How to Create a Shopping App for Your Business: Features, Cost

Why bother spending time on the road to the nearest Adidas outlet when you can simply order a pair of those popping sneakers online? This is the mindset that prevails among today’s consumers (ourselves included). E-commerce is the future of retail, but simply launching a website doesn’t do the trick anymore: you need to create a shopping app. Buckle up — in this article, we’re going to dive deep into the world of online shopping applications.

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Table of contents

    What is an online shopping app?

    It’s a digital representation of one or several stores that allows you to go shopping without even leaving the house. The standard user journey looks something like this: the customer signs up, browses through the catalog, examines product cards, adds some items to the cart, and pays for the order right in the app. The only thing left to do after that is to wait for the delivery to arrive at the designated address. This set of basic features often becomes the foundation for more sophisticated functionality like personalized recommendations, loyalty systems, smart & image search, and some other cool things we’ll discuss later.

    The types of business models

    E-commerce apps are usually based on these two models:

    Single-store. A company wants to build a shopping app to deliver its own products. The scale doesn’t matter here: it could be either a small electronics store open for business only in a couple of locations or a global retailer operating on all continents. This is the go-to model for streetwear brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma, or H&M, as well as for any other merchandiser who wants to exclusively sell self-manufactured goods.

    Aggregator. A company partners with several suppliers and delivers their products. In this case, the app serves as a platform that connects users with several stores at once. Think Amazon or eBay — almost all the goods in their catalogs are provided by multiple third parties, with the companies being responsible solely for the promotion and delivery of items.

    Why 2023 is the perfect year to create a shopping app

    A booming market

    Some numbers first (courtesy of Grand View Search). The e-commerce market is expanding at extraordinary rates:

    • Grossing approx. $5,8 trln in online sales in 2022, it’s bound to reach $8,6 trln by 2026.
    • Its market size value is no less impressive, expected to grow from $10.4 trln to $27.1 by 2027.
    • In addition, today’s e-commerce segment accounts for almost 20% of all retail sales, which marks an increase of more than 6% over the past several years.

    E-commerce is steadily taking over retail

    A global turn to digital 

    This growth is closely tied to the increasing availability of the Internet and smartphones — as new audiences gain more technological awareness, they develop a preference for online services in all areas of life, shopping included. Another factor at play here is that the pandemic has caused a massive shift in consumer habits, with many of them choosing to stick to online retail even after the immediate threat of COVID-19 has disappeared. More people than ever are now opting to buy everything online, and this is going to become even more widespread in the coming decades.

    Rapidly developing tech

    The advent of the 5G technology is bound to make the online shopping experience even smoother, all thanks to lower latency and an increased speed of the Internet connection. Retailers will be able to create more sophisticated virtual environments for their customers, thus boosting engagement and conversion rates. At the same time, AI and machine learning are improving by the day, making various personalization tools like user-specific recommendations more effective. And that’s not to mention the vast opportunities for omnichannel promotion — today’s marketing grounds span social media, messengers, the web, in-app ads, and countless integration opportunities. All of this makes 2023 the perfect year to build a shopping app.

    How a mobile shopping app will benefit your business

    If you already run a business, an app will come in handy. Even if there is a web store in place, a mobile app will be a great addition. Here are several advantages that you’ll gain through e-commerce app development:

    Increased coverage. By launching a mobile shopping app, you will create an additional marketing channel on par with social media profiles and online stores.

    Boosted sales. Ease of access to the catalog, push notifications, quick checkout, and multiple other important features ensure higher conversion rates. If you already run a website, an app will also offer better performance.

    Enhanced customer loyalty. Shopping with a smartphone is convenient, and customers always appreciate convenience. In addition to this, you can implement various personalization features and provide each user with a custom-tailored experience and appealing offers. Finally, an app allows you to easily set up a loyalty system and reward regular customers, thus securing high retention.

    Ensured competitiveness. Businesses that ignore mobile will inevitably fall behind — even if they run fantastic websites. The reason is simple: even the best websites work clumsily when accessed via a smartphone, and this will put off many potential customers accustomed to a smooth shopping experience. Going mobile helps solve this problem.

