Blog Post

retail app development

Simplest Guide to Understand and Strategize Retail App Development

Sanjay Kidecha,

While competitors were celebrating getting a website, brands like Nike and Sephora are out here making retail mobile app development look like the eighth wonder of the world!

Nike, for instance, is selling a lifestyle, a dream along with shoes, all wrapped up in a sleek app. Beyond a mere shopping platform, Nike’s app is a personal trainer, a style advisor, and a gateway to exclusive releases. They’ve turned a sneaker purchase into a VIP experience. 

And let’s not forget Sephora. They transformed every makeup lover’s phone into a virtual beauty studio. Want to try a new lipstick shade? Don’t bother driving to the store; just swipe it on digitally and buy it with a tap.

Meanwhile, some retailers are still wondering why their sales are down, not realizing that their customers are living in 2023, not 2003. These customers aren’t interested in wandering aisles anymore. Because they’re curating their entire shopping experience from the comfort of their homes, with apps that remember their size, taste, and even their name.

So, as we dive into the nitty-gritty of retail app development, remember: Digital Transformation in Retail is more than just tech trends. It’s about propelling your brand into a future through technologies where your app knows what your customers want before they do. 

So, let us help you perfect your retail app development through this guide with a step-by-step understanding of the process. 

What is a Retail app?

App development for retail businesses is way more than an online catalog. A retail app is about creating an immersive, interactive, and incredibly intelligent platform that upgrades shopping from a chore to a cherished experience. A mobile app of your retail brand acts as your store’s digital doppelgänger living in your customer’s pocket. 

Moreover, Retail app development is the foundation you use to leverage emerging technologies. It’s a threshold to gain insights into your customers’ browsing styles, preferences, and demands, helping you personalize every shopper experience. 

Delivering elite experience matters 99.99% times in the retail industry and Amazon, Sephora, Nike, etc., have proven the worth of mobile apps in that context. However, if you dive deeper, you’ll see what retail app development can do for retailers that competitors don’t reveal. 

Top Benefits of Retail App Development for Retailers:

retail app development benefits

Increased Sales through Mobile Commerce: As per Statista, global retail mobile-commerce sales reached $2.2 trillion in 2023, making up 60% of all e-commerce sales around the world. You can imagine, what opportunities are waiting for your retail businesses in this growing market.

Higher Conversion Rates: Mobile apps have an average of 157% higher conversion rates than mobile websites, indicating a greater likelihood of turning app users into paying customers.

Enhanced Customer Retention: Research shows that apps are more effective at retaining and gaining loyal customers compared to mobile websites as mobile apps are more engaging and encourage repeat usage.

Effective Push Notification Engagement: Another study reveals that push notifications can boost app engagement by up to 88%, and 65% of users return to an app within 30 days when push notifications are enabled. That makes building a retail app a powerful solution for customer re-engagement.

Personalized Shopping Experiences: Accenture’s survey highlights that 91% of consumers prefer brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations. Mobile apps, with their advanced data analytics, are ideal for delivering these personalized experiences.

Boost in Omnichannel Shopping: Retail apps are crucial to an effective omnichannel strategy, enhancing customer engagement across multiple channels.

7 Steps of Custom Retail App Development 

Before we begin our exploration of the seven key steps in retail app development, let’s acknowledge the importance of this process. Your retail app is more than just a digital tool; it’ll be a strategic asset that can significantly enhance customer engagement and drive business growth. 

steps of custom retail app development

So, aim to create a retail app that aligns with your brand’s vision and market needs. 

1 Identifying Your Retail App’s Purpose and Target Audience

Before anything, identifying your app’s purpose and target audience is inevitable to align your business goals with your customer needs and desires. It’s the foundation upon which your app will stand. So answer, why are you building this app, and who are you building it for?

First, the ‘Why’: Are you looking to boost sales with a slick e-commerce platform, or are you aiming to enhance customer engagement with a loyalty program that makes your competitors weep? Maybe you’re innovating the next big thing in personalized shopping experiences. Whatever it is, nail it down. Your app’s purpose is your North Star, guiding every decision you make.

Now, the ‘Who’: Are your customers tech-savvy millennials who breathe social media, or are they busy professionals seeking efficiency? Understanding your audience is like having a secret map of buried treasure. Besides demographics, it’s about getting into customers’ heads. What do they love? What keeps them up at night?

Here’s a pro tip: Don’t just guess. Dive into market research, analyze your existing customer data, and maybe even throw in a survey or two. 

2 Plan the functionality and List out features  (MVP)

So, you’ve got your ‘why’ and ‘who.’ Now, let’s talk about the ‘what’. Planning your app’s functionality and features is like building a grocery list for the world’s most important dinner party – your app’s launch. You don’t want to overdo it, but you can’t underwhelm your guests, either.

That’s where enter the MVP – Minimum Viable Product. MVP development is creating an app with just enough features to make your users’ hearts skip a beat. Think of it as your app’s first impression.

What kind of features are essential for your retail app MVP?

