How to Create Your Own Ecommerce Mobile App – The Ultimate Guide – Coding Ninjas
Coding Ninjas
July 2019
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How to Create Your Own Ecommerce Mobile App – The Ultimate Guide

Ksenia LarinaKsenia Larina

Reasons to develop an ecommerce app in 2018

The way of consuming digital content and services has changed drastically since the first major disruption made in the industry by Apple in 2007 with the release of the first iPhone. Mobile internet gets faster every year, we no longer rely on a stable Wi-Fi connection and major retailers have already introduced us to mobile shopping to satisfy our inner impulsive beasts.


According to Newzoo’s rank of the countries with the highest smartphone penetration, over 70% of people living in the US own a smartphone. And take into account that the United States is not even in the top-3 on this list!


Rank Country Total Population Smartphone Penetration Smartphone Users
1 United Arab Emirates 9,543,000 82,2 % 7,845,000
2 Sweden 9,987,000 74,0 % 7,391,000
3 Switzerland 8,524,000 73,5 % 6,268,000
4 South Korea 50,897,000 72,9 % 37,114,000
5 Taiwan 23,611,000 72,2 % 17,050,000
6 Canada 36,958,000 71,8 % 26,531,000
7 United States 328,836,000 71,5 % 235,156,000
8 Netherlands 17,085,000 71,0 % 12,129,000
9 Germany 80,561,000 71,0 % 57,200,000
10 United Kingdom 65,913,000 70,8 % 46,639,000


Smartphones gave life to such thing as second screen, meaning the derive the users’ attention from the main devices they are working on, or consume entertaining content. Such a shift in consumers’ behavior couldn’t go unnoticed in the ecommerce industry that tends to be one of the most reactive, competitive and fast-growing verticals.

No wonder online retailers are moving so fast towards the demands of the emerging market, which even resulted in mobile ecommerce getting its’ own name: mcommerce. And the tendency shows the market will only continue to grow. Statista shows the prospected mcommerce transaction value to have over 35% increment by 2019 in comparison to the data from the previous years:

Screenshot at Aug 21 20-29-06

Another convincing stats is the prospected number of people in the US who shop using their mobile devices:

mobile shoppers us

Another thing to consider is that while by early 2017 only less than 50% of smartphone owners had more than 4 ecommerce apps installed on their devices, it’s not something to fear in 2018 since Google introduced the Instant Apps. This new feature will allow Android users to try out new apps without installing them first, giving you a chance to grab your prospective customers’ attention and make them fall in love with your application.  

how many apps installed

Now, when the reasons to build an ecommerce mobile app seem to be obvious, let’s figure out what it takes to create one, which features are an absolute must-have in 2018, and, most importantly, how much will it cost your business.


7 most important features of ecommerce app


Like every car needs an engine to get you from point A to point B, every ecommerce application has a set of features required to run properly and to turn into a money-making machine. Here’s a list of things you need to take into account:


1. In-app authentication


To keep track of your clients you will need to authenticate them. The best practice of UX-design to keep your registration and log-in process as simple as possible. Just ask for their email address and password first, and get to know them better once they are ready! To make this step even faster, offer them to sign up using their Google or social media account.

Such features are incredibly easy to implement via APIs, can provide you with additional information about your new customers, and will come in handy for your marketing team as well.


For example, if your customers use the “Sign up with Facebook” function, you will be able to build up your further communication with them, not through the emails they may be not even seeing, but get to them instantly through the Facebook Messenger, where open rates can go up to 90% vs an average email open rate of up to 10%.


2. Product catalog & filters


Convenient browsing pages and search options are a minimum requirement for every ecommerce business. Researching your customers’ journey and what they want in products they are buying from you, will help you come up with a set of filters that will help them make a final decision. If you offer a variety of products from different categories, you may need customized filters for different product groups.


Another opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss is including interdependencies between different groups of products in your database. Suggesting your customers well-matched related products that can be either complimentary up-sale to their purchase or a cross-sale. Both these options are great tactics to boost your ecommerce app conversion rate.

3. Wishlist


While this bullet may not seem like a mandatory one, we strongly recommend you to take a second look at this option when you decide to create an ecommerce app.


