E-commerce Mobile App Development – 12 Best Practices | Business Perspective
How to design an e-commerce app that generates sales and engagement? Here are 12 best practices for e-commerce mobile app development.
The volume of online sales is constantly on the rise, suggesting that an increasing number of consumers today prefer shopping online to browsing items in brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce companies are doing everything they can to offer their customers a great experience and stand out from their vast competition. That’s why so many of them are now turning to e-commerce mobile app development.
They build applications to forge a strong connection with their customer base and raise their sales volume. Experts predict that by 2021, mobile commerce sales will account for more than half of total e-commerce sales. The volume of mobile commerce sales is expected to more than double between 2017 and 2020, reaching a smashing $336 billion in 2020.
Why design matters
At Droids On Roids, we know that the profitability of e-commerce applications is closely connected with design decisions, more so than in the case of other digital products.
Great design will increase the chances that the app attracts more users by offering great visual performance and a smooth user experience. A well-designed app also streamlines the buyer’s journey and increases the likelihood that customers complete a purchase.
If you’re looking to create a mobile app designed for e-commerce, you’re probably wondering where to start and how to make sure that it satisfies the design criteria for success.
In this article, we explore the best practices in e-commerce mobile app development, building on the experience our team has gained through developing mobile e-commerce apps for our clients operating in different sectors.
Table of contents:
- Build a consistent navigation
- Simplify the User Interface (UI)
- Optimize your images
- Streamline the sign-up process
- Ensure that your design fits the smallest screen
- Consider one-handed input
- Add Call-to-Action Buttons
- Test and optimize your UX assumptions
- Apply recognition patterns
- Include descriptive text
- Include a progress bar
- Streamline the checkout process
What is m-commerce? Definition and types of m-commerce applications
Before we delve into the process of developing mobile commerce applications, let’s quickly recap the basics you need to know to get started.
M-commerce refers to any sort of transaction completed with a mobile device. It can be a smartphone, tablet, or even a wearable device.
The emergence of mobile commerce brought us brand-new industries and services. Just consider powerful technology trends like mobile banking, contactless payments, location-based services, mobile tickets, and boarding passes. All of these things are today part of our customer experience. But none of them would be possible if the sector of mobile commerce hasn’t expanded the way it did during the last decade.
Why are so many companies investing in mobile e-commerce applications?
Here are a few benefits that account for the popularity of mobile commerce apps today:
- M-commerce applications provide better user experience by allowing customers to make purchases on the go.
- Companies can track user behavior easily through mobile analytics and provide personalized product recommendations on the basis of gathered data.
- Mobile commerce features such as push notifications enable direct communication with customers and open new marketing opportunities.
- M-commerce is an excellent entry point for data-driven sales and marketing strategies.
- Mobile commerce apps amplify the experience of customers shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.
- Such apps can also take advantage of hardware features of mobile devices such as geolocation to deliver even more personalized experience – for instance, based on the customer’s real-time location.
12 best practices of e-commerce mobile app development
Now that we got the basics out of the way let’s focus on how you can ensure that your mobile commerce application helps your business enjoy all the advantages we listed above.
1. Build a consistent navigation
When it comes to mobile app design, navigation is a critical matter. Note that when viewed on a mobile screen, you will have around 2-3 inches to display the most important content. This means that you need to use space efficiently. It’s also the reason why so many app designers rely on icons rather than text links.
Most mobile commerce apps include header menus that feature the company’s logo, search icon, cart icon, and an icon that represents category navigation (and, for example, reveals a hamburger menu). You can also include links to store location finder, customer service contact, or account sign in.
Here are a few tips for designing your mobile commerce navigation:
- Display the navigation on every single screen (except for checkout) – that way, the users of your app will be able to quickly return to the homepage or check out other product categories. Checkout screens are a little different because you need to focus the user on getting through the process as swiftly as possible and navigation might distract the user from completing the journey.
- Make sure that your logo is large enough to be recognizable.
