Must-Have Features for Every Retail App

The article was updated on February 16, 2023.

Online retail has grown tremendously in the previous decade. With the arrival of smartphones and digital payment systems, the sector of mobile commerce, in particular, has started to expand, and retail apps are still holding the place of the most popular online shopping methods this year. In fact, experts suggest that the number of people who have ever bought an item through a mobile device will reach 187.5 million in 2024.

As more businesses turn to eCommerce mobile app development, companies start questioning what software features can help them beat the competition. To become a powerful asset for your enterprise, an mCommerce app should provide certain standard functionality, employ top-level security, and offer reliable payment methods, at the least, and the list changes as new trends emerge.

It’s not easy to survive on the market, so, in this article, we’ll talk about the key retail mobile app features that your application should have to help you increase the retention and conversion rates, boost sales, and deliver the best experience to clients.

mCommerce app MVP

Before we begin listing features, it is worth mentioning here that you will add them gradually throughout the development of your app and updates and there are ways to save some initial costs.

Your app MVP (Minimum Viable Product), the very first version of the future mCommerce app, will include only the most essential features such as representing your goods and services and offering a contact form. You can start with a simple no-backend app – a mobile catalog with a contact form. After which you can gather users’ feedback and continue with the development, building new features and taking advantage of mCommerce opportunities.

Read also: MVP Development for Startups: 12 Mistakes to Avoid

The most essential retail app features

  • Product listing (by category) is the core function of your mCommerce app. A clear and well-structured product directory provides instant access to the items in stock.
  • Filters (by sub-category, price, characteristics, etc.) will help your customers navigate through your goods selection with minimum effort.
  • Shopping cart is the place where the user can add items before checking out. It is important to set a sync between the carts on different devices (if a user is logged in) for a better omnichannel experience.
  • A personal account, purchase history, and a shopping list store users’ personal data and keep a record of purchased products. Not only do these features make shopping more convenient for clients, but they also enable you to deliver better recommendations and personalization.
  • A wish list allows customers to bookmark the items that caught their eye, continuously remarketing these products to those who are most likely to buy them.
  • Personal account, shopping history, and a shopping (wish) list store the user’s personal info and keeps record of purchased items or items a customer wants to buy.
  • Price check and item availability can come in handy if you have dynamic pricing or a limited number of items in stock.
  • Product demos (characteristics, info, rating and reviews) help your customers make informed decisions when buying from you. As a result, you will limit the number of returns and improve overall customer experience.
  • Product search can help the user look for a specific item by name or reference number.
  • Online payments/reservation/order (depending on the type of your product and the ability to integrate a payment system into your app)
  • Security features are of great importance when you build a mobile eCommerce app, primarily because your customers entrust you with extremely sensitive data. Make sure to secure your clients’ credit card information, home addresses, and identities with proper encryption, multi-step authentication, and other security measures. Also, you can reassure users of the trustworthiness of your app by obtaining SSL certificates from such providers as Comodo, GeoTrust, and Symantec.


Comprehensive analytics for admin

The most essential feature for a retail business owner is gathering analytics about customers’ activity. Mobile app is not only meant to provide better customer service, but at the same time it’s a powerful marketing and analytical tool.

You can find out in real time when, where and what is on high demand, make your promotional campaigns more personalized and effective and keep track of marketing activities effectiveness.

Read also: How long does it take to create an app

These features will give you an advantage over competitors:

  • Comparison shopping will give your customers additional benefits when choosing between several options (based on price, characteristics, and ratings). Thus, a user can add several items for comparison and receive detailed information about each one of them, all in one place, in a convenient and clear fashion.
  • Advanced personalization can be achieved through location-based services (Beacons or simply GPS tracking) or customized suggestions, based on previous searches or shopping history. Based on a survey conducted by Swirl Networks, 88% of consumers are more likely to shop with retailers that deliver personalized experiences. Adding a personal touch to your mobile app will boost your customer experience and improve your conversion rate.
  • Push notifications help you reconnect with your customers and improve user engagement. By sending out timely alerts about special offers or limited discounts, you build loyalty, and it has proven to result in increased sales.
  • In-app customer service, represented by an online assistant, has proven to be an invaluable addition to a mobile commerce product. In fact, American Marketing Association has found that live chats can increase your conversion by 20%, making the customers three times more likely to buy from you. Providing answers to all customer’s questions right in the process of a purchase can reduce the cart abandonment rate. Alternatively, you can implement a “Click to Call” option instead of offering live chat.
  • Chatbots represent one of the most efficient tools for in-app communication with your users. With recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, chatbots are becoming more and more capable of holding human-friendly conversations, fetching answers to questions quickly, and helping shoppers make buying decisions based on each person’s preferences. Integrating a chatbot into your eCommerce mobile app provides a more straightforward and pleasant experience to clients while also helping employees by automating manual tasks.
  • Streamlined try-on tools enable customers to test how different items would look on them. Such retail app features employ augmented reality and have the potential to lift your app above the competition while optimizing processes (e.g. reducing lines at physical stores) and improving customer experience. Try-on tools are likely to be the most useful for clothes, cosmetics, and hairstyles.

