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How to Build an Online Shopping Mobile App for iOS

A market share of Android vs iOS

If you are wondering how to build a mobile app for online shopping on iOS, then you have seen how valuable iOS apps can be in this segment.

You either work for a startup or have an eCommerce website and want to create a mobile app for online shopping on iOS. The problems you face are obvious:

  1. Which platform you should build for – for iOS (iPhone) or Android?
  2. What features this app should have?
  3. How fast can you launch it?
  4. What expert developers you need to build a secure and fast mobile app for your online store, and where to find them?
  5. How much will it cost to build a decent mobile shopping app?

Our community of top dev teams have a lot of experience in building mobile apps for shopping, so we decided to put these useful tips and tricks together and answer the above questions for you. Let‘s start with the first one.

Which platform you should build for – for iOS (iPhone) or Android?

Before you start, it’s important to decide which platform to build first – iOS or Android.

Both Android and iOS are high popular platforms. A Statista report shows that as of December 2019, these two operating systems have cornered 99% of the global market share.

From reports like “Mobile operating system market share worldwide”, it’s clear that Android holds the largest market share of all mobile operating systems. This report shows that Android held 73.3% of the mobile OS market as of February 2020.

This doesn’t mean that you can ignore iOS! Aesthetic design and several other factors have ensured that iPhone users demonstrate high brand loyalty. Read more about this in “iPhone users have most brand loyalty”.

The rich ecosystem of Apple plays an important part in this. iPhone users are heavily invested in the iOS ecosystem, therefore, they are likely to remain highly loyal to Apple. You can read “After all these years, iPhone owners are still more loyal to the brand than Android users” to learn more about this. You are certainly making the right decision to build an iOS online shopping app.

This information alone is not enough to answer the question of how to make an online shopping app. Your customers aren‘t the whole market. Your customers represent a specific set of people who have a certain set of shopping habits and a certain monthly income. For example, valued at $4 billion, targets people who want to buy directly from China at an extremely low price. Most of this target audience value price over quality and don‘t have a high family income. As you can see from the graph below, Android-based smartphones are relatively cheap in comparison with iOS devices.

As a result, you would expect that many customers use Android-powered smartphones.
All this means that you need to understand who your customers are and the mobile phones they use. If you already have a webstore, you can check this in your Google Analytics. Go to Audience –> Mobile –> Devices

A screenshot of mobile store stats

This particular online store has more visits from iOS-powered devices – iPhone and iPad. If you see similar statistics for your online store, you can add one more point to the iOS mobile store and focus your effort on that. Now that you know how to define your audience, let‘s talk about the features your mobile store should have.

What features your mobile shopping app should have?

Obviously, you want the mobile app to provide all the same features as your online webstore. However, it‘s not always the best solution. You should consider things like simplicity, personalization, onboarding, etc. Let‘s look at them in more detail:

    • Only the necessary features
      A mobile shopping app shouldn‘t have all the features of your online store, but just the most important ones, the ones which help your customers discover a set of interesting goods, select the best ones, and purchase them with the least hassle. So, you will need registration, profile, a catalog of goods, search, a page for every item, checkout process pages, etc.
    • Mobile shopping personalization
      In 2016, using artificial intelligence technologies allows you to personalize the customer experience. For example, you can analyze which pages they previously visited in your mobile shopping app and offer similar ones, merging it with trends. In addition, you can analyze data from public sources and, based on your customers‘ social profiles, automatically show them exactly what they want.
    • Simple onboarding
      Help your customers start using your mobile store in the most efficient way. Implement a Facebook login and provide them with the least number of steps to find what they need and purchase it.
    • Engage with your customers regularly
      Once your app is in the pockets of your customers, don‘t fall into the trap of annoying push notifications. Instead, engage with them regularly, maybe once a week or month, with meaningful special offers and recommendations for holiday seasons.
    • Statistics and analytics
      You should measure everything your customers do on your mobile shopping app. Information about pages they visit, the time they spend on each of them, purchases they make, and other important metrics will allow you to not only improve your mobile app shopping experience but even build a self-educating system that will suggest improvements to your mobile app.

Plan for the mobile backend when you create an online shopping app

You want to focus on the front-end and business logic, don’t you? You need help with mobile backend. I recommend that you use a “Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service” (MBaaS) platform so that you don’t need to spend time to build and manage the backend.

Use AWS Amplify, i.e., the MBaaS platform from AWS. As I have explained in “How to choose the best Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)?”, MBaaS platforms offer many advantages, e.g.:

  • They manage the cloud infrastructure and persistent storage. You can save time from backend development and management.
  • You can easily integrate APIs, moreover, you can scale your mobile app easily.
  • You will find it easy to implement features like “push notifications”, user management, etc.

Plan to secure your online shopping app

Your online shopping mobile application on iOS will process sensitive personal information including payment details, won’t it? You need to proactively plan to secure it. Do the following:

  • Include security and compliance testing in your CI/CD pipeline proactively. Don’t leave them as the very last items in your project plan!
  • Proactively mitigate application security vulnerabilities like injection, broken authentication, etc.
  • Develop a native iOS app using a modern programming language like Swift. Native apps not only offer the best performance and “user experience” (UX), but they are also more secure. As I have explained in our guide “How to migrate your Objective-C project to Swift?”, Swift eliminated many common coding errors. This improves your chances of developing a secure app.
  • Use tools and techniques like multi-factor authentication (MFA), encryption, a next-generation firewall, an antivirus solution, and a real-time threat intelligence tool.
  • Institute a robust code review process in your project. You can detect some application security vulnerabilities only by a thorough code review. If you need experienced reviewers, then check out our guide “Why choosing DevTeam.Space to review your code can ensure your software product is a success”.
  • Secure your APIs using techniques like encryption, authentication tokens, digital signatures, quotas, throttling, and a secure gateway.
  • Make smart use of cloud computing, e.g., use a hybrid cloud deployment. Here, you use a private cloud to run workloads that process sensitive information. You can run your other workloads on a public cloud.

