In this article, we will explain how to make a shopping app similar to Wish, while avoiding market pitfalls that turn bright start-up ideas into grim failures.

Our recommendations are based on 10 years of experience in app development, profound marketing research, and an analysis of the top famous shopping apps on the market.

We have collected the key data and put it in this article in order to help you find all the most important information in one place.

The topics we will cover here, include:

  • A market analysis of shopping applications
  • The best online shopping apps of 2019 & their key features
  • Functionality and tech approaches to create a shopping app
  • 9 ultimate steps to create an app to sell
  • Budget and timeline for making your online store

Let’s dive right into the subject.

Is There a Market to Create a Shopping App?

When thinking about how to create a shopping app, start with a market analysis.

Based on the conducted research, the lion's share of apps belongs to the domains of gaming, social media, business, and education. For example, the shopping app share on Apple Store makes only 2.18% according to Statista.

However, this situation may change drastically.

Most Popular App Categories Worldwide (App Store, 2019)
Most Popular App Categories Worldwide (App Store, 2019)

In 2019, the Amazon online shopping app was installed on more than 1 million devices, while the Wish app followed with 625K in the US alone. The demand for these apps grows dramatically during the holiday period, not just in the US, but in the UK, France, and Germany (Forbes).

It is worth mentioning that this year, users spent 2.2 billion hours on shopping apps during that Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period. App Annie expects that this indicator will grow by 25% annually.

One thing is clear: Shopping apps like Wish are in demand and growing. If you decide to create a shopping app now, your chances to succeed are very realistic, especially compared to the overcrowded social media and gaming markets.

We at MLSDev have vast experience in building shopping and eCommerce applications from scratch. Please take a look at our ongoing projects of success with thousands of users across 20+ US states.

GoPuff: Shopping & Delivery Application
GoPuff: Shopping & Delivery Application

The GoPuff app, which is shown above, is a shopping and on-demand delivery service that supplies its clients with office, party, and household essentials, snacks, drinks, frozen food, groceries, electronics, etc.

With a smart approach, professional technical support, and effective marketing strategy, you can create a shopping app that will make you a fortune.

Want to develop a shopping application?

Contact our team and receive a free consultation filled with business aspects, as well as technical specifics, for building an application for shopping. Aside from our advice, you will get a time and cost estimation for your digital business idea.

Receive your free consultation & app estimate

The Best Mobile Shopping Apps of 2019

Most Used & Successful Shopping Apps Worldwide
Most Used & Successful Shopping Apps Worldwide

The Wish app is one of the most interesting to look into when you think about making a sales app. The app is simple, yet functional. According to Sensor Tower it topped Amazon by a number of downloads and even approached Netflix in 2018.

Even still, your app shouldn't be a Wish clone. Instead, we recommend focusing on diversification.

To make this task easier, here is a list of the top 10 shopping apps, including Wish, for comparison:

App Name
Rating (App Store) & Installs
Platforms Unique
Functionality
Wish
#3
100M+

Android
iOS
Product videos, tracking of purchases, in-app customer support, reward coupon system
Blitz Buy feature (for more discounts)
Amazon
#1
100M+

Windows
Android
iOS
Blackberry


Alexa voice ordering, 1-click ordering, wish lists, order tracking, AR view
“Scan It” - feature for scanning barcodes and pictures for product availability, automatic shipment notifications, cross-platform integration
(ability to receive and send information via SMS, e-mail, and social media accounts)

eBay
#7
100M+

Windows
Android
iOS

Simplified selling/buying options, barcode scanning, personalized product feeds
AliExpress
#24
100M+

Windows
Android
iOS

Improved search tool, coupons, and discount features, shipping notifications, personalized product feeds
Etsy
#27
10M+

Android
iOS
Wish lists, shipment notifications, a full suite of payment options, event notifications, multi-language support
Banggood
#179
10M+

