Before the kick-off of your eCommerce app development project, it is vital to know the functions you need, the optimal ways they should be implemented, and the various related possibilities to benefit from.
It is generally believed that only some 20% of eCommerce startups survive. The rest go haywire for reasons that are one way or another related to the functionality of their mission-critical application or marketing strategy. The ever-growing competition and new technologies coming into play increasingly make eCommerce app development a process that requires a great deal of skill and even more experience.
The Covid-19 pandemic has first cut hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide off from brick-and-mortar storefronts. Furthermore, it has eventually weaned many of them from their brick-and-mortar shopping habits for good.
Fueled by these events, eCommerce is currently in its prime. To make up for the lost time, many businesses that have learned the importance of a well-established eCommerce presence the hard way are now rushing into the eCommerce space. SME retailers’ current recovery from the fallout of the pandemic and the advent of a vast number of newcomers both spell a tremendous surge in the competition in the eCommerce realm.
This surge will most likely impact mid-sized eCommerce merchants and eCommerce startups the most: let’s face it – the industry is very high on competition. Larger eCommerce platforms are frequently better equipped to compete with their smaller peers. These large market players continuously evolve, expand, and improve the way they cater for their growing audiences. They derive the vast bulk of their improvement potential from various cutting-edge technologies and innovations, making these innovations a must for those, whose eCommerce sites are still in their infancy, or rely on more simple ways to satisfy their audiences.
Because of all this, it has become vital nowadays for smaller or less experienced eCommerce merchants to realize that only a full-fledged and well-thought-out modern eCommerce solution can generate good earnings and ensure growth.
But what can be considered a full-fledged, modern eCommerce solution? What functionality should it include to stay truly competitive?
As a custom software development company that has been engaged in extending eCommerce app development services for over a decade now and has done a fair amount of eCommerce app development for several leading eCommerce brands, we’ll tell you about the types of functionality a competitive eCommerce application must provide. We’ll also share some empirical insights on how this functionality should best be implemented.
Let’s start with the core eCommerce functionality.
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The core eCommerce functionality and how it should be implemented
Client-facing eCommerce functionality
The functionality various eCommerce solutions provide can vary depending on the specific type and purpose of the solution that you want to develop.
Typically, your eCommerce application comprises the following core functional capabilities:
- Sign up / Sign in functionality;
- Advanced search (including Product Filtering and Product Info)
- Ordering flow-related functionality (including Shopping Cart and Order Preview).
- Order management and cancellation
- Account Management (the User Profile)
- Feedback functionality (reviews and comments)
- Delivery tracking
- Mobile (native apps and responsive design)
What do you need to know about the specific implementation of any of the core eCommerce functions, so that you could knowledgeably discuss this with your eCommerce app development provider?
Well, there is quite a bit here to know. Let’s take a closer look.
The Sign-up procedure your eCommerce application offers must be very simple and clear. One should avoid any excessive detail that creates excessive friction.
Preferably, the user should be able to get registered immediately on any page of your eCommerce site and do so very quickly, for example, by entering only their mobile phone number or address. The rest of the account creation procedure should be handled by the system automatically. It is hugely important that the user be able to use this kind of a registration procedure while on the Shopping Cart page as they are making a purchase. In the latter case, the user should also be able to get registered on the fly, without a redirect to the application’s sign-up flow. To enable all this, request your eCommerce app development provider to implement an automated account creation flow.
Also, never make the Sign-up procedure a must for accessing all of your eCommerce site’s functionality. Visitors to your site must be able to first get an idea about your site and its offerings, and only then can you ask them to get registered to your site.
While implementing the Advanced Search functionality of an eCommerce application, it is always of utmost importance to determine the more meaningful characteristics of the products that you are going to sell and categorize your inventory accordingly. Typically, these characteristics vary from product to product and frequently serve as product-specific search criteria.
For example, if you engage in selling door hardware, your categorization or search criteria would most probably include lock type (lever, mortice, code/push button, padlock, night latch, and so on), brand, door type by material (wooden, metal), door type by purpose (external, internal, garage), lock grade, lock role (principal/additional), and others. Therefore, one must make all these criteria searchable in your application.
Your Advanced Search functionality should also have a Product preview feature to allow the user to briefly get familiar with the product details of any of the products that appear in the search results.
It should also be said that the Advanced Search functionality is one of the areas of an eCommerce application that can benefit immensely from the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Prior to kicking off your eCommerce app development process you must necessarily get familiar with the opportunities AI and ML create in this regard (please see AI in eCommerce app development later in this article).