Wondering how to secure your iOS online shopping app? We at DevTeam.Space can help! Check out our guide “How to secure your Fintech app”.

Develop APIs for shopping application development

You now have a list of several key features, don’t you? How would you implement them?

Well, you can use 3rd party APIs for a few non-core features. An example is the “push notifications” feature, where you can use the “Apple Push Notification service” (APNs) API. You can consult its extensive documentation and learn how to integrate it into your iOS app.

How about the core features? Well, I recommend that you develop own APIs for this. This provides a consistent framework for your front-end to access the backend, moreover, it reduces unnecessary external dependencies.

How do you develop APIs? I recommend that you create RESTful APIs since REST (Representational State Transfer) is the de-facto standard for API development. Do the following:

  • Use your cloud hosting account to host APIs.
  • Use database resources like PostgreSQL for API development. You might need a document database for developing APIs for an online shopping app, and I recommend MongoDB.
  • Develop APIs using a tool like Postman, and document them using Swagger.
  • Secure your APIs as I have already explained.
  • Design the API URL endpoints smartly.
  • Formulate meaningful rules for API requests and responses.

Need help with RESTful API development? Check out our guide “How to build RESTful API for your mobile app?”.

How fast can you launch a mobile app for online shopping on iOS?

There are several aspects you need to take care of:

  1. “User interface” (UI) design, where you need to follow the “Human Interface Guidelines”;
  2. Build the mobile app itself

Let‘s say, based on your online store statistics, you decide to launch a mobile app for online shopping on iOS first. You also have a basic set of features. Your mobile app should be connected to your website and utilize the backend infrastructure you have. Why is this important? Because if your online shop is built correctly and you have a solid backend, there will be no issues or delays. Conversely, if your backend infrastructure isn‘t ready for a mobile app, you will need to spend time making changes there, too.

With the design, everything could vary. You may want to use the same style you have on your website, but it should be adjusted for the mobile interface, and you need to allocate the time for that work, too. Or you may want to build a new design, which can take even more time.

If you “hope for the best, plan for the worst”, you can expect a rough estimate of 1 to 3 months. Keep in mind that everything depends on your decisions, goals, budget, and deadlines.

What expert developers you need to hire to build a secure and fast mobile app for your online store, and where to find them?

In addition to the production process above, you need to do some preparation work. First of all, it’s important to build a team capable of building a successful mobile app. You will need three types of specialists to build a secure and fast app for your online store:

  1. iOS developer
  2. Backend developer
  3. Designer

Considering that mobile shopping is skyrocketing, it‘s a serious step for you and your company and not something you can afford to screw up. Obviously, you need to have a great dev team to execute your mobile shopping app development process well. Some say you can use some cheap platforms and launch a template-based mobile app, but in reality, it rarely lasts long enough, requires a lot of time to align it with your backend infrastructure, and doesn‘t provide enough flexibility for future development. Thus better to go with a custom solution that requires you to hire iOS developers. Although costlier, this approach will ensure that your new app is reliable and top-notch.

To narrow your circle, it‘s better to work with a dev team, rather than individual developers. It‘s also important to work with a dev team who have successfully built similar apps before. This will minimize the risks and help you build a better product.

I know it‘s difficult to find an expert dev team that has worked on a similar project before and is also great at communication.

Good news. If you don‘t know where to start, you can try DevTeamSpace, an artificial intelligence enhanced community of top dev teams. We‘ve built many successful mobile shopping apps. We use artificial intelligence technologies to allocate one of our top dev teams to a project, based on the team‘s relevant expertise and availability. We support every client with an account manager, a tech project manager, and daily automated updates and roadblocks tracking, decreasing delays by up to 90%. To chat with us, simply submit your project here.

How much does it cost to build a mobile shopping app for iOS?

Now that you know what to do, the last piece of the puzzle is planning a budget for your mobile shopping app. Your situation could be different from your competitors. Maybe you are on a tight budget and don‘t want to spend much. On the other hand, maybe you have plenty of resources and don‘t even want to limit yourself with a specific number. Either way, you should learn what the market rates are and plan your budget accordingly, or at least consider several options.

Here is what Google says on this search request:

A screenshot of Google search "How much it costs to build a mobile shopping app

It could be true to some extent. But in reality, you can build your first version of the app (or MVP – minimum viable product) for anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. It all depends on the features you want to implement and the design. If you aren‘t sure how to budget for your app, talk to our tech project manager who will provide you with a free quote.

Once you have an iOS app launched, you can refocus your efforts and ask your dev team to develop a shopping application for Android. By the way, you can save a lot of resources and time developing native applications using React Native or Xamarin. You can read more about these technologies in our other article on our Medium publication here


Glad you made it down here! I hope this article was helpful as we deconstructed the sentence “How to develop a mobile app for online shopping on iOS” into a clear set of instructions and data which you can apply to your online shopping business.

If this article has been helpful for you, feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues on social media and via email!