Creating Mobile Commerce App – 4 Questions to Answer

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eCommerce became a part of our lives some time ago. Over time, shoppers got used to the convenience of browsing a significantly expanded offer of regular stores online as well as making safe contactless online payments. However, the pandemic caused the biggest shift in our behavior as consumers. Most people started shopping online even more to adapt and overcome post-pandemic challenges. Over time, we got used to the conveniences of buying items online.

The demand for eCommerce skyrocketed in 2020, fueled by the health crisis. According to UNCTAD, eCommerce's share of global retail trade surged from 14% in 2019 to 17% in 2020. ReportLinker projects that the eCommerce market will grow at a CAGR of 29% from 2021 to 2025, expanding by $10.87 trillion. eCommerce growth is also fueled by new amenities, such as the possibility of shopping via mobile applications. Nowadays, mCommerce is as important for business as shopping through online web stores.

This article focuses on 4 essential questions that you need to answer before building your custom mobile commerce app.

What is the difference between eCommerce and mCommerce?

M-commerce is an extension of e-commerce where commercial transactions are performed over mobile devices. Over the years, mobile phones have evolved from rudimentary wireless telephones to mini-computers packed with cutting-edge tech. This evolution enabled new mobile phone use cases, including m-commerce. Mobile usage in eCommerce isn’t a fad but a natural progression of technology. 

According to eMarketer research, mCommerce hit $3.5 trillion in 2021. This figure is 72.9% of global eCommerce sales, increasing from 67.2% of $2.32 trillion recorded in 2019. About 79% of smartphone owners in the US shop online using their mobile devices. To exploit this opportunity, create a custom mCommerce app for your business. 

Currently, mCommerce is commonly used in retail sectors like clothes and electronics. But other industries like healthcare are also going mobile to provide medical services to the masses. Today, more people see their doctors virtually and undergo firsthand medical treatment online. Consumers can access and purchase most services and products online using their smartphones and as an eCommerce business, you create a custom mCommerce app to increase sales. 

eCommerce applications market overview

Following data from Statista, countries with the highest retail mobile commerce sales growth in 2021 were: Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, and United Kingdom. Consumers switch to mobile e-commerce apps to discover more information on products and services, and also due to greater accessibility to mobile devices and better customer support. In the United States, the age groups who shopped on their mobile phones the most in 2020 were 25-34 and 18-24.

Along with the expanding number of consumers, the e-commerce application market has grown. All the retail marketplaces now offer both desktop and mobile experiences to be competitive. Moreover, eCommerce User Experience is now more critical than ever, significantly impacting online sales. It ensures that customers can easily find what they need, order, and purchase in just a few clicks. According to Adobe, 38% of online shoppers will leave a website if they find the design unattractive.

1. When is a good idea to create your custom mCommerce app?

As shown above, the demand for mobile-based online shopping is rising fast. According to eMarketer, m-commerce sales increased by more than $1.1 trillion only between 2019 and 2021. Now is probably the best time to create your m-commerce app. But should you build a custom app or subscribe to existing SaaS platforms? 

There are tons of SaaS solutions for e-commerce businesses. These platforms allow online entrepreneurs and stores to manage their websites, products, and customers. 

Shopify: Shopify is the world’s largest SaaS e-commerce platform. It offers intuitive dashboards, easy setup, and user-friendly inventory management tools. You can also customize your app with unique themes to stand out from the crowd.

WooCommerce: This is a free eCommerce software solution with SaaS WordPress plugins. You can build your online store on the WooCommerce platform. Then, leverage its SaaS solutions to sell services and products, bill customers, recover abandoned carts, and more. 

Magento: This eCommerce platform offers robust features and a variety of themes and plugins. You can rely on its community of developers to build your store.

Other popular SaaS eCommerce platforms include BigCommerce, Volusion, and 3dcart. These solutions are ideal for selling digital goods or physical products, such as clothes and electronics, but they also have some limitations. 

For example, Shopify doesn’t provide built-in features for subscriptions. To sell subscriptions on Shopify, you have to create a Shopify store and subscribe to a paid plan. Then, it’s necessary to buy a third-party subscription app like ReCharge or Bold from Shopify App Store to incorporate this function into your store. 

If you want to build a more sophisticated m-commerce platform or marketplace, the capabilities provided by these tools may not meet your requirements.

Here are two scenarios where you’ll need to build a custom mobile commerce app: 

  • Selling products and services online via mobile devices unlocks new revenue streams and opportunities for business. For example, you can leverage geo-tracking and programmatic advertising to target potential customers with time-specific content. You’ll need a custom m-commerce app to exploit new opportunities beyond the traditional e-commerce space.  
  • Do you want to offer more customized value? With a mobile commerce app, you can customize your processes, products, and services to your customers’ needs. It allows you to target customers more effectively and provide more value for money than conventional e-commerce sites. 