    Popular shopping apps


    Nike’s app delivers all the key features you’d expect from a service of this scale: you get multiple filters, informative product cards, personalized recommendations, a quick checkout, and all the other components of a user journey done right. Things get really interesting when we consider some additional functions: the app offers the Nike Member loyalty system with exclusive rewards, a real-time chat with fashion and sports experts, and a whole segment dedicated to athlete training & coaching. This goes to show that you can use your online store not only as a sales channel but also as an important platform for building the community and promoting the brand’s values.

    Nike’s community-centered features are what makes the app stand out


    ASOS is a unique addition to this list because it merges the aggregator model with the single-store model: it manufactures some items of its own, all the while connecting customers with virtually every large brand there is.

    Apart from the basic functions, this online store offers back-in-stock alerts, curated collections, an AI-backed visual search system, 3D visualizations, and a digital fit assistant. On top of it comes checkout with flexible payment options— for instance, you can split your total into 3 or 4 payments with no interest and no hidden fees. The shopping cart and favorites lists are synced with the user profile, so you can seamlessly switch between multiple devices and shop without any hindrances.

    Asos’ personalized suggestions and curated collections help customers more easily navigate the seemingly infinite catalog

    Amazon Shopping

    Amazon needs no introduction. Starting out as a marketplace for books back in 1994, it has since grown to become the world’s largest online retailer, supplying our planet with clothes, electronics, toys, housewares, and pretty much every other product imaginable. As of today, it offers a staggering 45 mln items, so the task of coherently structuring the online store’s catalog gains the utmost importance.

    Amazon Shopping also comes with a customer feedback system, real-time order-tracking, editable favorites lists, smart search, as well as several advanced features like voice shopping, AR/VR visualizations, and a visual search system.

    Amazon Shopping ticks all the boxes: there’s personalization, usage of native app development, an online chat with support, and even visual search


    eBay is the definition of the aggregator app, which also comes with a couple of interesting twists. Its app is designed for two user roles: buyer and seller. Buyers get a fairly standard set of features that we have already mentioned when discussing the other examples, while sellers get an interface for creating product cards and putting them up on the catalog. But we’re not talking about some stores or manufacturers: we’re talking about every single user who wants to sell something through this platform. eBay made a name for itself by virtue of affordable user-made listings, while its signature line is an auction system that provides customers with the opportunity to bid on items, often obtaining them for less than retail prices.

    eBay’s unique selling points are a bidding system and user-made listings

    The eight must-have features of a shopping app

    If you want to build a shopping app, it won’t survive without these:

    A quick and intuitive user registration process that can be completed in a minute or two. One way of making it as quick as possible is allowing users to authenticate with their social media accounts. If you want to greet new users with onboarding, make sure it’s skippable — there isn’t always time for tutorials.

    A catalog that is divided into various categories and offers clear product representation. A coherent structure prevents users from getting frustrated by trying to find the goods they need, while informative product cards help them make balanced decisions.

    Product search with multiple filters. Even a perfectly organized catalog won’t satisfy everyone: some people prefer to jump straight to what they need by using the search bar.

    ASOS provides a good example of proper catalog structuring and filtering

    A shopping cart. Nothing groundbreaking here: just make sure that it comes with a straightforward way of managing items, like changing their quantity or deleting them altogether.

    Product ratings & reviews. Since your customers can’t touch or otherwise examine the product by themselves, they will always be warier of e-commerce apps than in-store shopping. A simple way of building trust is introducing a system of user feedback: once the user buys a certain product, let them describe and rate their customer experience.

    Adidas app. User reviews help build customers’ trust

    A simple checkout process that is synched with the user profile and offers multiple payment options. It’s actually one of the most crucial things on this list: a bloated and complicated checkout always means low conversion. Once customers decide to give you their money, it should be as easy to do as possible.

    Order status & tracking. When the checkout is complete, the customer’s money vanishes into thin air with no instant justification for this expenditure. To alleviate their anxiety and doubt, provide them with exhaustive information about the order status and whereabouts.