Adding things to the Shopping cart must be as simple as possible. The fewer steps the Shopping Cart of your eCommerce site has the better.
Do not try to promote any adjacent items here, or to derive some marketing insights by asking the user too many questions. Both the mistakes tend to create user friction that is among the top reasons for eCommerce sites’ failures. A smart way to leverage your Shopping Cart for sales promotion purposes is to implement functionality that would allow you to remind the user of the items they’ve shown interest in previously but have not yet purchased. For example, this can be done by sending the user emails they can view in the Shopping Cart.
Your Shopping Cart will also become a lot more user-friendly and appealing if you implement a Preview capability to allow the user to see all the items that they are buying.
Talking of the Shopping Cart functionality, one cannot but mention one more thing that carries a lot of weight here – One-Click Purchase.
Whenever you deal with multiple similar payments, having to retype the same payment details every time you need to make a payment is a waste of time and an inconvenience for a mobile phone user.
Because of this, One-Click purchase functionality has become a necessity in eCommerce mobile app development. As you start your eCommerce mobile app development effort, make sure to have this approach implemented by your eCommerce app development provider to encourage your mobile shoppers to buy again and make repeated payments in your favor.
Order Management and Cancellation
Your Order Management and Cancellation functionality must clearly state a viable refund policy and support it workflow-wise. This point should on no account be neglected or underestimated. Not having a clear-cut and actionable refund policy or the functionality that supports it has a lot of negative influence on an eCommerce site’s user audience. Implementing multiple payment methods is a must too. But what tops the list of the Ordering functionality that can really endear your eCommerce app to your audience is implementing a delivery-tracking module that will allow your users to check in real time the delivery status of the products they’ve purchased.
Managing your own ordering process frequently becomes a hazard too. An over- or undersupplied inventory can easily be fraught with financial losses and numerous lost customers. We’ll dwell on the ways that this kind of perils can be mitigated a little later, in the AI in eCommerce app development section of this article.
Mobile functionality for native mobile apps and responsive design (including Push Notifications)
While planning the mobile functionality of your Commerce solution, always shoot for a native mobile app. Mobile functionality is increasingly important in eCommerce, and the capabilities of a native app allow you to respond to this trend with greater usability and better customer experience. If for some reason developing a native app is currently not an option for you, go for a responsive design solution that viably supports at least all the main types of mobile devices.
These are the core functions that are essential to any eCommerce application, and it is strongly advisable that you make them part of your eCommerce solution too. It could be smart to do so yet during the MVP development stage – in fact, here have provided a list of the features a well-thought-out eCommerce MVP should have. Simultaneously, this doesn’t have to mean you cannot add one or more of these functional capabilities at a later point in the software development cycle – virtually any of them can be added at any time.
|Core eCommerce Functions
|Optional eCommerce Functions
|Sign up / Sign in functionality
|Social Media Integration
|Advanced search (including Product Filtering and Product Info)
|Ordering flow-related functionality (including Shopping Cart and Order Preview)
|Integration with wearables
|Order management and cancellation
|Mobile eCommerce trends
|Account Management (the User Profile)
|Feedback functionality (reviews and comments)
Nice-to-Have and Valuable but Optional eCommerce functionality
Nowadays, your potential customers spend an abundance of time on social media. This has given rise to an eCommerce trend called Social Media Commerce: you integrate your eCommerce app with one or more social media sites and use things like Big Data to target these potential customers with a highly personalized offering.
As an eCommerce approach, Social Media Commerce has a definite major advantage: you can establish a marketing presence of sorts in the life of your potential customer, and then target them with multiple similar offers over a relatively extended period of time.
In this sense, Social Media Integration is an awesome option to add to a full-fledged eCommerce solution.
Geofencing is a technology that uses GPS and RFID to “fence around” some physical area (such as, for instance, a competitor’s brick-and-mortar store, a trade show, or a conference). You can then send marketing messages to any mobile device owners, who are identified by your geofencing functionality as those visiting the geofenced area. You can try to direct the targeted mobile users to either your eCommerce online presence or to your physical storefront – this is up to you to decide.
If you think that you know enough locations your potential customers tend to visit, Geofencing can be the right thing to add to your eCommerce application.
Integration with wearables
Although their form factors may not be ideal for the purposes of online buying, wearables are predicted to be a growing influence on the eCommerce landscape in the years to come. According to Markets and Markets, the size of the global wearables market will have reached a whopping $265.4 billion by 2026. Some of them are already used for easier payment authentication, while others can shortly be outfitted with shopping capabilities that will allow you to use them to shop for products and services online directly.
