As more users opt to make purchases online, developing a mobile app is more important to businesses than ever: In the U.S., mobile e-commerce is projected to increase to $418.9 billion by 2024. Statista found that 72.9% of all online commerce would be generated via mobile this year, showing a 58.9% increase since 2017. In addition to this rise in popularity, the COVID-19 pandemic has made mobile e-commerce a necessity for shoppers around the world. This guide covers the basics of how to build mobile e-commerce apps and shares UX trends for 2021. You will also find the best practices for e-commerce app UX design to follow while developing your app.
How to build e-commerce mobile apps
1. Define your goals
When developing an e-commerce app, it is vital to identify what you want to achieve. Whether your goal is to convert more and more customers or to increase the average purchase value, you should set KPIs to align with your overall targets — enabling you to track the more useful performance metrics and make changes to your app that help you achieve your goals. This process will vary depending on the products you sell and whether the app is for a B2B or B2C service.
2. Identify your target audience
Knowing who you expect to install and use your app will inform every step of development. You can create user personas to ensure that your app is suitable for several different types of users. Doing so requires you to map out the different paths to purchase that a user may take according to customer needs and preferences.
3. App type
There are two types of apps to consider when developing a mobile commerce app.
- Native apps: These are mobile apps that can be downloaded via an app store and stored on a user’s device. To service the needs of all users across different platforms, you must develop apps for iOS and Android. While this is labor-intensive, optimizing native apps for each operating system can provide the best service possible.
Key features for mobile e-commerce apps
While the nature of your app will determine which features you include, there are several elements all mobile e-commerce app developers should consider.
- User onboarding: This is a critical component designed to introduce the user to your app’s UI and capabilities. Your onboarding will play a significant role in your retention rate, conversion rate and revenue. The aim should be to provide the necessary information so that users can benefit from your app’s functionality.
- User registration: Users accessing your app will need to register an account, enabling you to personalize the user experience and simplify their path to purchase. Users should be able to customize their profile and keep products in their baskets to buy later. You can also use user behavior to provide relevant product suggestions based on purchase and browsing history. You can also simplify the registration process by allowing users to sign up via a social media account.
- Checkout: By the time a user is ready to complete a purchase, all the hard work has been done and you should make this final step as simple as possible for the user. Make purchasing easy for customers by displaying an option to return to the checkout page while navigating anywhere within your app. You should also consider which payment options to offer and how users can complete their purchase with minimal clicks.
- User reviews: Users should be able to post reviews for products they have purchased. This is a win-win scenario for you and your users. You benefit from customer feedback and positive reviews, while potential customers get the value of past-purchasers’ wisdom.
- Customer wishlist: This feature enables users to save items for a later date without complicating the contents of their basket. This is a smart way to keep users returning to your app to purchase things they may have otherwise forgotten.
- Push notifications: Using push notifications means you can reach users even if they have not enabled in-app messaging and notifications. Although users will have to opt-in to receive push notifications, 42% of mobile users choose to allow this type of messaging on their device.
5 e-commerce UX trends to consider when creating your mobile app
This year $4.5 billion will be invested in chatbot technology. Chatbots are a great way to provide additional services to users who have questions related to your app. According to revenue acceleration platform Drift, 35% of users speak with chatbots to resolve complaints, report problems or get more information about a query. This assistance helps you boost sales and retain users who would otherwise churn due to unsolved issues. Reports made to chatbots are also valuable when identifying new ways to improve your app.
2.User-generated content (UGC)
UGC is content related to your products that is shared publicly on social media or in-app. This is a great resource for promoting your products that can be repurposed for marketing purposes. For example, suppose users publicly share images of your products on Instagram. In that case, you may want to incorporate this into your app to promote those products and show customers a real-life visual representation. Knowing that their images may be featured also encourages users to post about your products..
Another way to encourage UGC is to enable users to submit images when posting a review. This can provide context to a user’s opinion of the product and boost sales as a result.
3. Visual commerce
Many customers may be hesitant to make big purchases online when they can’t test a product in person. This is why mobile e-commerce apps need to give users as many ways to experience products as possible. There are several ways to provide a clear impression of your products:
- Multiple images: Include several images of each product, covering every aspect of what users may want to know before purchasing. For example, include close-up images that display a garment’s material to give a better idea of how it may feel to wear. UGC can also help provide a more accurate view of how your products look in the real world.
- Rich media: You should think about where video and other types of rich media are necessary to display your products accurately. This may be important for merchandise that may be difficult to use or require further explanation.
- Image zooming: It is important for mobile commerce apps to support image zooming so that users can take a closer look at your goods. This is also an engaging tool that encourages users to interact with your app and products.
4. Augmented reality (AR)
AR is a powerful tool that marketers can use to engage customers and increase sales for e-commerce apps. For example, IKEA Place uses AR to display IKEA products in a user’s home.
In 2018, this app became the second-most downloaded free app built using ARKit, Apple's augmented reality framework. Since then, the success of AR apps such as IKEA Place has incentivized companies to use this technology to boost sales.
5. Animated buttons and cinemagraphs
Animation is a great way to make your app more engaging and help users navigate their way through your app. For example, you can animate buttons to change color when clicked. You can also place cinemagraphs, a hybrid of photography and video, in your app.
Mobile e-commerce UX best practices
Simplify your user interface (UI)
As mobile users browse your products on a small screen, it is critical that your UI is user-friendly and intuitive for customers. Only include text, images and icons necessary for the user to navigate through your app. Avoid distractions that ruin the user experience. Performing essential actions — like making a purchase — must be pain-free and easy to understand.
Use in-app A/B testing
It is crucial to optimize your mobile app’s UX with extensive A/B testing. A/B testing works by segmenting audience groups to identify which variant is more successful at achieving your goal. Developers can see how changes impact metrics such as session time, engagements, retention rate, stickiness and LTV.
When A/B testing UX and UI elements, developers should create a research-based hypothesis. They will need to know what they want to test, who their target audience is and what changes should be made based on different outcomes. It is essential to analyze how changes affect different metrics, enabling developers to learn several lessons from a single test.
Analyse In-app behavior
App analytics provide opportunities to ensure your app succeeds in a competitive market. Keeping an eye on your analytics allows you to identify trends in user behavior that result in the best user experience as a result of user-driven insights. Developers can focus on the following metrics to ensure their UX is optimized.
- Events: Track events to learn how to optimize every step in the user funnel. Essential event tracking for mobile commerce includes purchases, page views and when products are added to a user’s cart or wishlist.
- Sessions: A session is any time a user engages with your app after install. This essential metric reveals how users are navigating their way through your user funnel. Tracking sessions can therefore reveal issues with the user journey and onboarding. You will also learn how many sessions it usually takes the average user to make a purchase – a metric that can then be optimized to increase revenue.
- Retention: This is how many users return to your app after a specified timeframe. Retention rates are useful for identifying when a user should be re-engaged, but they can also indicate whether customers have a positive user experience. If your retention rates are lower than expected, your app’s UX may be an issue.
- Churn: This metric shows how many users leave your app for good. If you have a high churn rate after one session, this is another indicator that there may be issues with your UX. For example, your onboarding may be frustrating users and causing them to churn without making a purchase.
Optimize your Call to Action (CTA)
Your CTAs are critical to moving users through the funnel. You should A/B test your CTAs for the best results, including variants of copy and placement. Design elements such as size and color will also affect performance and should be optimized.
If you found this guide useful, you may also be interested in how to streamline the user funnel and boost sales using social commerce trends. We also have a resource for improving mobile conversion rates for e-commerce apps.