Windows
Android
iOS

Variety of standard shipping methods, personalized discount alerts, advanced search filters, numerous payment options (incl. cash on delivery), multi-language support
Light In The Box
below #200
5M+

Android
iOS
Discounts and cash-reward system, wish lists, order history, multiple payment options
Deal Extreme
below #200
1M+

Android
iOS
Order management, personal preference setting, discount/coupon function, new arrival alerts, shipping alerts, saved search history, multi-currency display
Craigslist
#22
100K+

Android
iOS
Shopping/selling option, wish lists, save a search, search alerts
Zulily
#133
1K+

Android
iOS
Coupon feature, hot-deal notifications, gift recommendations

Note: To create a shopping app that is almost as great as Amazon or Wish, consider the following factors:

  1. Business specifics - prices, product pages, customer support, shipping options, loyalty programs, etc.
  2. Technical features - order management, search, notifications, in-app customer support, voice shopping, cross-platform integration, etc.

Without a doubt, the Amazon shopping app is far superior with its 350 million products available via an app.

Amazon Shopping App
Amazon Shopping App

Technically, it features high-end perks like integration with Alexa and AR view, as well as cross-platform optimization. Building an app like Amazon would cost a fortune, since the calculations start at $240K and go up.

And yet, glitches in functionality sometimes drive customers away. Google Play reviews showcase the following:

Used to have no issues at all with this app, but suddenly it's buggy beyond words. Constant freezing, crashing, and error pages popping up without warning …

What does this teach us? Before deciding how to make a shopping app, consider this:

Even with an affluent inventory and cutting-edge tech, customers flee when your service doesn’t live up to its promise, or you have created a shopping app that is too complicated.

Doing less, on the contrary, may pay off, since people love simplicity. AliExpress is praised for its clarity:

This app is great, easy to use, and comprehensive.

Pro Tip: If you want to create a shopping app that is free of issues, make sure you hire a reliable tech vendor - then your app will have more chances to skyrocket in terms of income.

Article: Top 8 Proven App Monetization Strategies
Article: Top 8 Proven App Monetization Strategies

If you have already thought about making money with a mobile app, but aren’t sure how it works in practice, you might find answers in the following article: How Do Free Apps Make Money?

Interesting fact: To create a shopping app that drives sales, remember that wealthy people are ready to pay more for exclusive services.

For example, an app like VIP Black offers its customers exclusive access to their high-end products and costs $1,000 just to install.

Another interesting example is the Amazon Prime program (paid membership) that now enlists over 95 million active users in the US alone, which is more than the number of users with a free membership.

What are the main takeaways from the info mentioned earlier?

  • High-tech features should work flawlessly
  • Users value simplicity over everything
  • People will pay more for exclusive access to VIP services

Although the product range and service level is something that depends on you, we can help you by explaining how to create a shopping app technically. Your next step is the choice of primary and advanced features.

How to Make a Shopping App: Functionality & Tech Approaches

In your first estimation on the topic of how to make a shopping app, you should decide on both the primary and more profound tech features your customer may need.

Remember, not all apps similar to Wish implemented advanced functionality from the very beginning. Many started with simple features first.

Shopping App Like Wish: Core Functionality

As you prepare to create a shopping app, making your online store may seem like a grim undertaking. Here is a list of simple features you can start your project with:

  • Authorization

App Sign Up via Social Networks
App Sign Up via Social Networks

Customers hate inputting tons of personal information. If you want your shopping app to be successful, try to simplify everything. The best options are guest checkout or the ability to sign in with social media accounts.

  • Push notifications

If you want to create an app to sell products, notifications of upcoming sales, new arrivals, or cart replenishment may turn into a powerful sales booster.

  • Search & Catalog

What is the best shopping app? It’s the one that contains anything one could ever search for. This is easy to achieve with the three following features: filters, search result prompts, and suggestions. Even if a product is not in your inventory yet, a search result page prompting alternatives could be an ace up your sleeve.

