Tech Insights

7 Steps to Build an eCommerce App

Joana Almeida
- 3 min. to read

Commerce over the internet has come to stay. With giants such as Amazon and eBay, stores all over the world depend now more than ever on the business that the internet brings. Clients have become accustomed to buying from the commodity of their homes and expect to find all they need in online stores. eCommerce apps are the answer for many businesses to adapt to this new reality, allowing them to customize and enhance their customers’ experience.

In this article, we’ll answer your questions about how to build eCommerce apps for your business, as well as provide all the information you need and the 7 steps you have to go through to do so.

What’s An eCommerce App? 

An eCommerce app lists and allows users to purchase a store’s goods for sale through an internet connection. This can be done from any device the app is compatible with, allowing users flexibility and freedom on where to purchase items, provided they have access to the internet.

The most common type of these apps is the eCommerce mobile app, allowing buyers to use their phones and tablets to purchase the items they want.

Different from an online store, the eCommerce app allows the brand to tailor the way the clients engage with their products. While an online store will list an item with a description and photos, for example, eCommerce apps can provide interactable 3D views of the product, allow direct visualization of possible modifications or add-ons, and other such functionalities.

Apps for eCommerce bring a lot of possibilities when it comes to user interaction and satisfaction, enhancing their user experience and thus incentivizing customers to come back and purchase again in the future.

What to Consider for Your eCommerce Application Development?

There are many factors a business should evaluate prior to starting an eCommerce app development project. Chief among them are the following:

  • Branding and Design: You should create an eCommerce app that mirrors your business’ branding. Plan colors and other visual assets ahead of time to give time to your graphic designers to build all the necessary elements.
  • Registration and Account Management: Your users will need to register accounts to keep track of the items in their basket, as well as wishlists and other settings, such as names and addresses. You’ll want to keep all this information stored on your end with a powerful combination of security measures such as multi-factor authentication, Secure Server Layer(SSL) certificates to encrypt all data flow, a good firewall, and anti-malware software.
  • Product showcasing: The way you show your products is one of the most important aspects you should consider when designing your application. Besides the common descriptive text and images, adding extra features that enhance the experience, such as 3D visualization of the articles, can lead to more sales.
  • Search and Filtering: If customers can’t find what they are looking for, they will most likely run to buy from the competition. Provide robust ways to find items and provide alternatives in case you can’t find a specific request.
  • Payment Options: Depending on the types of goods and markets you want to sell on, you should provide payment options that your customers find easy to use. This will help convert browsing to actual buying. Integrations with trusted payment services, such as PayPal and Stax can help you keep your payments fast and secure. Also, make sure you comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).
  • Integration with your existing systems: If you are already using a Content Management System (CMS) to manage your business and its inventory, such as Shopify, make sure this new storefront can integrate those systems.
  • Optimization: A slow store will detract customers from buying, so you’ll want to provide them with the most seamless experience possible. Make sure optimization of the app and its store are a priority from day one.

Key Features 

When developing the minimum features for your app, make sure you have the bare essentials that users accustomed to these types of apps usually look for:

  • Native user experience: Depending on the target platform, users are accustomed to a certain experience on their devices. Certain menus, actions, and gestures have become staples of the user experience and interface design, and you should go to great lengths to be consistent with that experience as much as possible so users won’t feel a disconnect when using your app. You want our app to feel like an extension of their phone’s other features.
  • Item reviews: Customer often looks for opinions on an item before making a purchase. By providing it within the app, you drive their engagement and provide them with the information they need.
  • Social network integrations: Depending on the target audiences’ age group, social networks will be more valuable to keep them engaged with the app. You can also use the feature to promote items or share item reviews made on those networks.
  • Wishlists: Allowing your customers to save items they are interested in can be useful for many reasons, the most important being you can use the wishlist’s items to make suggestions to that specific customer (which are very useful on repeat purchases), or you can use the combined information of all your customers’ wishlists to promote certain items in the store, driving sales.
  • Checkout: Add methods to simplify and accelerate checkouts. Customers looking to buy from your app are invested enough in your brand, so you should give them features to save addresses and checkout options, so their future purchases are more expedient.
  • Payment Options: Related to the point above, make sure you provide several payment options for your customers. These will be very different depending on the client’s location and even age.
  • Push Notifications: Useful to communicate new items in the store or sales on items your users are interested in. This will give your customers a reason to visit the app more frequently.

7 Steps to Build an eCommerce App

eCommerce application development, just like any other software, can follow a set of steps during development that helps projects succeed. These steps are not far off from those followed when developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

1. Establish your app’s goals

eCommerce app development begins with establishing the goals the app should solve. This will usually revolve around either the products you’re trying to sell or who you’re selling them to.

