More than 5 billion people--over 63% of the world’s population--use a mobile phone.
And we’re not just using them to play Angry Birds anymore. (Is...anyone?)
More and more customers are interacting with brands on-the-go using mobile devices. In fact, as of January 2021, nearly 80% of consumers had made a purchase on a mobile device in the 6 months prior.
Mobile responsiveness for your website is nothing new -- everyone knows that your site needs to function just as flawlessly on a mobile device as on a desktop computer. (...right? yes?) That said, many brands, such as IKEA, Starbucks, and Nike, are venturing to make that experience even more slick and front-of-mind by offering mobile apps. No web browser or search needed; consumers can enter those stores with the flick of a finger and get to shopping.
This begs the question: Is developing a mobile app the right move for your Shopify store? Here, we’ll help you answer that, and then tell you what to do next if the answer is yes.
Why Consider Building a Mobile App
The benefits of a mobile app are as variable as needs are from business to business. That said, there are three valuable perks applicable to any eCommerce store. (So long as your shop is ready for a mobile app...more on that in a minute.)
Get More Conversions
Most of the standard themes from Shopify and reputable third party providers are already mobile-responsive. So if you’re running a Shopify store, chances are shoppers can easily browse your site from mobile and tablet devices.
“Um, OK, then why tf do I need a mobile app?”
Easy: because the difference in engagement and conversions is huge.
Image Source: Shopney
For example, Plobal Apps (a mobile app builder company) saw an average conversion of 12.1% across all their brands in 2020 (compared to an average conversion of 2.58% for eCommerce stores, globally, the same year). Mobile apps contributed to an average of 30% of total GMV (gross merchandise value) and accounted for a 20% revenue boost across the board.
Email isn’t exactly dead as a marketing tool, but there is a hell of a lot of noise in your consumers’ inbox. SMS marketing is gaining traction, but push notifications are even better. They’re zero spam, highly customizable, and welcomed by the engaged consumer.
Own Another Marketing Channel
A mobile app is one more (very compelling) way to reach and engage more customers. Think of it as another owned marketing channel, just like email or SMS. It gives your customers one more way to interact with you -- let them choose how they want to shop.
Case in point: Steve Madden. In March 2021, 5,000+ first-time customers opted to make their first-ever purchase from the apparel retailer via its Plobal-built mobile app. And as we write this, 20% of those first-time buyers have already repurchased.
So, Should You Create A Mobile App?
Yes, all this talk of reach and engagement and conversions (oh my!) is thrilling, but just because other eCommerce shops have seen success using mobile apps doesn’t mean it’s right for any store at any time. Let’s figure out if a mobile app is right for you--with just a couple of questions.
Do you have a loyal customer base?
A mobile app is most useful for your loyal customers because it will save frequent shoppers the time and hassle of navigating the store using a web browser.
If you have only a handful of repeat customers, it might be best to put mobile apps on the backburner and focus on building your audience using dynamic email marketing, social media, and even good ol’ fashioned snail mail!
Are you sure your customers prefer a mobile app?
Building a mobile app can be one of the best investments you’ll make in your business, but it also takes time and money. Before you leap headlong into it, make sure your customers actually want to shop that way.
For example, according to one July 2020 survey, 90% of consumers aged 25-34 reported a preference for mobile shopping. Only 32% of those aged 55-64 shared that preference.
Age isn’t the only contributing factor, either. More men shop on mobile than women. Where your customers are based can heavily impact the likelihood that they’ll make an online purchase at all. The list goes on!
To sum up: do your research. Check mobile trends in your store’s purchase history, check the pulse on the mobile market in your industry in general, poll your customer base--anything that will help you predict how well your app will be received.
If your repeat customer base is fat and happy and the data tells you they’re going to get...er, fatter and happier...using a mobile app, read on for the how-to!
Turning Your Shopify Store into a Mobile App
With something as potentially complicated as a mobile app, getting started can be the hardest part. There are a couple of ways to go about app-ifying your site: with a little help from your friends or as a DIY QWEEN.
The One Where You Get Help from Friends
If your budget is flexible, consider hiring a freelance developer or agency. Having an experienced team of developers on your side can speed up the process and help you avoid costly mistakes that may come with the DIY approach.
A reputable agency (<clears throat demonstratively>) can also help you implement highly personalized features and create a consistent, beautifully branded experience.
The One Where You’re a DIY Doyen
If you’re ambitious and tight on budget--or your intention is to build a simple, no-frills app--the Shopify app store has several solutions to help turn your store into a mobile app.
If you go the DIY route, you’ll need to find a high-quality mobile app builder that is best suited to your needs. In your search, consider the following factors:
Customer Service: You’re bound to have questions or need help during the build. Check the ratings and reviews to make sure that the company provides prompt customer support.
Ease of Use: Most mobile app builders claim exceptional ease of use, but it’s best to test those claims before making your selection. Look for demos and documentation or see if a free trial is available.
Integrations: If the mobile app builder is compatible with other apps you use--for order management, loyalty programs, or customer support, for example--you can integrate those features with the mobile experience as well.
App Styling: What level of customization does the app builder offer? For example, if your product photography is in a square aspect ratio and your mobile app builder doesn’t support that, your product photos may not fit correctly on mobile screens.
Language Support: If your customers are spread over multiple regions, localization is an important feature to consider in a mobile app builder. For ultimate consistency, it should support all the same languages sustained by your online store.
One of the biggest benefits of having a mobile app is the ability to use mobile push notifications, and that’s exactly where Plobal Apps has an edge. (Seriously, push notifications. That’s the jam. That’s where the magic happens, and a strategy only available via mobile app.) Plobal even allows you to get granular by creating specific customer segments or profiles to target with push notification campaigns.
Beyond that, you can use Plobal to implement other conversion-boosting tactics, like countdown banners to create urgency and AI-based product recommendations.
How to Use Plobal to Build Your Mobile App
The first step is to install Mobile App and add the link to your Shopify store. The mobile app creator will then fetch the information from your product listings, categories, navigation, and more to mimic the same in the app. Plobal will even update products, prices, collections, and more automatically any time you make changes in your Shopify store.
(Do note that Plobal can’t update visuals. For example, if you update the look of your website’s homepage, it will have no impact on the mobile app.)
Next, you can start customizing the look and feel of your mobile app. Plobal lets you customize several cosmetic aspects, such as the logo, banner, and other components to reflect the same personality as your Shopify store.
When you’re done, simply publish your app in iOS & Android app stores. Ta-da! An app is born! 🎉
Whether you go DIY or partner with an agency, the benefits of a mobile app can be jaw-dropping--so long as you have a loyal customer base who prefers mobile shopping and your app is polished, attractive, and easy to use. When deciding on an approach for app construction, we recommend the following:
Go with a mobile app builder tool if you’re just starting on a limited budget and you need a simple mobile app with minimal functions. A DIY builder will let you turn your Shopify store into a mobile application quickly and inexpensively.
As your business grows, a basic mobile app might not cut it. You’ll want to impress your customers with unique features and user experience, while gaining more control (read: customization) of the look, feel, and function of the app. When that happens, call in the experts.