know them. You can use empathy mapping to create a visual representation of your users, focusing on their shopping habits, personal goals and values, and their existing expectations when it comes to shopping online.

Accessibility is also key, and it’s important to include users with visual impairments or other disabilities in your design considerations and user testing process.

Fully understanding who you’re targeting will help when it comes to elements of the app design that really set you apart, such as personalisation, which is a growing expectation for users of ecommerce apps. Also consider the best way to reward loyalty for repeat customers and their friends, as well ensuring privacy and security.

From here, you can create a seamless user experience designed specifically to address the wants and needs of your customers.

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Featured image of the Waterstones and Ziffit app for: 7 Ways To Create A Phenomenal User Experience In Your Ecommerce App
7 Ways To Create A Phenomenal User Experience In Your Ecommerce App

If you’re thinking of developing a mobile commerce app for your retail business, the biggest question you’re probably asking yourself is: how do we create something our customers will genuinely want to use, and keep them coming back?

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Consider the Overall Shopping Experience

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A phenomenal user experience goes hand in hand with a seamless shopping experience. This is about meeting and exceeding expectations at every step of the shopping process.

The in-app shopping experience is crucial to the success of your retail app. Considerations here include organising your products into categories which reflect the most popular user searches, personalised recommendations based on past behaviour, or highlighting your most in-demand products and any offers you’re running.

The key to creating a great retail app is to make the shopping process as easy and intuitive as possible, delivering an exceptional experience all the way through sign up and browsing to checkout, incorporating elements such as personalisation that deliver on enjoyment and strengthen customer relationships.

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Featured image for: How Can Your Retail App Create A Great Shopping Experience For Your Customers?
How Can Your Retail App Create A Great Shopping Experience For Your Customers?

A great-looking, seamless retail app design that focuses on delivering an exceptional shopping experience is the holy grail for successful online retail business.

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Pay Special Attention To Your App’s Checkout Experience

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The moment of checkout is a decisive point in the in-app shopping flow. You can have the most beautiful app in the world but, if you don’t have a smooth, trustworthy payment process, you run the risk of people dropping off at the last minute and never coming back.

When creating a seamless checkout experience, consider:

  • The security of your payment and checkout page
  • Capturing delivery information in the simplest and easiest way possible
  • Providing post-purchase tracking and delivery information within your retail app
  • Giving customers the option of multiple payment methods (such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay or credit/debit card)
  • Ensuring customers have the option to fully and clearly review their order before purchase
  • Giving the option of ‘one-click’ ordering for users who are logged in, automatically entering their preferred payment and delivery details for them

The checkout experience must be a key consideration when designing and developing your retail app. Ensure your developers understand the many options available to make your checkout as efficient for the customer – and as effective for you – as possible.

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Featured image of Waterstones app for: How Do You Create A Seamless Checkout Experience In Your Ecommerce App?
How Do You Create A Seamless Checkout Experience In Your Ecommerce App?

When it comes to online shopping and retail apps, the moment of checkout is a decisive point in the shopping flow.

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Marketing Your New Retail App Effectively

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It’s not enough to create a brilliant retail app, you need to get your new app noticed before launch and beyond if you want to see a return on your investment.

Just like the mobile app development process, effective marketing comes down to understanding your customers and asking the right questions. What will prompt them to download your app in the first place? What will keep them engaging? How can you encourage them to recommend your app to their friends?

Here are some key areas to consider when marketing your new retail app:

Pre-launch offers

Engage your existing customers with exclusive pre-launch offers if they download the app by a specific date. This might include discounts, invite a friend incentives or exclusive offers on specific products.

Reviews and social proof

Gather pre-launch reviews from influencers and loyal customers to show social proof ahead of launch and showcase the key features of the app you know will get your audiences excited.

Harness the power of social media

Social media is responsible for driving a significant amount of traffic for ecommerce. Market your retail app to your existing audiences via targeted ads, and explore how you might integrate the app with social ecommerce as this area continues to develop.


To ensure app downloads keep momentum post-launch, consider creating an incentivisation strategy, which includes updates on new features, and encourages reviews and peer-to-peer recommendations. You can do this by making sure your app is worth sharing, for example creating an in-app loyalty scheme and integrating gamification with social sharing.

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How To Market Your New Retail App Effectively

How are you going to make your retail app offering really stand out from the crowd?

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In Summary

A beautiful, engaging ecommerce app that delivers a phenomenal user experience at every touch point is the holy grail for retail businesses. And for your app to be successful, there are many things you need to consider.

We work with our clients at every stage of the app development process. With a focus on clarity, ease of navigation and a beautifully seamless experience, we’re all about delighting your customers and making life better for your people.

Whether you choose to go with an app development agency like us, or you opt to develop your ecommerce app in-house, the key takeaway here is to come back to the user at every stage of the process. A dedicated focus on user experience is what will really set you apart from your competitors.

Creating A Retail App?

We can take you through every stage of the app development process and leave you with a finished product that functions beautifully for both you and your customers.

Find out more about our app design services here.