  • Ratings & Reviews

Products Reviews to Boost Sales
Products Reviews to Boost Sales

Fifty-seven percent of shoppers make a purchase after they read other customer reviews; moreover, 91% of e-commerce buyers read reviews, and 84% trust a review as much as a friend's recommendation.

Sites like Wish or AliExpress fill their bills thanks to this feature.

When thinking about how to make a shopping app so that it turns into a platform for information exchange, offer your customers an opportunity to rate their experience right from the app, or invite them to leave a comment.

Interesting fact: According to Inc.com, ratings vary by culture. US citizens are more generous in sharing 5-star reviews compared to Europeans. Thus, Craig Boem advises subtracting a point from the American NPS (Net Promoter Score) variant if you are working with a European market and vice versa.

  • Checkout Process

Top Reasons Why Shoppers Withdraw the Cart
Top Reasons Why Shoppers Withdraw the Cart

Shopping apps or sites like Zulilly, Wish, etc, follow one rule: less is more. We recommend building your shopping cart with a one-step checkout. Aside from this, it should be fast and flawless, as 25% of customers will leave if they must re-enter shipping info.

  • Payment Gateway

Thirty percent of customers disappear if payment info input takes too long. This is why apps and sites like AliExpress or other Wish alternatives invest quite a bit in ensuring a flawless payment process supported by different payment options.

  • Customer Support

Multiple points of access to customer support are important in order to create a shopping app that beats competitors. An all-in-one shopping app should include different contact channels like social platforms, email, chat boxes, calls, etc. No matter which option a customer uses, a reply should come within 24 hours.

Advanced Features of Shopping Apps

Perhaps a couple of years from now, a shopping app will look nothing like today. When thinking about how to make a shopping app that stays popular, it is worth thinking about some advanced functionality that may drive customer flow in the future:

  • Suggestions

What makes a shopping app like Wish successful is the system of shopping suggestions. The majority of free analytic services can help by analyzing customer needs and tastes. This allows an app to build a great suggestion system that will streamline your cross- and up-selling efforts.

  • Wishlist

Even if you create a shopping app, launch it, and everything seems good - not all of your visitors will buy. People are reluctant. A wish list would be a great feature to include in your shopping app. With the ability to postpone a purchase, a customer is more likely to return to your app and finalize their shopping without a hassle.

  • Shipping System

Sixty-three percent of customers will leave if shipping costs too much. As well, 36% are likely to cancel the purchase if shipping takes too long. However, the most annoying factor is a lack of information about the shipping status.

Great online shopping apps are not just about technology. A successful online app store has a reliable third-party shipping provider. If your day starts with thinking about how to make a shopping app, also consider how you'll provide high-quality delivery and different shipping options, and also include in-app access to the shipping status.

  • AR & VR Shopping Option

Usage of Augmented Reality in a Shopping App
Usage of Augmented Reality in a Shopping App

Augmented or virtual reality functionality is not yet a standard or easily affordable feature. The Amazon online application tries to make use of this technology, as there is a particular niche customer who'd be happy to see a 3D view of the product or to virtually "try it on" before purchase.

  • iBeacon

How Do Beacons Work
How Do Beacons Work

Some new shopping apps make use of iBeacon technology. iBeacon is a small device in the physical store that interacts with an app on a customer's mobile phone, collecting information about customer's locations, tastes, and interests.

This feature can bring you closer to profound personalized marketing, but only if you are thinking about how to make a shopping app for a well-developed chain of physical stores.

  • Location Tracking [Search for the Nearest Store]

Since more than half of mobile owners use shopping apps to study products and later go to brick-and-mortar shops, recommending the nearest store based on location tracking would be an efficient UX booster. This a great feature that supports both online and offline merchandise.

  • Personal Assistant

Being able to see what a customer likes or needs can work wonders for your online store app with notifications on the products a customer has looked through, a history of prices, or any sort of updates.