The thing is that even when we take the retail business online, the “I’m just looking” folks don’t go anywhere. Some of them will be just browsing your app out of pure boredom, others may be not ready to purchase anything just yet but still dedicated to find the best deals.

Screenshot at Aug 22 10-47-03

The trick here is knowing how to build an ecommerce mobile app in a way that will engage users and show you the open doors to their wallets. Because once you know what’s on their shopping lists, you will be able to give them the best offers using the good-old emails or, what’s even better – the push notifications.


4. Shopping cart


It’s really hard to overestimate the importance of a shopping cart when it comes to ecommerce. Once your users come all the way through to get to the shopping cart, your most important task is to help them complete their purchase in the fastest and most simple way possible. But don’t forget about getting all the details right. Unless you want a disappointed customer who will never purchase from you again.


Here’s the checklist of things a great shopping cart should have:



You may run into a realization that once you try to fit all these things into one app screen, it may look too cluttered. If your UX-designer can’t offer you an elegant solution that would work for your purposes, don’t be afraid to split this info into two pages, one of which would have all the order info and another – shipping and payment details.


5. Payment gateway


Payment gateways are needed to process your clients’ credit card information and complete the payment. They serve as an intermediate between your mobile application for ecommerce store and various financial systems.


There are a vast variety of different services you can choose to run with your app. The most crucial things to consider when choosing one that works perfectly for you are these:


  1. What are the preferred payment methods on your primary market? Does the gateway support those?
  2. How good is their anti-fraud system? Will your customers’ data be safe?
  3. Do you want a customizable payment interface that would look native to your app or you will be fine with a third-party checkout page?
  4. If you run an app for ecommerce store that also has a web version, does the gateway offer equally good solutions for both mobile and desktop platforms?
  5. How much will they charge you?

6. Customer profile


Customer profile, if well-designed and properly thought-through, can become your one screen to rule them all.


Unfortunately, most of the times, all that users can get out of their personal accounts within shopping apps are their shipment and payment details, and sometimes – information on the previous orders. While those are already an expected luxury for any profound smartphone user, that’s not all you can use this screen for.


Personalization is a powerful tool for ecommerce businesses. And, unfortunately, an extremely underestimated one, too. If you don’t want to waste such a priceless opportunity to steal your clients’ hearts, here are some ideas worth giving a shot:


  1. Suggest your users to start exploring your products and add something to their favorites (aka – wishlist). This will motivate them to engage with your app, get used to it and also give out the valuable information about their shopping preferences. Follow up with some customized recommendations and deals, and they are all yours!
  2. Give them an access to all the deals, coupons and discounts they are eligible to use. It’s a great way to give your customers an impression that they will always be saving when shopping with you. Pro tip: display all the promo, not only current deals. That way, even if you are not running any campaigns at the moment, your clients will still know you had some just recently.
  3. Access their geo-location and use this information to provide customized deals. You can also show them your nearby offline-stores location if there are any, or customize copy depending on the weather in their area.
  4. Throw in some gaming elements! Even if the can’t admit it, adults still love games. Don’t see how this can apply to ecommerce app development? Easy! Want to give your new customer a promo-code? Play hard to get and let them earn it. The possibilities are endless: ask them to browse your store and find a hidden gem that will give them a 25% discount, or let them compete with other users in your industry-related trivia for a chance to win your best-rated item. Even a simple progress bar that shows how much they have to spend before they can get your “super awesome favorite customer” badge with an additional 2% discount for all purchases. Effective solutions don’t have to be complicated, all you have to do is let yourself get a little creative.

7. Order history


Order history may seem like an unimportant feature. In reality, it isn’t. At the very least, your customers will use their order history to keep track of their spendings, see the order status and find the shipping track info.


But you can give another twist to this screen either by making it easier to place another identical or similar order or displaying the complimentary products your buyers may need to go with their recent purchases.


If none of these options are relevant to your business, there is one thing you can’t argue: the order history screen is the perfect place to ask your customers for feedback. No one is perfect, most likely there will come the time when your company will mess up an order and make someone extremely unhappy with your service. And believe me, you will want to learn about it as soon as possible.

