Mobile devices play a pretty big part in consumers’ daily lives, especially when it comes to shopping online.
While online businesses once had to worry about mobile-responsive design to capture mobile shoppers, they’re now expanding into the area of ecommerce apps. Nearly nine in 10 people have a mobile shopping app on their phone, and nearly a third actually prefer shopping this way over in-store shopping or via a mobile or desktop website.
An ecommerce app with an intuitive and highly functional build can help online stores boost their sales. Plus, that coveted spot on a customer’s home page and notifications screen can offer additional marketing opportunities and can help build brand loyalty.
What is an ecommerce app?
An ecommerce app—sometimes referred to as a mobile commerce app—is a piece of software that allows customers to browse and purchase items from an ecommerce store.
Mobile commerce apps are beneficial for both business owners and their customers. Brands can better engage their customers in a dedicated space and customers can personalize and control their experience. And thanks to platforms like Shopify, the mobile app development process can be pretty painless, too.
Note that an ecommerce app is different from social commerce—the practice of creating sales channels via social media, i.e., selling on Facebook or shopping via Instagram. While social commerce is a growing and valuable trend, the term “ecommerce app” refers specifically to a dedicated piece of software associated with a specific brand.
What are the features of ecommerce apps?
While aspects like presentation and design are somewhat different across different ecommerce platforms, all mobile commerce apps have a few features in common—some that are essential, and those that are nice to have.
Essential features of an ecommerce app
- Search and browse functions. Whether it’s searching for a specific item or browsing the latest products, the point of an ecommerce app is to make finding products as easy as possible.
- Shopping carts. All mobile commerce apps need a shopping cart where customers can easily add items, change quantities, and so on.
- Customer support. Sometimes, customers need help navigating an online store, whether they’ve made a mistake with their purchase, or would like to initiate a return or exchange. That process is a whole lot easier when there’s some level of quality customer service within the mobile app.
Learn more: Extend your app code into checkout and customize many aspects of the checkout experience. Explore checkout app extensions for Shopify.
Optional features of an ecommerce app
- Multiple payment options. Having multiple payment options creates an easy and seamless checkout process. It also offers customers some added flexibility—they can choose between paying with a credit card, through a service like PayPal, or perhaps with a buy now, pay later (BNPL) provider like Affirm.
- Push notifications. By enabling push notifications, you can notify customers about restocked items, remind them about items still in their shopping carts, and more.
Types of ecommerce apps
When it comes to selling to consumers, there are three main types of mobile commerce apps:
- Business-to-consumer (B2C). B2C mobile apps are the most commonly used ecommerce apps today. They connect businesses selling goods and services to individual customers. Examples include apps for online stores like Amazon and Nordstrom.
- Business-to-business (B2B). B2B mobile apps are for businesses selling to other businesses online. This could include an online store for office furniture, a site selling business software subscriptions, or an ecommerce website for facilitating wholesale products. An example of a B2B ecommerce app could include Alibaba or Office Depot.
- Consumer-to-consumer (C2C). C2C ecommerce apps connect two or more consumers so they can exchange goods or services with each other. Examples include apps like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Poshmark.
Best ecommerce apps for sellers
Apps are for all kinds of uses, including both shopping and selling. Some of the top ecommerce apps for sellers include:
Shopify’s mobile app, available for iOS and Android, is packed with features to help you run every aspect of your business. Create your online store and promote it with built-in SEO, social media, and marketing tools. You can also keep track of sales, payments, and fulfillments, all from your phone.
Easily share products across social media, build beautiful email marketing campaigns in just a few taps, and accept payments in person with Tap to Pay on iPhone for Shopify POS. Shopify’s mobile app gives you a single place to manage orders, shipping, inventory, payments, and more, from any screen.
2. Shopify Inbox
While you chat, you can use live customer information like products viewed, what’s in their cart, and past orders to tailor your message to your customer. You can even recommend products or offer discounts to increase order value. It also has features to help you help customers faster with automated replies, FAQs, and a personal chat experience.
Skin care brand Bubbles & Balms uses Shopify Inbox on its website to connect with customers and help them along the purchase journey.
3. Shopify Point of Sale
Shopify Point of Sale has everything you need to expand to in-person sales. The app is available on the Shopify App Store, as well as for iOS and Android mobile devices. Shopify POS unifies your online and retail stores to strengthen sales conversions everywhere you sell, streamlines store management, and helps you build stronger relationships with your customers.
It has all the essential features you need to make sales, track performance, and manage customers, orders, and inventory. With local pickup and delivery—and the ability to sell inventory from other locations—you can reach more customers and give them seamless shopping experiences.
