Nowadays, thanks to readily available and affordable intuitive content management systems, pre-made design themes and e-commerce extensions, it is easy to build an e-commerce website. With most e-commerce companies running high-functioning and high-performance websites, how do you make your business stand out from the competition?
One option worth considering: develop a mobile app.
Should Your e-commerce Business Have a Mobile App?
According to Smart Insights, 85 percent of your customers prefer using a mobile app instead of a mobile-optimized website. Add to that the growing number of people using their phones to do just about everything, and it is time to consider whether a mobile app is right for your e-commerce business.
The first thing to think about is cost. Is an investment in a mobile app something you can afford right now? Thanks to technology advances, building an app has become much more affordable – even for small business budgets. According to Entrepreneur, there are several small business-friendly app development companies out there to give you a helping hand.
The next thing to consider is maintenance. Do you have someone on your team qualified to manage and update your mobile app? Unlike a website, which comes with automated maintenance and monitoring systems, mobile apps may be a trickier beast to get a handle on.
The final thing you need to think about is the goal of your app. What exactly do you want it to accomplish? Should it be a mobile representation of your entire store or serve as more of an add-on? Finally, and most importantly, what features do you need to include?
You have no doubt seen other companies’ mobile apps, so you already have a good idea of what a mobile app can do. To help you develop a sense for your own e-commerce app’s potential, consider some of the possibilities:
If you have a product you know your consumers would love to “try on” before they buy it online, you can do like Sephora and give them a virtual demonstration.
There are entire apps dedicated to accepting mobile payments. While yours will not necessarily be dedicated to this sole function, it is important to know you can integrate a shopping cart into the mobile app experience.
If your website is not already offering order tracking, this is something your mobile app should include as quick shipments and greater transparency are in high demand with your consumers.
Your customers want a convenient experience—before, during, and after shopping with you. That is why companies like Zappos include easy returns right within the app.
Social proof is a great way to boost sales, especially if customer reviews give accurate (and positive) details about your products. Let customers read and leave product reviews on your app.
One of the best ways to spread the word about your products is by word of mouth. Include sharing methods like email, SMS, and social media just like Gap does.
If you are going to offer demos, purchases, and returns on your app, support is not optional. Include direct lines to customer service as well as a live chat to ensure your customers’ experience remains untarnished.
Conducting searches with small mobile keypads can be tricky. If search is a big part of your site’s navigation, consider adding a voice search component like Home Depot.
Mobile apps are almost universally associated with one thing: loyalty. Anyone who signs up for your app should receive special access to deals, coupons, and push notifications like JC Penney does.
Sometimes your customers need just a little more information before you convince them to make a purchase. Your mobile app is a great platform to show off video tutorials, provide project inspiration, and more. This is how Lush uses theirs to deliver educational content to shoppers.
11. In-store Sync
For those of you with brick-and-mortar shops, the mobile app can pull double duty. It can lure in local shoppers using beacon technology and then also give them a way to scan barcodes, research other products, and save registries in person.
To App or Not to App
If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it is that consumers are demanding more options, greater convenience, and they want access to all of it through as many devices as you can manage. If your business is ready to take the leap, be sure to work with a trusted professional to build something that offers just as great an experience to your customers as they would receive outside of your mobile app.