Two more promising applications for wearables can include conducting more precise Geofencing and collecting wearable-generated data and using this data for marketing purposes.
If what you have in mind is a full-blown, sophisticated eCommerce solution that will gradually evolve and respond to the predicted future trends, its integration with wearables could be a great option to consider.
Mobile Commerce trends
AR & VR
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are the two game-changer technologies that are beginning to influence the future of eCommerce big time. Already now, they’ve turned into two ever-rising mobile eCommerce trends.
AR helps mobile eCommerce shoppers select better-fitting products by placing these items in a specific setting (like, for instance, a piece of furniture placed in the setting of their own home), or on their bodies (like, for instance, an earring that an eCommerce shopper can see right on their ear on the screen of their mobile device).
In turn, VR creates virtual customer experiences for products or services that are otherwise difficult to promote online. Usually, this is something of large dimensions, something that has numerous features and details. Products like this tend to make it difficult for an eCommerce shopper to make a buying decision. For instance, even an online shopper, who is not happy with the locally available options may still be reluctant to purchase a suite of furniture online. By using their mobile device, they can now access an eCommerce merchant’s VR functionality and be taken inside the vendor’s furniture store for a more thorough look. Please also note that AR & VR serve as an important connecting link between one’s online eCommerce presence and their brick-and-mortar storefronts.
Certainly, AR & VR cannot be regarded as must-haves for any eCommerce site. Simultaneously, the nature of these technologies makes them an asset to those businesses that are engaged in online selling of architectural designs, furniture, garments, automobiles, real estate, and some other products and services.
The marketing or promotional functionality is essential to any full-fledged eCommerce solution for two primary reasons. Firstly, it allows you to better engage your current customers and significantly bump up your sales as a result. Secondly, some of the more advanced promotional capabilities one can implement create additional profitable opportunities for both you and part of your target audience. In essence, they enable you to acquire a number of sales reps who propel your business.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the more essential promotional functions you might want to add to your eCommerce application.
Refer a friend
To increase your customer base, you can implement a capability that allows your current users to invite other persons to get registered to your site. In order to provide an incentive for your current users to send out invites, you can implement a system of virtual money. Each accepted invite that has resulted in a new user getting registered to the site will cost a certain amount of this money that will be transferred to the virtual wallet of the inviting user. The inviting user will be able to use the virtual money they’ve earned to pay for items on your site in whole or in part.
Target mailing functionality
As an eCommerce merchant, you need to be able to promote items to both all your current customers and some specific segments of your customer base. To enable this, you can implement functionality that would allow you to mass-mail your current customers.
For you to be able to target a specific customer segment within your customer base, it is possible to implement the ability to filter your mailing list by product category and some other basic criteria, or to employ AI/ML to further refine your targeting.
Sales partner functionality
Regardless of the kind of items your eCommerce solution sells, some part of your customer base is bound to consist of other site owners. As your eCommerce business gains prominence online, there will also appear a lot of those, who will be interested in some sort of a cooperation with you.
To take advantage of this, you can implement sales partner functionality. This functionality will enable any interested users to register an account and create a widget they will be able to embed in their sites. In exchange, these site owners will be entitled to a referral fee.
Loyal client bonuses
To reward loyal customers and further encourage the rest of your customer base and target audience, you can implement Loyalty Programs functionality.
For example, it is possible to implement functions that will allow you to calculate and offer discounts to high-spending customers, or to give away free items after a predefined number of purchases made by a customer within a specified time frame.
Other optional functionality
Depending on your business goals and project budget, you can expand the core functionality we have mentioned with Customer Wish Lists, Ordering History, Media Integration, or Branding and Theme Options. You can add these optional features at any time too, including to an eCommerce application that is already in existence.
AI in eCommerce app development
Artificial intelligence is no longer a novelty. It has been making inroads into most verticals, in many instances fast becoming the new norm. eCommerce is no exception. Moreover, eCommerce as an industry is AI’s topmost adopter, leaving behind even industries like Fintech or Logistics.
To us, the reason why eCommerce merchants are embracing AI-enabled innovations at what you can call a staggering rate is obvious. Although AI and ML capabilities cannot largely be considered as core eCommerce functionality, you can call none of the AI and ML functions even very sophisticated eCommerce apps use bells and whistles. Oftentimes, these functions are not simply important, but downright instrumental in optimizing the key areas of an eCommerce application. Talking of instances, this is the case with the Customer Engagement and Marketing functionality of eCommerce solutions. AI & ML are about the only existing means of improvement and competitive edge you can have here.