    Nike never keeps customers in the dark when it comes to the status of their orders

    User profiles that contain the customers’ payment details, addresses, contact information, and any other data necessary to use the app.

    Nice-to-have features that customers will enjoy

    Personalization. This includes recommendations based on previous purchases, push notifications, and personal offers — for example, birthday discounts. It’s important that customers don’t feel devoid of attention, because a lack of personal touch may prompt them to use some other service.

    A loyalty system. Turn using your e-commerce app into an exciting game — you can offer customers bonuses, rewards, promo codes, gifts, and all sorts of incentives aimed at boosting loyalty and retention.

    Farfetch uses a loyalty system with level progression: the higher your level, the more exclusive offers you get

    Wish lists. Customers don’t always buy everything they want right after they see it. Sometimes their budget is tight, sometimes they’re in a rush, and sometimes items simply run out of stock. It happens. A simple solution to this problem is allowing users to keep all the desired products in one place.

    Adidas goes one step further and adds some filters even to wish lists

    A barcode scanner. Handy if your company also runs physical stores — this feature will allow your customers to instantly get additional info on any product that drew their attention.

    Image search. Text-based search systems are good, but only when you know exactly what you need to find. This isn’t always the case. Integrating an AI-based visual search system into your e-commerce app will help customers quickly find products that they want but can’t quite describe simply by uploading a photo.

    Nike’s image search makes it easy to find items that customers like but don’t know the name of

    Cart sharing. People love to share everything — the contents of their carts included. Not a necessity, but a nice feature that will surely delight some of your customers.

    3D visualizations. Creating photorealistic models of various items helps overcome one of the main obstacles in the way of e-commerce — the fact that customers can’t fully examine products before buying them. 3D visualizations help bridge that gap between in-store and online shopping.

    Chatbots. You can make these neat little machines the first line of your customer support infrastructure — they’re perfect for helping with minor issues and giving useful advice. Keep in mind, though, that they should always be backed by human operators: chatbots are pretty much useless when it comes to serious issues.

    AR integration. And now onto some really advanced tech. At the moment, this feature is primarily used to demonstrate how various pieces of furniture and decor would fit into the interiors of customers’ homes — but you can take it in a completely new direction, creating a new era in marketplace app development.

    IKEA boasts some neat AR features — you can preview how a piece will fit in your place right in the app

    How to create a shopping app in 6 steps

    We believe that the best approach to bringing a new concept to life is to first create a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a barebone version of an app designed to showcase its main functionality. It’s perfect for gauging the market, testing the viability of your idea, and raising some funds — a fully-functioning product is much more convincing than a bunch of promises and pretty pictures.

    In other words, it’s a perfect fit for any startup, and this is exactly what we start with here at Purrweb. Let’s break down the whole process into several steps.

    Step 1. Analyze the market

    Before you set out to build a shopping app, you want to do some market research. Study your competitors and their products carefully to define their strengths and weaknesses. Get a good understanding of what drives the demand and find out in what direction the whole sphere is going at the moment. Keep in mind that simply copying a successful solution is never enough — you always have to bring something new to the table.

    Step 2. Define the features of your product

    After you’ve conducted market research, the process of online shopping app development actually begins. Based on the results of your analysis and your business model, choose what functionality you want to implement. We’ve already mentioned the standard set of features, but you can always innovate and come up with new approaches. And don’t forget about the killer feature — it’s that special bit that makes your online store app stand out.

    READ MORE  Two techniques that will help you pick MVP features

    Step 3. Devise the UI/UX design

    Once you’ve decided on the functional part of your online store app, it’s time to start bringing it to life. This step requires you to define the customer journey, which should be intuitive and straightforward, with no unexpected turns. It’s also a bad idea to get too carried away with the design — it should be pretty, but not overwhelming. Remember that in business, function comes before aesthetics. A team of qualified designers will take all these considerations into account, so you might consider delegating this task.

