5 Tips for Building a Successful Mobile Shopping App

Gone are the days where retailers needed a brick and mortar store or a booming catalog business to bring in sales. Online shopping is everything. Think about it – bored at work? You’re probably browsing your favorite clothing stores. Sitting around reading social media? How many links to awesome products do you click on?

If your store hasn’t yet created an app, you’re totally missing out – and here’s why. Mobile-commerce (or m-commerce) is a rapidly growing market. According to a report by BI Intelligence, mobile commerce is expected to generate 45 percent of all ecommerce sales by 2020. Right now, it’s currently responsible for about 20.6 percent of all ecommerce, which equals a whopping $79 billion.


Online shopping apps are the way of the future. In fact, 85 percent of smartphone users would rather shop via an app than a mobile website. Now is the perfect time for your business to jump on the m-commerce train.  The right app can generate thousands – and sometimes millions – in sales; you just have to make sure it has the right features.


Don’t know where to start? Here are some tips for building a successful mobile shopping app.

Keep It Simple


It’s true that mobile phone screens are growing (the iPhone 7S is nearly the size of a Kindle), but most users still only have a couple of inches to work with on their smartphone screens. This is why your app needs to have the following:

  • A simple, uncluttered layout
  • Easy to find navigation
  • A simple, effective search function
  • Clean, uncluttered homepage that highlights your promotions and/or popular products

Users aren’t going to adopt an app that’s complicated, cluttered and confusing to use. You’ll generate way more sales with a simple, clean UI and an easy search and navigation system that brings users to the products they want to see. When in doubt, go for less. You may have a million helpful features on your app, but when it comes down to it, customers won’t use something that seems overwhelming and cluttered when they open it up for the first time.

Look at some successful shopping apps for inspiration. Target and Etsy, some of the largest mcommerce retailers in the business, have clean, streamlined homepages.

Long Signups and Checkouts Will Kill Sales


You know what ropes a customer in? Buying on impulse. Don’t make your customers go through a difficult, annoying signup process when they just want to purchase a single product. The more time an unsure customer has to spend checking out, the less likely they are to buy. If a customer saves the item for later because they only have a few minutes, chances are they won’t return.  If you want to speed up the checkout process, consider the following:

  • Allow customers to use PayPal at checkout rather than having to type in credit card information.
  • Allow users to sign up using Facebook.
  • Don’t require users to create an account.
  • Store user information so it will auto-complete on future checkouts.

These aren’t the only features that will help generate sales on your shopping app, which I’ll get to in a second. If you’re still a bit unsure of where to go to get the whole project started, scroll down and I’ll help you begin.

Let Users Favorite Products


When you’re in the early stages of shopping app development, it’s important to think about what your customers really want. Most potential customers just like to browse their phones when they’re bored. They aren’t necessarily in the position to make an immediate purchase. If you don’t give potential customers a way to come back to the products they love when they’re browsing for fun, you’re going to miss out on a lot of potential sales. This is why it’s extremely important to allow users to create a wishlist or favorite products on your store’s app. When users are ready to purchase, they can look at the items they were deciding on without having to browse through pages and pages of products they don’t want.


Amazon has found much success with this model. Nearly 70 percent of Amazon customers placed orders via the mobile app during the 2015 holiday season, but they’re not alone. Millennial-oriented retailers like Urban Outfitters and Forever21 have found much success in this model – especially because they carry varying products and young users often need to wait for parental permission before making a purchase.

Make “Add to Cart” and “Checkout” Extremely Prominent and Easily Reachable


It’s probably pretty obvious to say that you should allow users to easily add items to their cart and checkout quickly. What you may not realize is that so much of this has to do with design. Your app should:

  • Have a large prominent “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button on each product page.
  • Have a prominent “View Cart” and “Checkout” Button in the top or bottom navigation.

If users don’t clearly see the “Buy Now” button, they may not even click. If users have to jump through hoops and go through various options just to reach the checkout page, you’ll never finalize the sale. Checkout and view cart buttons should be clearly positioned on every page a user visits.

It’s also really important to consider the thumb-friendly zone of a smartphone. Most users are right-handed, and important navigation options (including “Buy Now,” “Checkout” and back buttons) should be easily reachable with a user’s thumb.  The bigger the phone, the smaller the area a thumb can easily reach. Let your users browse with one hand while watching TV. Make it easy on them.

Make User Data Secure


This is one of the most important things you can do for your customers. If payment and information isn’t secure, users are extremely apprehensive to shop. Look at Target for example. The retailer lost an estimated 46 percent of profits because of their credit card data breach. According to The New York Post, this was a $440 million loss – a whole $292 million more than they had anticipated.

Don’t let this happen to your business.  If you need to spend more money when you develop an online shopping app to make sure it’s secure, that’s an investment that will easily see a return. Don’t take any chances.


The cost to build a mobile shopping app varies so much. It can cost anywhere from $1,000 for something basic to $500,000 or more. There’s no reason you can’t develop an app at a price that suits your business and see an almost immediate ROI. With how many users are abandoning tradition shopping for mcommerce, your business is going to miss out on a lot of sales if you don’t.


Mariel Loveland

Mariel Loveland

A professional tech writer and a tech enthusiast. I like sharing my knowledge and helping readers make educated decisions in the tech space.
Mariel Loveland