How to Make a Retail APP in 2020 That Doesn’t Get Deleted
11-minute read
Published 19, Aug 2020
Customers have an attention span shorter than a goldfish; they are all dopamine addicts, and place convenience in the top 3 of their purchasing needs (alongside product and price). Mobile apps in the retail segment convert 3 times as much as mobile websites (6% vs 21%). Mobile apps take up a massive 44% of the online transaction by device split, with desktop being responsible for 33% and mobile web for 23% respectively. All of the above, along with the mind-blowing retail mobile stats below, screams that retailers should jump on the app development wagon ASAP (yesterday ideally, but let’s talk real scenarios here). Zoolatech is a retail app development company that has a wealth of experience in custom mobile app development for retail. This puts us in a position to share the insider understanding of the processes: to ease your mission and arm you with fundamentals for the best decision making. Read on to find out:
  • How to make a retail app that stays downloaded and brings sales?
  • How much does it cost to develop a mobile application for retail?
  • What features are customers looking for in an app to facilitate a physical store shopping experience?

Application vs Mobile-Responsive Website: Mobile App Stats Talk

These stats demonstrate the crystal-clear reasons why any retail business needs an application, even if they rely totally on brick and mortar sales, not eCommerce:
  • While desktop is responsible for 50% of eCommerce sales, 27% of the remaining half is attributed to mobile app spending, while only 23% comes from the mobile web.
  • The use of retail apps has doubled (in 2018) with most business going to only four apps. On the one hand, the increase comes from a low base with only two retail apps in 2017. But another important consideration is that apps are routinely deleted because of lack of space, unless they’re offering real value and a user-friendly navigation experience.
  • According to Deloitte’s 2019 holiday retail survey, 40% of consumers do their holiday shopping research on retailer websites or mobile apps, and a third of respondents also confirmed they would check out the manufacturer's web or mobile app.
Sources of holiday shopping research. Deloitte 2019 Holiday Reatil Survey
  • Business Insider Intelligence predicts that M-commerce (mobile commerce) will more than triple its revenues in just 5 years: going from $128,4 billion to $418,9 billion in 2024 (it’s almost like investing in Google shares in the ‘90s).
  • Statista sites research in which only 27% of the respondents say they never use a mobile app while in a physical store, while 3% always use it, 15% use an app most of the time and 56% use it sometimes.
Using a retailer's mobile app on the smartphone
  • People buying online spend 2 times as much as other customers.
A mobile website is a much-needed digital asset, there's no arguing against that. The mobile retail app is an animal completely unlike any other though, and it is tasked with a whole different set of missions, including:
  • Bridging the gap between online and offline
  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Upselling
  • Personalization of shopping experience
  • Providing extra convenience with price checker, customization, and other features.

Reasons to Develop a Mobile App for Retail Business. How Saks, Harrods & Macy’s do it.

Why would a retail business person want to hire a team of professional retail app developers to create an app for a physical store?

1. Increase conversions

You do remember the stats we covered: 21% is by far one of the best conversion rates out there. An app for retail business can help proactively address a first-time buyer’s timidity, for example. Saks overcomes major fears of first-time users by offering them an incentive of free 2-day shipping and free returns, ticking major advantages off along the way:
  • Quick delivery
  • Free delivery
  • No risk
Saks Fifth Avenue mobile app

2. Drive brand loyalty

Saks Fifth Avenue retail app integrated its "Fifth Avenue Club" into the retail app, allowing customers to book private dressing suites, order alterations, and book a shopping appointment.
Saks Fifth Avenue Club mobile app

3. Elevate in-store experience

A relatively fresh COVID-related section by Saks brings reassurance to customers about the state of things related to health, safety, social distancing guidelines, sanitation, and cleanliness of the stores. For many elder customers, COVID is a serious concern, so this retail store app allows users to proactively address any questions.
Saks Fifth Avenue mobile app

4. Gather data for interpretation and actionable insights

Big Data is an Oracle Almighty of eCommerce in 2020 and beyond, providing a plethora of answers to questions about past history and predicting possible scenarios for the future. Every piece of data, every tap on the app screen, time on page, video view, browsing history, and location search is a signal for a brand. When multiplied by tens of thousands of users, this data is capable of setting your brand far ahead of the competition, if properly deciphered and actioned.