Takeaway: Analyze existing m-commerce solutions based on your needs. Most platforms provide features and tools to support standard business models. If you cannot find a solution that fits your model, consider creating a custom mobile commerce app.  

2. What is necessary while building the mCommerce app?

By definition, mCommerce apps enable users to buy and sell products through mobile devices. Ensure your custom app has all the features and functionalities needed to fulfill this bare minimum requirement. 

Here are the basics of developing a functional mCommerce app: 

Logistics: If you offer physical goods, consider physical world issues. Only software businesses are immune to supply chain issues. Create a supply chain emergency plan for products going through global logistics chains. Think about alternative routes or channels to move goods in case of disruptions. Build up inventory and partner with a fulfillment and supply chain expert. You can also leverage AI-enabled solutions designed to evaluate supply chain threats.  

Limitations: The ideal scenario is to have your physical products ready for sale before launching your custom mCommerce app. But this is not always the case. If your app cannot launch without a physical product, ensure you have some ways to pivot. You can offer part of the experience online or find another supplier. Innovative eCommerce stores use 3D technology to create life-like images without the actual product. 

Product journey: When your product is ready for sale, design its journey. Visualize the entire process, from receiving customers’ orders to delivering their packages. What actions should be performed for successful order fulfillment? Your custom mCommerce app must capture users’ order information and delivery address. Then, transfer the data to the team preparing the package. You can partner with several logistics companies to handle transportation. Don’t forget to facilitate the return of goods. 

Order management: Efficient order management goes beyond invoices and tracking sales. You’ll also need to align orders with inventory levels. For example, your mCommerce app should alert you if a customer’s order exceeds available stock. Then, inform the customer and send an email to remind your ordering manager to restock. To avoid surprises, automate this process. You can find third-party providers who offer procurement services and online communication. Combine these two functionalities to create a seamless and automated order management process. 

Legal issues: Don’t forget about legal stuff. As the business owner, you’re responsible for all products delivered to customers abroad. Each transaction should align with local law on the receiver's side. However, there are online tools that help online stores streamline this process. For example, you can use TaxJar integration for sales tax. This solution can calculate the tax and other duties for your transactions. 

7 Functionalities of mobile e-commerce applications that support offline sales

Customers not only shop online from their homes but also while commuting or doing other activities on the go. Another case is that now, even stationery stores encourage customers to use their mobile applications during a visit to the offline store. In this way, brands want to make their offer more attractive and have a better chance of selling as many products as possible. It is often seen in drugstores' sales strategies.

What are the features that help stationery stores to sell more online?

Integrated loyalty card and gift card: Loyalty cards and gift cards have a very long history that goes beyond the times of the internet, but now their plastic versions are a thing of the past. Including the card code in the mobile application means that shoppers always have it at hand, and thus they can collect points. Points, in turn, are often associated with discounts, which encourages us to buy more or go to this specific store where we have a customer card.

Product scan for rating and reviews (visual search tool): What's interesting about reviews is that consumers tend not to trust advertisements, but they do trust reviews. 90% of consumers claim positive reviews influenced their decision to buy. Product reviews help build trust. Thus, the important feature is to offer the possibility to scan a product via a mobile app while offline shopping to find out more about the product's purpose and its reviews.

Curated shopping lists: Online shopping helps customers save time. It also applies to shopping lists prepared by the store in advance. Such curated shopping lists can cover many different aspects. It is enough to look at the holiday topic: from completing the clothes set, items needed for camping to the list of food or cosmetic products. It all depends on what your store offers. Such lists need to be configurable so users can easily customize them by deleting or adding items. Then they can order them online or use the pick up at store option.

Smart stock up: A huge difference between offline and online shopping is the amount of data collected about buyers. Modern mCommerce apps use machine learning to predict when customers run low on a product. Your application then sends a notification to the specific user that soon they may need a particular item. In the message, you can also add the link to the product in your store so they can easily reorder it without the need to browse.

Personalized alerts about offers available in-store: This feature can be used in many cases. One of the most common is when a customer adds to a list described as "favorites" products they like, but they aren't sure about buying yet, or the price is too high. Then they can receive notification about the lower cost of the "favorite" product or a special offer. It often boosts their willingness to purchase the product they considered buying in the past.