  1. User Registration & Profile Management: Easy peasy sign-up and customization.
  2. Product Catalogue: The heart of your app, where your products shine.
  3. Shopping Cart & Checkout Process: Smooth as silk and secure as Fort Knox.
  4. Payment Gateway Integration: Because nobody likes a checkout line.
  5. Order Tracking: Keeping customers in the loop every step of the way.

And once your MVP hits the milestone of success, consider scaling your retail app with more advanced features, such as,

  1. Augmented Reality (AR) Experience: For a try-before-you-buy thrill.
  2. Personalized Recommendations: Offer a personal shopper in pocket size.
  3. Loyalty Programs: Turning casual browsers into loyal fans.
  4. Push Notifications: For gentle nudges and irresistible deals.
  5. AI Chatbots: For 24/7 customer service that never sleeps.

Remember, it’s about finding that sweet spot between innovation and functionality. Your MVP should be like a teaser trailer for a blockbuster movie – leaving your users craving more.

3 Lay the foundation of your retail app

Alright, you’ve got your MVP checklist. Now, it’s time to lay the unshakeable foundation of your retail app. Think of this as constructing the digital equivalent of the Great Wall – robust, reliable, and ready to impress.

User Interface (UI): This is your app’s front porch. It needs to be welcoming and intuitive. A clunky UI is like a squeaky door – nobody wants to deal with that. Your app should be as visually appealing as it is easy to navigate. 

Functionality: Every feature in your app should work like a charm. It’s like your car’s engine; it must run smoothly, without hiccups. If your shopping cart crashes more often than a toddler learning to walk, you’ve got a problem.

Security: App security is non-negotiable. Your app is handling sensitive data. In a world where data breaches are more common than coffee breaks, ensuring top-notch security is like putting a lock on your treasure chest.

Compatibility and Performance: Your app should play nicely with all devices and operating systems. It’s like making sure your party has something for everyone, from vegans to meat lovers. And it needs to be fast – nobody likes to wait for a slow-loading app, just like nobody likes watching paint dry.

Keep in mind that your app’s foundation is more than what you see. Seamless performance, bulletproof security, and a user-friendly interface are the invisible forces that turn a good app into a great one. Nail these, and you’re not just building an app but crafting an experience.

4 Choose your platform and technology stack

When choosing your platform and tech stack, think about your audience, goals, and the shopping experience you want to offer. Your technology choices are the building blocks of your app’s success – choose wisely, and you’ll have an app that’s not just functional but phenomenal.

The tech stack is the backbone of your app, which contains the programming languages, frameworks, and tools that bring your app to life. You can divide the tech stack into Front and Back-end — Frontend is about the app’s look and feel, the part your customers interact with. The back end is the behind-the-scenes magic – the database, server logic, the nuts and bolts that keep the show running.

For the front-end or client-side, you have technology options, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and their family of frameworks like React or Angular. On the contrary, back-end or server-side technologies include Java, Swift, Python, etc.

Amid a marketplace of technologies, Flutter is a rising star. Flutter is Google’s UI toolkit and Software Development Kit for crafting natively compiled applications. Why consider Flutter for retail app development? Because it’s like hitting two birds with one stone – you get to develop apps for both iOS and Android from a single codebase. 

In other words, you won’t have to juggle choosing front and back-end technologies for your retail app development. Besides faster app development, Flutter’s capability to unify with technologies including AI, ML, and IoT, makes it a preferable choice for retail apps. 

For example, Alibaba, the world’s largest online commerce company, uses Flutter to power parts of its app, ensuring a smooth shopping experience for millions of users. If it’s good enough for Alibaba, it’s definitely worth a look.

Choosing Your Tech Stack:

  • Consider your app’s requirements: Does it need to handle heavy traffic? Is it graphics-intensive?
  • Think about scalability: Can your chosen tech grow with your app?
  • Don’t forget compatibility: Ensure your back-end and front-end play nicely together.

5 Kickstart the design process (POC, Wireframe, Prototype)

In the retail app universe, design is king. It’s what makes your app stand out in a sea of digital clones. It’s not just about looking good; it’s about feeling right. A well-designed app can turn first-time users into lifelong customers. So, let’s see how you can make your app fabulously functional. 

To tailor your retail app design for your unique customer base (which is the secret of gaining millions of downloads), you can follow the three practices below. 

PurposeRetail App Context
POCProof of Concept: Validates the feasibility of your idea.“Can we build an AR feature for virtual try-ons?”
WireframeThe skeletal structure: Outlines app layout and functionality without detailed design.Mapping out the user journey for easy navigation.
PrototypeThe interactive model: A clickable version that simulates the user experience.Testing the checkout process for smoothness and speed.

Why It Matters:

  • A POC ensures you’re not building castles in the air. It’s about validating that your grand idea can actually stand on its own two feet in the real world.
  • Wireframes are your app’s blueprint. They’re about getting the structure right before you start painting the walls.
  • Prototypes bring your wireframes to life. They’re like test-driving a car before you buy it – ensuring the ride is as smooth as it looks.

6 Pull together your Retail app development team and begin coding

You’ve got the blueprint; now you need the builders. That means it’s time to hire retail app developers or a team of skilled developers who can turn your retail app idea into a digital reality. 

