THE BLOG

Got a Store? You Need an App for That

04/11/2014 05:31 pm 17:31:01 | Updated Jun 11, 2014

In this competitive marketplace, an app needs to jump off the screen and capture the user's attention to gain any recognition. This is especially true for shopping apps. Retailers that are not incorporated into broader shopping apps are like sailors without a ship.

According to a recent Nielsen report, 65 percent of Americans now own smartphones, which means that if your business is not listed in a shopping app or has an app of its own, you are limiting its reach to more than half of a potential market.

Apps today need to meet customers' rising expectations. Being visually appealing is step one to capturing users; in addition to that simple and intuitive navigation, fast response and peak performance are vital to keeping users engaged. Let's take a look at some important concepts that effective shopping apps tend to incorporate into their design.

Technical limitations based on software and network speed
App developers have always dealt with a variety of hardware and software capabilities, but mobile devices now make this a somewhat trickier task. It is made a bit simpler, however, by the prevalence of iOS and Android systems.

According to data, 45 percent of the world's population has access to 3G network speeds; this leaves most of the planet with slower speeds, which developers need to keep in mind when preparing for worldwide distribution. Images and videos take a heavier toll, and apps that work fine in some areas might fall short in others.

Using responsive design to create fluid shopping apps
Responsive design principles plan for an app to be used on different devices. Pictures and videos will stretch and shrink, and navigation bars and buttons are adapted to be used more comfortably.

Merchant app hosts are beginning to incorporate responsive design into the app platforms they provide. Ecwid, for example, now offers an integrated responsive design for its apps that automatically detects the user's device and adjusts the app accordingly. This service works for mobile devices as well as smart TVs.

Diverse screen sizes
It is important to know what sizes are being used with the most popular devices when creating a responsive design. For example, the new iPad Retina display is 9.7 inches with a resolution of 2048x1536, while the iPad Mini is 1024x768. The iPhone 5s and 5c have a four-inch display at 1136x640 pixels, while the still-popular iPhone 4s uses a 3.5-inch display at 960x640. It is clear that mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes. With sophisticated customers ready to move on to the next best thing at the slightest provocation, it is vital that shopping apps are both beautiful and elegantly functional.

The mobile app advantage
Last but not least, features unique to mobile devices, such as the camera and geolocation functionality, should be leveraged when designing an app. These features enable the app to be most location relevant and also help drive deeper user engagement and hence, better user retention.

If building an app is too daunting or simply out of your budget, a great alternative is to ensure your store is included in existing shopping apps. For example, the Find&Save Storefront app lets local retailers add sales to their apps for free. It's as simple as taking a picture, adding details and uploading.

Whether you are creating your own app or getting incorporated in existing ones, it is essential to jump up on the mobile bandwagon. As a numbers person, I know that stats do not lie. Mobile is indeed the future, and your business depends on it in order to thrive.

Grace Chan is vice president of product management for Wanderful Media, a startup reimagining the digital circular with Find&Save. Her product development experience includes leadership roles at MerchantCircle, Yahoo! and Intel.