Read also: Personal Shopper Apps Development

Implement these features as a nice little bonus

  • Geolocation functionality can provide additional value for customers who shop offline. Let users view a customized map that marks all your stores in their city, country, and worldwide. Also, it’s a good idea to use geolocation to display your stores in a person’s immediate vicinity, helping the client navigate effortlessly and without exiting the app.
  • In-store navigation features guide customers through the store, reducing the hassle of finding specific products and leveraging additional marketing channels as well. By integrating this functionality, you provide clients with a personal digital assistant that many shoppers prefer to human employees. You can also employ beacon technology paired with in-app analytics to offer real-time promotions, depending on what items, sections, and shelves in the store each person approaches.
  • A barcode scanner can become a nice addition that helps shoppers view detailed information about any item in a physical store through your retail app. A client simply needs to scan the barcode with their phone, and they will be able to read everything about the product’s materials, ingredients, quality, and characteristics on their screen instead of a tiny label.
  • Coupons and loyalty programs add a hint of gamification to your app, keeping your users engaged and bringing additional revenue to your business. Research finds that 39% of consumers tend to spend more if offered mobile coupons.
  • Order tracking developed directly within your app will undeniably make your customer’s life easier. The sale is not over when your customer selects the “Buy” button. You build trust and loyalty with your customers by providing them with the option to view their order status and location (for delivery or shipment options).
  • Social sharing can help you grow your customer base and increase online brand awareness with minimum effort. As we all know, word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools. Just think about it, would you rather buy from a store that you simply found online or from one that was personally recommended to you by a friend or family member?


The best development practices for mCommerce

1. Build a minimalistic user interface (UI)

When you make a retail app, the interface should be sharp and distinguished, but it’s also important to avoid overstuffing it with details. Remember that your customers will view the app on relatively small screens, and the excess of animations and colors can quickly overwhelm users.

2. Optimize navigation

A mobile app for eCommerce requires intuitive, consistent, and useful navigation to retain new users and subsequently convert them. There are several tips to consider when planning out the navigation for your app:

  • make the menu accessible from anywhere inside the app;
  • include a header with your logo and navigation icons;
  • ensure that all icons represent their links unambiguously;
  • include call-to-action buttons in relevant locations to encourage users to proceed with their purchases; and
  • display the search feature on every page.

3. Simplify the registration process

Avoid forcing new users through a tedious sign-up process—many are likely to exit the app without finishing the registration if it takes too long. Instead, focus on the essential data required to create an account, such as a person’s name, email address or phone number, and password.

The sign-up functionality is, in fact, one of the most critical mCommerce app features, as it’s often decisive on what initial impression of the application your customers receive.

Also, you can always encourage users to complete their profiles later to simplify checkout and improve recommendations.

4. Test the UX thoroughly

The user experience (UX) is concerned not only with what features the app presents but how users interact with them, what guides their subsequent buying decisions, and how to create the best experience for your customers while helping your business thrive. It’s a crucial point in early eCommerce mobile app development. Still, the initial UX ideas are mainly based on target audience research and predictions.

Instead of relying on assumptions all the way down, release your application in cycles to test the UX. Gather and analyze user feedback following each release, make improvements, and deliver updates to build up the quality.

5. Consider what images to include

While all the eCommerce mobile app features are important for the success of your software, images are the key to increasing sales. As a retailer, you need to showcase your products in the best light while staying true and informative. Therefore, it pays to devote enough time and find the winning arrangement, quality, and number of pictures per item.

Overall, images should help you craft a familiar shopping experience for your clients. To help users feel more confident about buying a particular product, consider coupling images with try-on tools that we’ve discussed earlier, as well as other AR/VR technologies.

6. Use familiar patterns

One of the fruitful steps in your research on how to create a retail app should be familiarizing yourself with typical patterns that users expect of such applications.

For instance, button positions, cart and profile icons, order forms, and field color changes on order confirmation/rejection all represent incredibly common elements of the UI/UX. Your customers, just like the majority of smartphone users, have already formed certain expectations of how these elements should behave.

Thus, to provide the best experience, it’s a good idea to research and follow such recognition patterns.

7. Write precise and catchy descriptions

Whether it’s a product promotion or an explanation on how to fill an order form, the descriptions in your retail app should be just on-point. Strive to avoid massive chunks of content that sway users’ attention away from shopping. By maximizing the relevance of your titles and descriptions, you can both make it easier for users to search for items and harder to leave the page after landing on it.

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Final Word

Global retail leaders are already reaping the benefits of mCommerce, and their mobile sales are expected to hit $3.56 trillion this year.

If you want to make your business to be adaptable to the dynamics of future online retail and keep it competitive and relevant to your audience, then consider building a mobile app to complement your online or offline presence. In this case, the features listed above will help you achieve a higher return on your investment, better overall customer satisfaction and increased revenue.

Do you want to develop an app for your retail business but don’t know where to start? Book a free consultation from our specialists today!

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