Because of all this, it is imperative that you be aware of the various AI-related possibilities that exist. Please also note that one can normally seamlessly add most of the known AI & ML innovations even to an existing eCommerce site.
The areas of an eCommerce application that AI and ML can improve
At the beginning, it is important to just once again point out that Artificial Intelligence is an umbrella term for an array of technologies that comprises Natural Language Processing (NLP), Data Mining, and Machine Learning.
Combined, these technologies allow you to capture and interpret user intent by using linguistic, audio, or visual information. They allow you to retrieve data in accordance with the captured user intent, and enable part of your eCommerce application to perform tasks required to comply with this user intent. This makes AI a powerful vehicle of improvement for an entire range of aspects of eCommerce. Furthermore, each of the three AI technologies is continually evolving, generating new valuable applications eCommerce apps can use.
Presently, AI is sufficiently mature to make a meaningful dent in the following areas of an eCommerce operation:
- Product Search
- Customer Engagement
- Inventory Management
Let’s now take a look at the specific AI and ML capabilities that make this possible.
The main AI-enabled innovations that help an eCommerce application make better sales and increase earnings
Enhanced search functionality
Unfocused search results are death on eCommerce sales. Sometimes, it just takes the user too long to find what they want. In other cases, they just fail to do so, or lose patience or interest. This is especially a problem for eCommerce sites with an extensive product range.
AI & ML can help you solve the problem in several ways.
The AI technology called Natural Language Processing (or to be more precise, an NLP technique called Sentiment Analysis) helps you derive marketing insights on the user’s likes, dislikes, and preferences from across the Web.
An NLP module that can be added to your eCommerce app can analyze your customer’s previous search queries, blogs, incoming emails, chatbot messages, on-wall communications in various social networks, and other sources. As a result, when a customer is searching for a product, you can recommend to them those items from your product offering that are more in sync with their wants and needs.
However, this is not the only precious ability of NLP as far as product search is concerned. Essentially, NLP is a technology that emulates the human ability to interpret text or speech. It tries to capture the meaning of the entire phrase or search query, rather than focus on each of the words that make up this phrase. Because of this, NLP is capable of interpreting long customer queries and understanding their meaning.
This gives you two advantages: firstly, you can further refine the search results that your eCommerce application serves up. Secondly, it becomes a lot easier for you to suggest some complimentary products, for example, some adjacent products from the same brand, or simply some matching products.
Another great way to provide better search results and dramatically reduce the shopping time is to employ Visual Artificial Intelligence.
Visual AI eliminates the need for your customer to browse through a long number of pages of your inventory to find the product they need. In particular, the AI technique of Image Recognition allows your users to make a search for an item by uploading a snapshot of this item they’ve taken in real life. Moreover, with Image Recognition, it is possible to search not only for exact matches but for similar items too, which makes the technique even more of a valuable marketing tool.
Better customer engagement
Mid-sized and major eCommerce vendors typically deal with a large number of customers, and, as a consequence, an overwhelming number of customer voice communications. Interacting with customers without automation becomes an everyday challenge for your employees and a hefty expenditure for you.
AI offers you a perfect solution to this problem in the form of AI-powered chatbots.
Chatbots are not newcomers in eCommerce. Their efficiency in conversational engagement in this vertical no longer needs to be proven. According to MyTotalRetail, the size of the global eCommerce chatbot market constituted $ 2.9 billion in 2020 and will have grown to $ 10,5 + billion by 2026.
AI-powered chatbots boast an entire range of advantages as compared with the traditional customer support. They work effortlessly 24/7, have equal proficiency in all the product categories you are engaged in selling, never tire, and never take a vacay. Furthermore, with the help of the NLP technique of Sentiment Analysis, that can be used to scour the Web for information on a given topic, they know a lot more about the customer they are dealing with.
Finally, AI-powered chatbots can be made multilingual to help you market your products internationally. Remember – for hundreds of millions of people worldwide their mother tongue is the only language they speak and understand.
Important note – prior to making a decision on implementing a chatbot as part of your eCommerce solution, find out about the kind of a chatbot your eCommerce app development company can implement. If you want your solution to have advanced conversational engagement functionality, simpler scripted chatbots and scripted chatbots with an AI-powered GUI will most likely fall short for your needs. You will need a completely AI-driven сhat bot with a powerful AI/NLP layer. Check if your eCommerce app developers have the skill and expertise to implement this one.