You may be looking for a new way to present your products so they seem more appealing to your customers or grab a specific target audience your current offering isn’t catering to. Whatever it is, establish the need so you can make more informed decisions going forward.

2. Decide on your target audience

Related to the first step, now is the time for you to decide what your target audience is. This not only means the type of person that will use the app but the circumstances of that usage. Are you trying to target a specific kind of device? Is that device owned by the user or for a mount inside a store? This choice will impact many of the app’s features and branding options.

3. Determine the essential features

Now is the time to determine the features your app should ship with. There are some features you should consider no matter what, which we’ve already listed, but you should also consider what makes this app a unique experience.

This is also the step when you decide on the design of the panels and menus of the app and the user experience you want your customers to have.

When you’re looking for the answer to the question “How long does it take to build an eCommerce app?” the features decided in this step will be the most determinant factor. Depending on the set of features you want to include and their complexity, you can look for a development cycle that can last from 3 months for smaller apps to 9+ months for more complex undertakings.

4. Choose the technology

Having a good and reliable tech stack for the project is indispensable. To build an eCommerce app, you’ll need a strong technological foundation that is not only reliable and fast but also works with other systems you are probably already using.

5. Build the app’s minimal requirements and features

Now is the time to get a development team and start the development process. Depending on the type of team you’ve hired, you’ll have more or less control over the development. Ideally, you’ll want the app to be developed incrementally and tested along the way so you can be sure it follows your initial requirements.

This will usually result in an MVP, the bare minimum your app needs to function and be useful to your customers. Make sure the features are polished, even if they may be small in number. You’ll want to present your best.

How do I make an eCommerce app without coding?

Nowadays, there are many app builders that allow the creation of apps without the need to code. These are based on templates that you can then further customize based on what you need.

Do be aware, however, that you are trading ease of development for flexibility. If you want to build a truly innovative experience, these app-building services will quickly limit your options and stifle your creativity.

Also, be aware that these kinds of services will usually not be tailored specifically to eCommerce, and you’ll probably need some extra work to integrate the app with your current systems (or, in the worst case, it might not even work at all).

6. Publish and Market the app

Now that the app’s MVP is feature complete, it’s time to publish it and put it in the hands of your customers.

You may be asking yourself, “How do I launch an eCommerce app?”. That will usually depend on the target platforms of your app.

When it comes to eCommerce mobile app development, you’ll want to publish the app on the platform’s corresponding app store, like Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store. You’ll usually go through the store’s review process, which could take a few days to a few weeks, and you’ll have to pay fees depending on the type of developer account you have access to and the store in question. Always check the manuals for submission of these stores, so you don’t miss any critical detail.

7. Keep building the app with your users’ feedback

Mobile commerce app development, just like the development of any other mobile app, is not a one-and-done process. Your users will continually ask for improvements and new features, and your development team should be able to continually push new updates that satisfy those needs, so they have more reasons to come back and keep using the app, which means more business for you!

Costs of Building an eCommerce App

Now that we’ve established what an eCommerce app is and the features it should have, another question comes up: how much does it cost to create an eCommerce app?

The answer will highly depend on the type of app you are looking to develop, but estimates start from $32,000 and can go to $150,000+.

The driving factors that can contribute to an app’s cost are:

  • The app’s complexity: Apps with more complex features will need more time to be developed and thus more money to sustain the developers.
  • Development team: You’ll need a team of developers to build your app, and the options are varied, depending on your needs and your budget. You can create or assemble an in-house team, hire contractors or hire a consulting development team.
  • Target platforms: Depending on the target device, some technologies may be out from the get-go. If you are targeting mobile commerce app development, you can either use the native technology or opt for a hybrid app development platform to develop the most common phone operating systems simultaneously. All of these options can lead to costs in the form of licenses.
  • Ancillary technology: If your app requires certain types of specialized technology, such as AR and/or VR or Cloud technology integration, you’ll need specialized people that can easily navigate the development of those systems, which translates into more costs.

Make sure you have a firm grasp of the type of app you want to build so you can account for these costs straight away and avoid surprises.

Ready to Develop the eCommerce App You Envisioned?

No matter the type of business you run, mobile eCommerce solutions are a sure-fire way to drive both the engagement of your customers and sales of your products, provided you design your app with a good user experience in mind.

If you’re looking for qualified and expert engineers to help you build your eCommerce app, especially for mobile platforms such as iOS or Android, DistantJob can help you find the perfect people to work for you and deliver you the app you’ve always envisioned to boost your business.

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