    Step 4. Write the code and launch the first version

    Once you’ve decided on what your app is going to look like, it’s time to write some code. The most crucial thing here is to employ an online shopping app development team that consists only of competent professionals who know what they’re doing. You want your online store app to work flawlessly — there’s nothing that users hate more than bugs, painfully long loading times, and other symptoms of clumsy coding. As you want to reach as wide an audience as possible, cross-platform app development is the better choice — this means simultaneously making a shopping app for Android and iOS.

    Step 5. Gather feedback and iterate

    Listen to what your audience has to say but filter the flow of incoming messages: instead of trying to implement every single suggestion, focus on noticing the most important trends. Once you’ve filtered the incoming flow, start implementing the most common suggestions.

    When working with feedback, focus on noticing the most important trends

    Step 6. Release new updates

    Your task at this point is to gradually flesh out your product in cooperation with the target audience. Add other features from the backlog, maybe scale a bit, and simply bring your online store to perfection. This step will take an indefinite amount of time — as long as there is demand for the app, there’ll always be some room for improvement.

    How much does it cost to create a shopping app?

    There are several important factors that affect the price. Let’s look at each of them in detail:

    The complexity of the app. All apps can be divided into three categories: simple, medium, and complex. Simple applications offer only basic functions and mostly just use already existing solutions. Apps of medium complexity are still grounded in what’s been done before, but bring something original to the table. The final category is reserved for projects that venture into the unknown and strive to create new technologies — and are thus the most expensive to make.

    The complexity of the design. The app’s design may be as simple as a couple of colored blocks against a white background. Alternatively, you may add unique illustrations, embellish the software with neat animated elements and create an intricate color scheme. Looks pretty? Yes, but it also comes with a raised price tag.

    The number of staff on the team. Simple math: the more people work for you to make a shopping app, the more you have to pay.

    Means of contracting: in-house, freelance, or outsource. In-house teams are the most expensive to maintain: apart from the hourly rates, you also have to cover the medical insurance and provide the people who work for you with other workplace perks. With freelance or outsource teams, you pay only for their work.

    The team’s location. Geography is a crucial factor when it comes to determining the price and choosing who’ll make your shopping app. Developers based in the US, Canada, and Western Europe boast higher wages, while the countries of Latin America and most of Asia offer much cheaper workforce. This means that if you’re on a tight budget, it may be a good idea to outsource overseas.

    The number of supported platforms. If you want to build a shopping app that supports both Android and iOS, you basically have to create two separate apps, which means more man hours. This, in turn, means more money.

    All things considered, developing a mobile shopping app may cost anywhere from $60,000 to $95,000.

    Our experience — Eyebuy

    A couple years back, several entrepreneurs contacted us with an unusual idea. They wanted to make a livestream shopping app — a format that’s very common in China but is virtually nonexistent in other parts of the world. Our task was to devise the UI/UX design for both web and mobile apps, as well as develop a prototype of the service.

    Within a month, our online shopping app development team rolled out an early version ready for testing with small showroom owners, and soon after that, some big brands became interested in the idea. We began working on an MVP, which helped raise $95,000.

    As of today, the startup is going strong, with an annual income of more than $100,000.

    READ MORE  How We Overcame Lack of Experience and Built a Unique App Prototype

    Eyebuy, a livestream shopping app

    If you want to make a shopping app, we’d love to help you bring it to life. Our team will take your project through every stage of the online shopping app development process. Reach out to us using the form below — we’ll turn your concept into an MVP perfect for gauging the market and then see it through to the full release.

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    FAQ s

    • How much does it cost to develop a shopping app?

      The final cost strongly depends on the complexity of the app in question and may vary from $60,000 to $95,000.

    • I already have a website. Why should I launch an app?

      There are two important factors to consider here. First: a smooth user experience means high conversion rates. Second: people love to do everything through their phones. Even if you use adaptive web design, your site will still work clumsily on mobile, which will put off many customers. Launching an app helps solve this problem.

    • What are the must-have features of online retail applications?

      We believe that there are eight of them: Easy registration, a clearly structured catalog, product search with multiple filters, customer ratings & reviews, order status & tracking, an easy-to-use shopping cart, quick checkout with multiple payment options and editable user profiles