- Add labels to icons that might be ambiguous – while some are universally recognizable (like cart or search), others might be problematic and will benefit from clear labels.
- Consider your menu as the primary Call-to-Action – your navigation menu is the most important place of interaction, so make sure that it’s attention-grabbing and contextually-relevant.
- Place your search box in a visible place; your app users will want to take advantage of the search option.
2. Simplify the User Interface (UI)
Mobile commerce applications are usually displayed on smaller screens. That’s why you need to make sure that your User Interface (UI) is as simple as possible – even if all you want to do is tell more about your product and show more photos. Too much content isn’t going to help you sell more products. In fact, it might push users away.
Similarly, if you include too many UI elements in your app, the final look might become messy, especially on a smaller screen of a smartphone. Your users need to be able to distinguish the key elements of your app easily.
That’s why it’s best to minimize the number of elements per screen and leave only the essential ones. Make sure that your headers and descriptions are short, captivating, and inspire users to explore your offer. Avoid long paragraphs of text or overly complex headings.
You can optimize your application’s UI by designing and implementing a design system. Such a system helps to maintain visual consistency while developing the app during the next iterations.
3. Optimize your images
Even if your product images will be displayed on smaller screens, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t optimize them for quality. Remember that online shopping relies on high-quality images and other visualization features.
What you’re trying to do here is provide a realistic shopping experience, which is similar to the one customers have in brick-and-mortar stores. That’s why it’s smart to include high-quality images that present products realistically. This element helps to build trust in your brand and increases customer retention.
4. Streamline the sign-up process
One of the first actions the users of your app will perform is registering or logging into your app. Avoid burdening them with a long sign-up process – or risk that the customer experience is forever ruined.
Some mobile commerce apps make the mistake of forcing users to include a lot of information in the registration form. But consider this: it’s not really necessary to take all the personal data from the user right from the start. You can encourage them to fill out their profile later – for example, at the checkout. All you need at this point is basic information such as their name, email address, and phone number.
To onboard new customers faster, offer the option for registering using their social media profiles. Once they’re registered, direct your users to the product page immediately.
5. Ensure that your design fits the smallest screen
M-commerce applications need to be adjusted to fit the smallest screens of mobile devices. You will achieve the best results by adopting a mobile-first approach in designing your app for a larger device.
Start by developing the essential features of your design and then gradually cover the more complex scenarios that may take place on devices with larger screens, such as tablets. It’s much easier to start with the smallest screen rather than going the opposite way and trying to squeeze all the content you came up with for a large screen into a small screen.
Also, note that small screens present unique challenges. For example, you need to make sure that users can tap on icons with their fingers easily. Fonts also need to be large enough to enable customers to read your copy.
6. Consider one-handed input
Consumers use mobile devices in different ways. Consider how users will be holding their smartphones or tablets when designing your app. Fortunately, there are many research studies on the topic then suggest possible solutions.
For example, UX Matters found out that almost 50% of users use one hand to navigate mobile apps. And 15% of them use two hands.
Consider one-handed input when designing your app. It’s best to make it possible for users to input essential data and navigate your app using only one hand. All the critical layout elements need to be placed in comfortable areas, so they’re easy to reach. That’s why so many m-commerce apps have their key navigation elements on the bottom of the screen.
7. Add Call-to-Action Buttons
A successful mobile commerce application is peppered with CTA buttons that are placed in the most convenient locations. CTA buttons play a critical role in converting users into paying customers. They need to be clear, compelling and provide guidance to your customers towards making a purchase.
The color, placement, size, and text on the buttons all influence the purchasing decisions of your users. Here are a few tips for designing the most efficient CTA buttons:
- Use colors that make your buttons stand out from their surroundings.
- Write content on your CTA buttons that convey a sense of urgency – for example, “Buy now” or “Checkout Now.”
- Use multiple CTAs on long product pages – that’s how you increase its conversion rate.