5. Create personalized promotional offers

The recommendation engines have the power to bring up to a third of sales to brands. The more personalized the offer is, the more chance it will convert. This is why first-time client suggestions that are based on the behavior of other clients are not as effective as recommendations based on a client’s own personal browsing history. Macy’s gets right down to business. The first screen of the brand’s mobile application offers lots of rewards for joining the loyalty program and creating an account.
Macy's mobile app
Those clients with an account get a chance to view exclusive offers saved in the app’s Wallet.
exclusive offers in Macy's mobile app

6. Nurture image of a tech-savvy brand

Let’s be frank here: every brand manager would kill for the reputation of a tech geek & industry disruptor, like that of Tesla. Being an early adopter has its cost and rewards. Yes, you have to make your own mistakes and pave a safe proven path to the others following you. But you get the excitement of loyal customers and recognition as THE hi-tech company that everybody craves. Harrods couldn’t afford to lag behind technology and deprive its shoppers of the convenience an app for retail stores renders. The UK’s #1 luxury shopping mall’s app is packed with features for the comfort of its demanding customers. Hate asking for directions when nature calls? No need to bother innocent passers-by, an app will guide you, Sir.
Harrods mobile app

7. Get your client involved & engaged with AR / VR

AR and VR have been used extensively in retail mobile applications development to bridge the gap between offline and online shopping experiences. While pretty expensive to develop, some examples of the use of Augmented / Virtual reality in app development are heavily used and remain brand flagship developments, like that of Sephora’s Virtual Artist.
Sephora Virtual Artist

Retail App Design: Signature Features… Expectations & Beyond

The dilemma is simple: the more features you have, the heavier the app and the fewer the people who have the space for it; the fewer features you have, the easier it is to bin it for little value to your customer. We told you, it’s a piece of cake of a decision! That is why we created these rules of thumb for when you start thinking about how to create a retail app:
  1. Do develop features that customers expect. If the entire sector of competitors has the feature, it’s an industry standard. If you decide to be original and not have an industry staple, customers might feel disappointed before they even browse the rest of your amazing app.
  2. Do pay lots of attention to data: GDPR, security, customer accounts, big data management, account personalization offers, etc.
  3. Do carry forward your brand’s unique style & recognizable elements: Try to bring online whatever the unique offline feature is that is dear to your loyal guests, that will warm their hearts and stir the sentiment associated with your brand. For a silly little example, if a small crystal fountain is the centerpiece of your shop, consider implementing it in the app in whatever form: be it a live stream, a sound of falling water, or a name for your info blog (“crystal fountain gossip”).

Product Catalogue

This is a must-have for any retail app because the very purpose of having one is: to sell more of your merchandise. A product catalog should be easy to navigate, with an intuitive search and filter system as well as clear categorization.


Not only should search be available as an app-wide solution, ideally you will be able to search within each category and have an auto-suggestion option popping up when 3-4 letters get typed into the search bar.

Sorting & Filters

The more SKUs you carry, the more important it is to have extensive filtering and sorting options. Specifically, when it comes to clothing, many ladies will have their preferences decided upon way in advance based on their figures /budget/ coloring/type, etc. For example, many plus-size ladies love the V-neck cut, so having this filter will ease their browsing experience and increase conversions. In terms of filters, price is the most important parameter and popularity sorting works as a suggestion engine to an extent.


Checkout is where abandoned carts happen a lot. The design of the checkout page deserves a 200-page book in itself, so lots of A/B tests are highly recommended to squeeze the maximum conversion out of your checkout flow design.

Payment System

Payment gateways differ depending on the volume of transactions by a client, countries, currencies, etc. Consulting a professional before choosing a payment gateway vendor is a wise decision that'll potentially save lots of money.

Loyalty Programs

THE powerful magnet, upsell booster, customer retainer aspect all in one. Loyalty programs may be addictive. Make sure to implement this feature in your mobile app for a retail store to drive a higher number of views and create personalized offers.


Customer profiles may be as basic as necessary to complete a purchase or as extensive as your Marketing Director could dream of. It’s a good starting point for clarifying your customer’s size, preferences, and budget comfort zone.

Geolocator & Maps for Offline Stores

Maps and guides are a feature that's not so difficult to implement but is an outright expectation of a customer, specifically for bigger malls or chain outlets. A store locator will usually help the user find a store in the requested location and provide contact details and opening hours, along with an address. A mall map can provide a floor map, services, eateries, bathroom locations, ATM, etc.