Live check for availability: Some people still prefer to do shopping offline. It mainly refers to the clothing industry, food industry, or electronics when we want something right away or see how it looks physically. There is nothing more annoying than finding a product online and then going to buy it offline, and it isn't there. You may quickly lose your customer. That's why many brands offer an option to check if a specific product is available in any store in your area.

Exclusive discounts: Exclusive discounts are based on two techniques. 1. Offering something at a better price only for a specific time, the so-called "limited offer." 2. Preparation of a discount dedicated to specific users, the so-called "unique offer" that applies to the products they viewed or were interested in buying. This fuels buyers' interest in making a purchase even if they don't necessarily need the product at the moment.

3. How to collect online payments in your mobile Commerce app?

Collecting payments is the lifeblood of any business. Ideally, you should prioritize data security and provide multiple payment methods to attract more customers. If you sell products globally, your payment system should convert to different currencies. For example, Stripe supports 139 currencies and automatically converts the funds. But all systems are not equal. 

Consider these factors when choosing online payment options for your custom mCommerce app:  

Payment Cycles: Do you collect one-time or recurring event-based payments? The nature of your products and services will determine the most appropriate option for your m-commerce app. With one-time payments, the customer pays once. So, you secure the entire amount of the product or service in a single transaction. This payment option is ideal for physical and software products. If you offer subscription services, use recurring payments. You’ll need a robust solution that allows you to schedule payments periodically, such as weekly, monthly, or yearly. Platforms like Stripe offer an all-in-one application for one-time and recurring transactions. 

Subscription management: To manage recurring payments, you’ll need robust features and tools. This service works alongside payment gateways and handles your subscriptions every cycle. However, most ready-to-go solutions don't offer substantial payment options and features. For example, WooCommerce users have to pay for plugins to incorporate subscription capabilities into their apps. Some m-commerce platforms don’t provide support for subscription-based payments. Take some time to analyze online payment solutions before creating your custom m-commerce app. 

Transactional costs: Each transaction is a cost. As a startup business, you need effective strategies to preserve scarce resources. Automating everything is costly. The cost-effective option is to automate mission-critical processes and handle low-risk tasks manually. For example, automatic refunds are prone to risks. Payment solutions like Stripe allow you to refund ACH charges using the Refund endpoint. But the refund process can fail due to several reasons. So, you’ll need to return the funds to your customer using other channels. To avoid this risk and cut costs, handle refunds manually. 

4. Does your mCommerce app require communication with a user?

Obviously, every business needs to interact with the target audience. Integrate e-mails, newsletters, push notifications, and other marketing tools in your mCommerce app to convey targeted messages to users. The idea is to have multiple direct channels linking your startup to customers. 

Here are some tips to consider when building your mobile commerce app: 

Custom communication tools: If your business model involves extensive interaction with users, find a solution that fits your business and offers the best user experience. But existing tools may not meet your requirements. So, you’ll have to consider adopting custom communication channels like embedded chat. Unlike pop-ups, an embedded chat window opens right on the page once the user clicks the chat button. Users can minimize the window and reopen it later to continue the chat. 

Notifications: Implementing notifications in your mCommerce app can help you convey instant messages to the users. In this case, build your custom app using native solutions like Flutter. This cross-platform framework allows mobile app developers to calibrate local notification packages for iOS and Android devices. You can also use PWA to build your app. However, this option does not offer a seamless experience with notifications blocked on iOS devices.

Back-office management: Don’t forget the back office, the nerve center of your business. It is also the beacon of truth for your products. Consolidate all your orders, payments, and communications in one place to streamline your workflow. It can help visualize mission-critical information, making it easier for your business to handle customer inquiries. You can use custom solutions supported by the shelf tools for back-office management. So you won’t have to reinvent the wheel from scratch. 

Key takeaways about developing mobile Commerce apps

The benefits of mCommerce apps are undeniable. With the ever-increasing demand for online shopping, your business may need a custom application to be able to attract the attention of modern shoppers and become part of their new shopping habits. But first, consider these tips: 

1. Validate your idea by trying to build your solution with already existing SaaS e-commerce apps, platforms, and services. 

2. If you can’t find a solution that suits your business, consider creating a custom m-commerce app. Custom app development can deliver a solution that better fits your business model.

3. If you decide to custom-build your app, consider app development best practices and tips. Use the best solutions to collect online payments and streamline your back-office workflow. Don't forget the offline side of things, from logistics to procurement and legal stuff. 

With recent changes in consumer behavior, businesses can leverage mobile apps to unlock new opportunities. You can rely on LeanCode if you want to build your custom mCommerce app that works efficiently and represents the current UI and UX trends.

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