Ecommerce app development step by step

Now, when you know the basics of how to create an ecommerce app and all the essential elements you need to take care of, let’s talk about how the process goes, which professionals you will need to hire, and most importantly – how much does it cost to develop a mcommerce app.

1. Client brief

A brief in terms of ecommerce app development is a short document that will later be used by design and development professionals to create your app. If you are going to use an in-house engineering team, most likely, you will work out the brief collectively and it will significantly differ from a client brief you would need if you decide to outsource the project.


In case you will be working with an outside team, here’s a checklist of things you should include in your brief:


Feel free to include all the information relevant to creating the application that will help you reach your business goals without sacrificing your budget for unnecessary features.

If you already have an online store and want to build an app that will serve as an extension to the web version, it will significantly impact the development approach. Another thing to consider is what mobile platforms you want your future app to support: iOS, Android, Windows Phone or all of them? Once you decide on that, the following step is to determine whether you want a native or hybrid app.  

Describe in details all the things you want to see in your app and how the should work altogether. Remember, that you are the one who knows best and cares most about how well your project will be put together. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you do a lousy job at this point, later on your mistakes will result in unexpected costs and delayed deliveries, shifting the overall estimates. And the worst part is that there will be no one to blame, except you.

If you already have a brand book or any other creative guidelines designers should follow while working on your project, it’s safe to say you’ve got the majority of the work done. Otherwise, the things you should include in your design brief are not only your favorite colors and fonts but also details about your primary market, target audience, competitors and your business and marketing goals that might be achieved in a better and more efficient way with a well-tailored UX design.


Cost of creating an app brief


Low-cost option:


$0 – if you do it yourself


Medium budget option:


$100 –  ask someone experienced in app development out for a lunch to verify your brief and get a professional feedback


High-end option:


$6000 or $150+/hour – hire a product management consultant. Note that a work like that takes a lot of prior research and business analytics, meaning that overall it should take 40+ hours for a quality work to be done, leaving us with a total of $6000.


2. Mock-ups


A mock-up is a basic layout of your future app. Before you and your team can start creating a prototype, it’s advised to have a mock-up that would become a representation of your whole product. If you feel like skipping this step or think it’s too time-consuming, imagine how much more time you will waste later on figuring out your flaws and having to re-do everything from scratch.


Make sure all the features you planned to have work well together and you don’t have any flaws in app architecture. Another thing you should test out at this stage is how well all the elements fit on the standard smartphone screen.


Creating a mock-up doesn’t require you using any fancy instruments UI-designers usually use, it can even be drawn by hand. But in case you need to pass it on to a remote team, it may be wiser to use a digital format.


Here’s a glimpse at a great mock-up by Volodymyr Melnyk found on Behance:


ecommerce app mock-up


Cost of creating a mock-up


Low-cost option:


$0 – if you do it yourself


Medium budget option:


$500 –  hire a freelance designer. The cost is calculated from a lower-priced hourly rate of a freelancer – $25 and average 16 hours needed to complete a mock-up of an ecommerce app.


High-end option:


$1000+ – outsource this task to a design studio. The costs will on average start from $1000 and can go up to infinity depending dozens various factors.


3. Design prototype

design prototype app

The prototype is the next step that combines the work you’ve already done earlier on. You will have to mix in all the information you had in a client brief, including all the marketing and design preferences, and dress up your mock-up accordingly.


Cost of a design prototype for an app


Low-cost option:


$0 – if you have skills to do it yourself


Medium budget option:


$500+ –  hire a freelance designer. If you already have the mock-up and brief a freelancer can follow, such task can be done even this fast.


High-end option:


$1000+ – outsource this task to a design studio. Same as with mock-ups, costs will on average start from $1000 and up.


4. App development


Now, that you have a prototype, the development team can finally start coding. The exact process can vary depending on what kind of team you have, how many engineers are working for you, and, of course, which mobile platforms you want your app to run with, and whether your app is going to be a hybrid or a native. Generally, if you’re not an engineer yourself, at this point you can sit back and relax until step 6. But even if you’re outsourcing this job, it’s still better if you learn how to manage a remote team.