Push Notifications

Push notifications are like salt: when used in moderation, they can take the entire dish to a totally new level. When used excessively, they will surely ruin the best of ingredients. Use them in moderation, sparingly even better, so that they bring value as opposed to being perceived as spammy.

Social Media Integration

While this may be seen as trespassing on privacy borders for some users, when apps can be connected to social media accounts, it's possible to request reviews and interactions with the business page right away. Let alone all the possibilities of more precise ad targeting, based on the client's behavior within an app.

Events NewsBoard

Harrods has regular popups and events; this is why many clients use the app as a reliable source for what’s coming up.
Events NewsBroad in Harrods mobile app

How to Create a Retail App? Android App vs iOS Retail App Development

Is your geographic target mostly a Samsung dominated area? Is your demographic more of an Apple product user? If your answer is simple “yes” or “no” to these questions, then lucky you – you may safely start creating a retail app for android or iOS. If your target audience is evenly dispersed between the two platforms, then there are 3 approaches:
  1. You still pick the dominant platform among your potential audience, develop it, learn all the lessons, perfect it, and then proceed to the minor platform if financially feasible.
  2. You have funds and ambition to create a mobile app for your physical store on both platforms, using the respective tech stacks.
  3. You use React Native Platform to launch a product on both major platforms simultaneously.
When asking your potential app development vendors for a quote, make sure to include a question on their recommendation for the choice of platform for your specific product and location.

Start with an MVP (Best For Low Budget / Time / Experience Scenarios)

Creating an MVP of a mobile application (Minimum Viable Product) is a good start for those on a tight budget, in a hurry, or testing new waters. Scaling is always a possibility in app development, so throwing some of the most basic features in with a plan to gradually expand the functionality according to business needs and possibilities is a reasonable option. When considering the architecture and the set of features for your future retail app, color-code the functionalities that are must-have in the first iteration, and the ones that can join as you go. Not only does such a scenario allow companies to launch their product the most quickly, but it also helps to introduce corrections and implement lessons learned along the way in the process proactively. Zoolatech has extensive experience in custom mobile app development for the retail segment, so our team always guides clients through a few scenarios, inclusive of the one that kicks off with MVP and expands with time.

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Retail Mobile App?

There are 4 major aspects of the mission: 1. Building an app for retail may cost anything from $25 per hour to $200 per hour depending on the location of the development team and the respective average salary in the area. The UX & UI of a basic retail app can fit into 30-50 hours, while the frontend development may take anything from 350 to 450 hours. The backend does vary based on the complexity of your eCommerce platform integration. So, if we were to give an absolute ballpark figure, the price of a retail mobile app may start from $15K. Naturally, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa have some top technical talent at a fraction of the cost of US or UK-based teams. At Zoolatech, we combine executive brain power based in Silicon Valley amplified by savvy tech talent based in Ukraine. We call it a win-win. 2. The other significant factor is the complexity of the app you are looking to create. The more features you wish to see your users enjoying ultimately, the pricier it'll be, naturally. Consider kicking it off with MVP if tight for budget & time. If you are a smaller brand, having a huge app might defeat its purpose, as users may be deterred by the weight of an app. 3. The third aspect that contributes heavily to the price of custom retail app development is the backend of things: namely, how complex it is to connect your eCommerce website to the application. If you use a commonplace tech stack to create your eCommerce website, then the respective talent is going to be readily available and affordable. 4. If you choose to design your site with your in-house team, outsource to freelancers or a retail software development company. In our experience, the cost of mistakes in the first two scenarios far surpasses the slightly higher price tag of a pro agency leading you through the process. This is only general guidance that works across the board, but the Zoolatech team would love to provide you with our best quote or answer any questions you may still have. Drop us a line or send us your RFP to receive a detailed quote or a free consultation!

Zoolatech Development Solutions

We have now examined the most popular features of top retail mobile apps, and explained the pricing factors and difficulties of choosing a platform for the creation of apps for retail stores. At this point, you can see that Zoolatech has enough know-how to guide you through the process from A to Z seamlessly. Indeed, our team has extensive experience with retail giants like Nordstrom. So you may rest assured, that we will charge up your app with the most in-demand features in the industry that actually work, while at the same time charging you a fraction of the US price tag. Looking for more detail or need to consult an expert on your vision of an app for your physical stores? Our sales & tech team is excited to provide a quote or a free consultation based on your specifications. Get in touch with Zoolatech’s eager manager for more details whenever you are ready to get your customers this extra convenience they deserve: the retail mobile app.
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