- Provide CTAs that direct app users to checkout as quickly as possible – for example, you can display a button once the shopper has added an item to the basket so that they instantly proceed to checkout.
8. Test and optimize your UX assumptions
The best way to approach the e-commerce mobile app development is by releasing the app in iterations. It’s a good idea to test and optimize your UX assumptions on a regular basis. For instance, you go for A/B testing or introduce updates and then tracking how users respond to it.
That’s the reason why so many companies start building their apps with a Minimum Viable Product and test their UX assumptions with each iteration. They use the MVP to gather feedback from their target audience and refine their product before releasing it in the full version.
- Read this article from our blog to learn how to define the requirements for your MVP app: How to Build a Minimum Viable Product – MVP Guide for App Owners
9. Apply recognition patterns
Human brains get used to patterns quickly. If users encounter a broken pattern, they might react to it negatively. Such human behaviors influence the UI design of mobile commerce apps.
To create intuitive navigation, you need to take advantage of the most widespread recognition patterns. These are the common elements that are familiar to users from other e-commerce applications – for example, the cart icon.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t create any custom elements for your app. But pay attention to the recognition patterns and feature familiar elements alongside new ones so that your users can easily learn how your app works.
10. Include descriptive text
Do you know what the most common reason why users give up a purchase and abandon their carts is? They fail to complete the form.
That’s why it’s so important that app designers create usable forms that mitigate that risk. This is where descriptive text plays a critical role. The descriptive text offers you a chance to explain how to fill out the form correctly and streamline the entire process.
If your mobile commerce app features complex text, consider hiding it behind the tooltip that generates the content. Use clear and short titles, descriptions, and icons. Avoid using text that bears no relation to the product whatsoever. It’s important that shoppers recognize the description as relevant instantly.
11. Include a progress bar
Mobile shoppers like to know where they are in the process of making a purchase and where they’re going next. A progress bar helps to communicate these details easily and indicate how much longer they need to stay in your app until their purchase is complete.
The journalist, Daniel Engber, captured the benefits of a progress bar in his TED talk, How the progress bar keeps you sane: “It turns the experience of waiting into this exciting narrative that you’re seeing unfold in front of you.”
The truth is that the majority of e-commerce stores today show a bar that guides users through the checkout process. There’s no reason why a mobile e-commerce app shouldn’t take advantage of this solution.
12. Streamline the checkout process
Your app’s checkout is the most important area where so many things can go wrong. Remember that app users tend to be impatient and not willing to wait, so if your app is slow, they’re likely to abandon it and choose a faster one. The checkout is a major process of every e-commerce application, so you need to be sure that it’s swift and streamlined.
Here are a few ideas to help you design a smooth checkout process:
- Ask users to enter their personal data (including credit card) during sign up or while using the app. That way, users will need to enter this data only once, and all the forms will be filled automatically at checkout.
- Make sure that users can save their card and e-wallet details.
- Provide a fast way through the payment gateways.
- Allow shoppers to view their shopping cart once more, providing clear information about the products, prices, and shipping costs. Mention the estimated delivery date as well.
- Add a “Save for later” feature to your shopping cart.
- Optimize your delivery address form by limiting the number of input fields, indicating required fields with an asterisk, and placing labels that describe fields.
- Use intelligent auto-suggestions and address lookup. Introduce address assistance and auto-fill to save the time it takes for customers to fill out the form. Another benefit is that it reduces the potential errors.
The e-commerce mobile app development process is riddled with challenges. After all, e-commerce companies are trying to squeeze in a lot of content into much smaller screens. And that comes with its fair share of adjustments and compromises.
However, by teaming up with experienced UX/UI designers supported by a knowledgeable mobile development team, you can create an app that offers outstanding user experience and powerful features hidden behind a simple user interface.
If you’d like to see an example of our work, check out this award-winning m-commerce application we developed for a leading footwear retailer, CCC.
Need a skilled mobile development team for your project? Get in touch with us; we know how to build m-commerce apps that compete on the market successfully and drive business growth.