Cost of app development


Low-cost option:


$4000 – hire a vetted freelance developer. We wouldn’t recommend working with freelancers who haven’t gone through any testing process, since most of the times, such employees have a very low code quality and job satisfaction rates. On the other hand, working with one of our Coding Ninjas is a way to save money without sacrificing the quality.


Medium budget option:


$10000+ –  order app development to an outsourcing company. While it may seem to you like this option is a most hustle-free one, if you choose an agency or a dev shop with prices on the lower end, chances are you will face with broken promises and missed deadlines. Also, keep in mind, that such businesses will often sell you junior or middle developers for the price of seniors.


High-end option:


$120000/year – hire a full-time developer. Not only this option is extremely expensive if you’re hiring an American engineer, but it’s also going to be the most complex one too. Consider all the time you are going to spend on recruiting, screening the candidates and test periods. If you are convinced you want to work with a dedicated coder, who will commit 100% of their time to your project, my suggestion once again – consider hiring a full-time freelancer. My opinion: if you want to learn how to develop an ecommerce app on a budget, this isn’t the option you should be looking at.


5. Backend development


Once you have an application functioning properly and all the features and design elements implemented, your ecommerce app will need to be connected to a database. That’s when backend programming comes into play.

If you already have an ecommerce business that has a web-version and a database, your development team will need to code an API that will make it possible for your app to connect to the same database. If you don’t have one, your database will need to be developed from scratch. Add another 40 hours of a developer’s work to your estimate.

Cost of app development


Low-cost option:


$1600 – with vetted freelancer


Medium budget option:


$4000+ –  with an outsourcing company


High-end option:


$120000/year – since, most of the app developers rarely deal with backend programming, you will need to hire another professional.


6. QA & testing


After the work is done, you will need to make sure your app is 100% functional and you got what you ordered. If you find any bugs, they will need to be fixed before you launch it on the market.


Cost of QA & testing for app


Low-cost option:


$0 – do it yourself. While an experienced tester will find more bugs and will do it faster, you can learn the basics pretty fast and find the obvious issues, if there are any.


Medium budget option:


$160 –  hire a freelancer. Generally, 8 hours of work is more than enough for an initital bug report.


High-end option:


$800+ – outsource to a QA agency. Sometimes, starting with an agency or QA outsource company will take you more time than actually working with them.


7. Analytics & Launch


One thing to remember before you can finally launch your app and start making money is that you have to take care of analytical tools, which include both marketing analytics that will help you get better in user acquisition, CRO, and retention, and the bug-tracking instruments that can alert you in case something happens to the tech side of your mcommerce application.


Launching an app on the AppStore or Google Play Market will most likely be done by your developer, it takes a few minutes, so we won’t be even counting in the charges, but here are the additional charges you will need to count in:


  1. Costs of all the analytical tools you use, if any
  2. $25 for launching an app on Google Play
  3. $99/year for launching on App Store


The total cost of creating an ecommerce app


Now that we know how to make an ecommerce app step by step, and how much it costs, let’s sum it up and see what total are we coming to:


Step Low-cost Medium-budget High-end
Client brief 0,00 $ 100,00 $ 6000,00 $
Mock-up 0,00 $ 500,00 $ 1000,00 $
Design prototype 0,00 $ 500,00 $ 1000,00 $
App development 4000,00 $ 10000,00 $ 120000,00 $
Backend programming 1600,00 $ 4000,00 $ 120000,00 $
QA & testing 0,00 $ 160,00 $ 800,00 $
Launch Android only iOS only Android + iOS
25,00 $ 99,00 $ 124,00 $
Total 5625,00 $ 15359,00 $ 248924,00 $


How to find best developers to create an ecommerce mobile app?


If you are looking for the best way to create an ecommerce app that will have a perfect quality to price ratio, hiring a freelance developer is something worth your consideration. At Coding Ninjas, we work only with vetted freelance engineers, whom we’ve tested for code quality, English proficiency and communication skills. We match every client with professionals who are able to complete the project with the best turnaround time. If you want to learn more about this opportunity and also get an estimate for your development task, you can always get a free quote.

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