As we have mentioned previously, managing your eCommerce inventory can be tricky indeed. You can easily misjudge the future market demand and order an insufficient quantity of a product, or, conversely, be saddled with an oversupply that will take a long time to sell and freeze your funds. Similarly, It’s also possible for you to misjudge the ability of your suppliers to deliver a product in time and consequently lose customers again.
AI can help you out here across the board. For example, you can use the AI technique of Text Mining to mine both your own data and the Web to predict the future demand for a product during a specific time period. You can determine the quantity of this product to be ordered and the precise time that this quantity should be ordered.
Additionally, you can also make your Inventory Management smarter by using Sentiment Analysis to analyze those customer queries that you don’t have the stock to comply with. A considerable number of similar queries of this kind can signal an opportunity to add the corresponding item to your inventory and start making a profit on it.
Overall requirements for the system’s functionality in eCommerce application development
The user experience your eCommerce solution delivers is always pivotal to its success. In addition to the ease of use and an attractive look and feel, your application must provide a uniform, or at least, only slightly varying GUI on the different types of user devices.
In other words, a user who is accessing your eCommerce site from a mobile device must see a GUI that is ideally the same or very similar to the one they see on their tablet or PC. Any significant dissimilarity between the different versions of the GUI can throw off your users and make the overall UX your eCommerce app delivers off-putting to your audience.
Make sure your eCommerce app development provider pays enough attention to the GUI of your mobile eCommerce app and the UX it delivers – this functionality is one of your top priorities. Also, make sure your software development company’s UI designers don’t clutter up your eCommerce site’s home page with too much information. Overwhelming visitors to your site with loads of information from the outset is a surefire way to lose many of them for good. In relation to both the points, it might make sense to give additional preference to an eCommerce software provider that is experienced in creating mobile GUIs for complex enterprise-grade functionality – this kind of experience could really come in handy here.
You, in turn, should refrain from cluttering up your home page with pop-ups, branding information, or your company’s own advertising. Ease of use must top your list of priorities at all times – over the longer haul, this approach will eventually allow you to turn a greater profit than any immediate advertising-related sidelines.
Security and scalability in eCommerce application development
Security in eCommerce app development
An eCommerce application must be secured the way any other application must be. However, there are several points we’d like to call your attention to here.
It is preferable to secure the sign-up to your user accounts with the help of two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication – at least, you should give your users such an option.
In addition, there are two spots in your eCommerce system your eCommerce app developers should protect with captures. The first such spot is your Sign-Up page. The second one is the Purchase page, on which malicious bots can try to perform some fraudulent activity. For example, they can try to figure out a coupon code with a view to buying up all discounted items of a certain category and selling these items at a higher price.
If you decide to implement One-Click Purchase, which is nowadays more of a must than a luxury, you will have to store sensitive customer data. Here, you will have two options: store your customer data locally, or store it externally, with the help of some other platform. If you prefer to store your data locally, you will have to request your eCommerce app developers to make your data storage PSI/DSS compliant. Besides, your data storage will need to be rendered GDPR-compliant if you are based in the EU or just work with EU-based customers.
As far as GDPR compliance is concerned, it will be necessary for you to also implement a function that will allow you to erase a specific customer’ data upon request, or anonymize this data if you want to retain it for statistical or reporting purposes (for example, by scrambling the name, surname, and contact data).
Scalability in eCommerce app development
One more vastly important factor you must make a point of discussing with your eCommerce app development provider would be your solution’s scalability. Request them to keep scalability front of mind for the duration of your eCommerce app development effort and embed it in all the functionality they deliver.
Your eCommerce app development team should on no account sacrifice scalability in favor of shorter development timeframes or any other factors. It must be easy to expand server modes or add any new features across the entirety of your eCommerce application.
eCommerce mobile and web development services of applications is an art that takes a lot of skill and analysis and makes you juggle a range of factors depending on your business goals. Some of the functional capabilities of your eCommerce solution-to-be can be either emphasized or downplayed in accordance with its target audience(s), size, and project budget.
In our article, we have tried to give you a general idea about how one should go about implementing an eCommerce software application and what they should pay more attention to while discussing their eCommerce app development project with a software development company.
However, we’d still be keen to do more for you. As a company that has been engaged in rendering eCommerce application development services for many a year now, we certainly know lots more about how to develop an eCommerce app more optimally for each specific business and business situation.
That is why, you are welcome to share with us the generic details of the eCommerce app development project you have in mind, and we’ll be delighted to discuss with you the more optimal ways of implementing this one. Just drop us a line and we’ll be sure to get in touch with you before long and help you with mobile app development outsourcing as much as we can.
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