Options on the Table: In-house or Outsourcing app development team?:

  • In-house teams offer direct control and dedicated focus but can be pricier.
  • Outsourcing to a retail app development company can be cost-effective and offers access to a diverse talent pool.

How do you know if the developers you hire are the perfect fit for your project? 

Identifying the Right Team:

  • Look for a track record: Have they built successful retail apps before?
  • Check their portfolio: Does their expertise add value to your vision?
  • Communication is key: Are they on the same page as you?

As soon as you find suitable programmers, hire and start the coding process. Noteworthy, you might need to hire Android and iOS developers separately unless you hire Flutter developers. Flutter developers eliminate the need to hire platform-specific programmers. 

Once your retail app is ready, test it thoroughly. You aim to offer a high-performing, secure, and bug-free app that your customers get addicted to shopping on. Hence, you must ensure your developers conduct the below app tests. 

  • Functional Testing 
  • Performance Testing 
  • Security Testing 
  • Interface Testing 
  • Payment Testing
  • Compatibility Testing
retail app development cost

7 Launch and Measure your app success 

Congratulations! You’re at the finish line, but in the app world, this is just the beginning. 

Launching your retail app is a pivotal milestone, like opening a flagship store in the digital retail marketplace. Therefore, you need a balance of strategy, compliance, and anticipation to get it right. 

Each app store, whether Apple’s App Store or Google Play, has its unique set of guidelines. For example, Apple has a strict code of conduct and design guidelines, requiring a sleek, intuitive design with seamless functionality to uphold its own product ethos. Google Play, on the contrary, is more flexible and emphasizes security and user privacy.

Let’s not forget about the cost involved. Apple charges an annual developer fee of $99, and Google Play requires a one-time fee of $25. 

What comes after launching your retail app, you may ask? 

Well, from understanding and responding to user feedback, making continuous improvements, and keeping an eye on crucial KPIs, you have a lot to do. KPIs are important as they provide insights explaining whether your app is growing and reaching your goals. But what KPIs to measure to define your success is more important. 

Here’s a short list of must-to-track Key Performance Indicators post-launch of your retail application. 

  • User Engagement: Track active downloads and usage patterns.
  • Customer Retention: Measure how often users return to your app. High retention rates indicate a loyal customer base.
  • Conversion Rates: Assess the effectiveness of turning users into paying customers.
  • Revenue Metrics: Evaluate the financial performance against your business objectives.

Custom Retail App Development Cost Considerations

Understanding the financial aspects of custom retail app development is crucial for any business stepping into this arena. You must make informed budgetary decisions that align with your business goals and the app’s intended impact. 

However, estimating the cost of developing a retail app is worth a brainstorming session, given the various factors affecting the ultimate budget. For example, 

Feature Complexity: More advanced features like real-time tracking, AR, and AI integration in retail apps increase development time and cost.

User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX) Design: High-quality, engaging, and intuitive design demands more time and expertise, thus raising costs.

Platform Choice (iOS, Android, or Both): Developing for multiple platforms increases costs due to the need for different skill sets and additional coding.

Third-Party Integrations: Incorporating external services like payment gateways, CRM systems, or analytics tools adds to the complexity and cost.

App Maintenance and Updates: Ongoing maintenance, bug fixes, and updates are crucial for performance and security, incurring continuous costs.

Market and Location of Development Team: The development team’s geographic location and market rates can significantly influence the overall cost.

From our experience and analysis, the cost of building a simple retail application ranges from $10000 to $60000, while a complex retail pp may cost up to $300000.

So, What is your Retail App Development Strategy?

Exploring everything from pinpointing your app’s purpose to its grand launch, you now know that each step is crucial to building a retail app that stands out in digital retail. And having the right team by your side makes all the difference. An experienced retail app development team can guide you better throughout the journey, preventing mistakes.

That’s where Kody Technolab Ltd. enters, bridging the gap between your retail business and technology. You choose the engagement model to hire our team who has the industry expertise and can even read between the lines of your requirements. Our developers understand the pulse of retail. So, you can rest assured that we build your app as a digital masterpiece. 

retail mobile app development

Sanjay Kidecha

Sanjay Kidecha is the Chief Finance Officer at Kody Technolab and a Fintech geek. With one foot in finance and the other in tech, Sanjay likes to write on emerging Fintech trends, ideas, and how-to guides to keep industry leaders updated with the ever-changing world of fintech!

Let's Grow and Get Famous Together.

    Contact Information

    +91 93167 56367

    +91 93772 29944



    2nd floor, J block, Mondeal Retail park, Besides Iscon mall, Iscon cross-road, SG Highway, Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380015



    60 Capulet Ln, London, ON N6H OB2, Canada



    Datamac Analytics LLC, One Financial Plaza, FL 1000, Fort Lauderdale FL, 33394



    14 East Bay Lane, The Press Centre, Here East, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, E20 3BS


    Explore how Kody Technolab is different from other software development companies.


    Download 50+ proven templates and editable frameworks which guide you to build remarkable product