How and Why to Convert an eCommerce Site to a Mobile App
Online store owners - do you want to get in front of more customers, boost conversion rates from your existing customers, and get those people coming back and shopping more often?
You can do all this by launching your own mobile app, which is one of the best ways to grow your business in 2023. And it’s much easier to do than you’d think.
Read on to learn how even small eCommerce businesses can launch their own branded shopping app and why you should prioritize this.
Turning an eCommerce Site into a Mobile App is Easy: Here’s How
Many people think that only massive brands have the means to create their own eCommerce apps. But creating a mobile app is relatively straightforward if you already have a live and functioning website.
You’ll do it by converting your existing website into an app instead of building it from the ground up, massively reducing the time and cost it takes to build and letting you do it with minimal coding.
There are just four steps to it. You can go live with your app in less than a month.
Make sure your site looks and works great on mobile
Your app will be a recreation of your mobile website with a mobile app’s UI layered on top. So before you start, make your site perfectly optimized for mobile.
You shouldn’t have too much to do here, as every successful business today knows how important the mobile market is - especially in eCommerce.
Mobile eCommerce is projected to be worth over $500 billion in 2023. Overall, there’s an approximate 60/40 split in market share between mobile and desktop, favoring mobile. It’s reasonable to assume that most of your customers are mobile users.
If you haven’t taken care of this already, do it now. Even if you don't plan to create an app, it's still vital that you offer a great user experience to mobile shoppers.
Create a hybrid app for your website
Once you're mobile-optimized, you can convert your website into an app.
You’ll do this by making it into a hybrid mobile app. A hybrid app utilizes a combination of web and mobile code, displaying a live, fully-functioning version of your website inside native mobile code.
More and more brands are choosing to go with hybrid apps over fully native apps, because of how much cheaper and simpler they are to maintain.
The Rainbow Shops app is a great example. Their app looks and feels just like a native app, but is actually a straightforward recreation of their mobile website.
MobiLoud is the industry-leading way to handle this conversion process, a tech-enabled service which makes it simple to create a mobile app for your site.
MobiLoud does all the work for you. You’ll be able to configure and preview your app to make sure it’s going to look the way you want, but MobiLoud ultimately takes care of the heavy lifting - writing the code you need to allow your site to function as an app.
Customize your mobile UI and build your app
You can make a few small customizations for your app UI when you use MobiLoud, such as your color scheme and tab menu.
In MobiLoud, you’ll have a dashboard where you can make all these customizations and preview the way your app will look, before investing anything into development:
When you’re ready, you just give the ok to the MobiLoud team, who do all the coding for you to bring the app to life.
Launch your app and start getting users
The beauty of a hybrid app is that this is all you need to do to convert your site to a mobile app. You've already done most of the work, assuming your site is up and running and optimized for mobile.
Using a service like MobiLoud, you don't need to do any development work (they handle all of that). You only need to test it and give it the ok.
Once your app is ready, it’s time to launch. You’ll want to submit your app to the iOS and Google Play app stores first. Also, notify your existing customers about your app, giving them an incentive (such as an app-specific discount) to convince people to download it.
Other Ways to Build an eCommerce Mobile App
Hybrid development is the best way to build an app for your site, but not the only way. Let’s compare a few others and explain why they’re not optimal.
Creating fully native iOS and Android apps is one option that’s far too complex and expensive for what you’re trying to do (converting your existing website into an app). You’ll need to pay two high-priced development teams (one for the Android app and one for iPhone) for at least 3-6 months to see the project out. And the result won’t be much different from what you get with a hybrid app.
Cross-platform (built with React Native, for example) and hybrid (e.g., Ionic) app frameworks are more straightforward methods that only require you to build once instead of having separate code bases for Android and iOS. However, developers for these frameworks are still expensive and often not worth the cost.
The biggest reason a hybrid app is better than paying developers to create your app is that it’s easier to maintain. With hybrid, you can make changes to your app easily, simply by updating your website.
With a custom mobile app, you’ll need to pay developers whenever you want to make changes to your app. This cost stacks up and can easily be in the tens of thousands per year just for maintenance.
To summarize, hybrid apps are cheaper and faster to build, and easier to maintain. The result is very similar to a native app, giving you everything you need in a mobile app.
5 Reasons to Turn Your Site Into an App
Now you know how to do it, here’s a deeper look at why you should convert your site into an app instead of relying on your website alone to sell to mobile users.
Boost conversions on mobile
People prefer to use apps on mobile devices, rather than mobile websites. The split is dramatic - 90% of our time on mobile is spent using apps.
Our preference for apps is due to a better user experience, with apps loading faster and being easier to navigate, which is a big reason why conversion rates are 130% higher on apps. Apps also have better add-to-cart rates, and people generally spend more when they shop in an app.
It's clear from the data that if you can give people an app, they'll spend more money with you.
Get more repeat buyers
Apps are a fantastic way to boost loyalty and retention and get people to shop with you more than once.
With a website, when someone completes a purchase and closes the tab, your store disappears into the abyss.
However, when someone shops on your app, the app icon remains on their home screen. Your store and brand are still in their head space, and they are much more likely to return and make another purchase.
It also lets you reconnect with your customers using push notifications. Push notifications are a brilliant communication channel for eCommerce stores - direct, personal, and straightforward.
It just takes one tap from a push notification, and the person is back in your app, ready to make another purchase.
Own your customers
A big problem for many online stores is that they’re renting most of their customers.
The problem is particularly bad for marketplace sellers like those on Amazon, Etsy, etc. But even with your own site, your sales are often at the mercy of Google search rankings or a social media algorithm.
One change can knock down your visibility, and your sales fall off a cliff.
An app, however, is a channel you own. You no longer rely on Google search or paid ads to deliver customers. You’ll have a base of loyal customers you can market to repeatedly through the app.
Increase social proof
Social proof is vital in eCommerce. And having your own apps is a big boost for your social proof.
When potential customers see your brand in the app stores and the “Available on the App Store” badges on your website, they’ll instantly take your brand more seriously.
The increase in social proof will help boost conversions and overall sales on your website, even for people who don’t download your app. You'll benefit even more from those who do download it.
Get new customers from the app stores
Finally, you’ll pick up new customer acquisition channels through your app store listings. Millions of people go to the Google Play Store and Apple App Store to find new apps to download, and launching your own app allows you to get in front of them.
The more diversified channels you have to get new customers, the better. And with the increased conversion metrics and retention from app users, this channel will likely prove to be the most valuable of all acquisition channels you have.
If you’re running an eCommerce store, launching an app will be the best decision you’ve ever made.
It’ll have substantial long-term benefits, helping you get more customers, more sales, and a higher lifetime value from each customer.
It’s also more accessible than ever to build your own app. Not by building fully native custom apps, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, plus tens of thousands per year to maintain, and require a considerable shift in your business model. Instead, hybrid technology today allows you to do more or less the same thing affordably and quickly.
As long as you have a website that works well on mobile, you can launch your own app with a hybrid app builder in less than a month. With the low bar in cost and difficulty, there’s almost no reason not to do this for your business.