4. Simprosys Google Shopping Feed
Simprosys Google Shopping Feed is a Shopify app that enhances multichannel selling for your online store. It essentially creates and submits product feeds to channels like Google Shopping, Facebook, Pinterest, and more.
Other features include international selling features like multi-language and currency, attribution customization, bulk editing, and direct checkout links.
Another Shopify app, UpCart—Cart Drawer Cart Upsell allows you to customize your checkout experience and boost your upselling strategy. Create a shopping cart that looks and feels like the rest of your site. You can also boost conversions with features for upselling, cross-selling, and product add-ons, as well as a sticky cart button.
You can use UpCart to create a free shipping or discount promotion bar and cart announcements.
Best ecommerce apps for shoppers
On the consumer side, there are also many ecommerce apps to use for online shopping. It’s helpful to know these as a merchant so you can consider whether they’re channels worth pursuing with your business.
The Shop app is a way for consumers to discover the latest global brands. Available on iOS and Android, as well as the Shopify App Store, Shop shows consumers products from Shopify merchants all over the world. Features include one-tap checkout, order tracking, and Shop Cash rewards.
With the Shop app on your Shopify store, you can take control of your brand presence on the Shop app. Ensure your mobile app storefront reflects your brand, manage products and collections to improve discoverability, engage directly with customers, and use automation to boost sales and review analytics about impressions, favorites, orders, and sales.
Amazon is the world’s largest ecommerce marketplace, shipping to customers in more than 100 countries. Merchants and customers from all over the world use the mobile app to shop for all kinds of products across pretty much every niche you can think of. In 2022, US-based sellers had more than $230,000 in average sales.
You can use your Shopify products for your own Amazon store. There are tons of Shopify apps available to help you integrate the third-party channel into your overall ecommerce business.
TikTok is a video-based social media app that also has commerce features. It didn’t start out with social commerce functionality, though TikTok Shop has since changed that. Now, users can browse a dedicated shop tab, shop live, and check out in the app.
One survey found that 78% of small business owners said they received a positive ROI through TikTok marketing. You can also use the TikTok Shopify app to sell directly via TikTok Shop. This functionality is only available to US sellers, though those in other countries can use the app to easily sync your product catalog, run ads, and track performance with the TikTok pixel.
Another social media platform, Pinterest also has commerce and shopping features for users. They can browse pins and click through to products featured in those pins to learn more and even make a purchase in-app.
Ecommerce businesses can sign up for Pinterest Shopping and upload product catalogs to offer them for sale and create ad campaigns to promote those products. Shopify merchants can use the Pinterest Shopify app to sync product catalogs and track their efforts.
5. Facebook and Instagram
Facebook and Instagram have become popular ecommerce apps among consumers. No longer strictly social media, the addition of Facebook and Instagram Shops have turned the mobile apps into immersive, socially driven commerce experiences.
And Shopify merchants are well-poised to take advantage of these platforms with the Facebook and Instagram Shops Shopify app. Easily set up your shop with a one-time account connection and tap into features like sales and marketing tools, automatic inventory syncing, and shop insights, including best performing products and top tagged content.
Advantages of developing an ecommerce app
No matter what type of ecommerce app fits your business model, developing an ecommerce app is beneficial for both business owners and consumers. Here’s how:
- Speed. Ecommerce apps typically store their data locally on mobile devices, making them speedier and more user-friendly than their mobile web counterparts. Faster load times can lead to higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates—meaning customers are less likely to abandon their carts and business owners are more likely to increase their revenue potential with a speedy mobile app.
- Visibility. Having your ecommerce app on your customers’ home screens is a big win. And thanks to features like push notifications, online stores can reach their consumers wherever they are—even if they’re interacting with a different app. Push notifications are an easy way to encourage consumers to return to your app, especially if you use them to offer deals or exclusive discounts.
- Personalization. Ecommerce apps allow consumers to personalize their shopping experience, whether it’s saving their sizes or adding their favorite items to a wishlist. In exchange, business owners can get greater insight into what their customers want, and tailor real-time communication to a customer’s specific preferences.
Move forward with ecommerce apps and Shopify
There’s a good reason ecommerce apps are so popular. With a few essential tools—push notifications, a shopping cart, multiple payment options, and customer support—these apps make it painless for customers to spend their time (and their money) with your brand.
Beyond that, a dedicated mobile app can help those in the ecommerce industry boost their visibility, increase their revenue, and establish a sense of brand loyalty at the click of a button. The best part? Customers can personalize their experience to make sure they’re getting exactly what they want.