A personal assistant works similarly to suggestion mechanisms, but requires a more profound data feed to build a personal offer for every customer. It is not a necessary feature if you want to build a shopping app like Wish, as the latter makes good with a simpler functionality. Yet, this should be food for thought for the future.

Step by Step Process to Create a Shopping App

10-Step Process to Create a Shopping App
10-Step Process to Create a Shopping App

The following 9-steps should help you through the process of how to make a shopping app that sells. It is vital to pay precise attention to each of these steps, namely:

1. Conduct market research & identify the problem

If you want to create a shopping app, offer a solution that makes life easier. For example, originally, Amazon helped people get books at affordable prices with just a click. Sites like Wish and AliExpress cover the need for profitable deals.

The issues your customers will love to have solved should be a starting point when thinking about how to make a shopping app.

2. Set your strategy, business goals, & expectations

What and how will you serve your customers? This is a tough question when thinking about creating a shopping app.

To better understand the scope of the forthcoming work, consider the following:

  • Three main actions customers should complete while using the app
  • Scenario of the first interaction with customers
  • Decisions on how to make a shopping app technically (figure out suitable tech stack and tools, calculate development costs and timeline, evaluate the risks)

If you are curious about the practical side of the goal and strategy-setting processes, we have recently laid out how to do so in practice in our 10-step guide: How to Make Your App Successful: A Detailed Step-by-Step Guide.

3. Find a proper software development vendor

To create a shopping app, decide on a team to hire. The market of development companies is growing, including cost-efficient IT offshore outsourcing options, worth primary attention if you want to save in terms of your budget.

3-Step Process to Outsource Shopping App Development
3-Step Process to Outsource Shopping App Development

Note: You cannot win over the market without multiple points of contact with your shopping services. Therefore, we recommend building a website too.

The conversion rate of purchases from websites like Wish was 4.14% in 2019, which is more than 2% higher compared to mobile shopping (1.53%). Thus, consider building a shopping website as well, as it would be a great booster for your further business growth.

4. Define your shopping app functionality

When you create a shopping app, start with the essential features that make up a solid product that broadcasts value to the end-shopper.

These days users are spoiled and used to getting the top service and user experience. Therefore, make your app’s quality, performance, and user experience a top priority.

A well-designed and developed digital product allows you to test the online shop application among real users and receive the necessary feedback to start competing with rivalry products.

5. Create a professional UX/UI design

Design Screens of the McDonald’s Baltics App
Design Screens of the McDonald’s Baltics App

User-centered design is essential for your app’s success. To achieve this, follow the requirements of the Android and iOS guidelines. As you may know, these mobile operating systems dominate the market and almost 100% of users either use an iPhone device or one that operates on Android OS.

Consider the fact that shopping apps like Wish are mostly designed following 2-tap or 5-point rules, meaning it should take just two taps to get what a user wants, and the interface shouldn't have more than five core design elements.

6. Test, deploy, & launch the application for shopping

Deployment shows if your efforts on creating a shopping app have managed to bear fruit.

50% of success on this stage goes to the proper quality assurance and testing, that requires integrating analytic tools, beta-testing of the product on production, and collecting metrics once the app is launched.

7. Roll out marketing campaigns to promote your online shop

Launching an app on the App Store and Google Play is the first real step. Though, only 10% of apps are widely used and actively installed.

Updated App Showcase in the App Store
Updated App Showcase in the App Storev

To increase your chances, you may need to:

  • apply the app store optimization (ASO) practices

What is ASO
What is ASO

  • work on communication and distribution channels (e.g. marketing via social media, press releases, participation in events, etc.)
  • create a landing page
  • market your app idea to early adopters via specialized sites like PreApps

8. Collect & analyze feedback from app users

You shouldn’t just pin your hopes on questions like how to start your own app business, but also consider how you will manage and improve its performance.

: App Metrics and KPIs to Check
: App Metrics and KPIs to Check

Collecting real-life user feedback, both from analytic tools and customer reviews, is necessary to improve the functionality to outperform your users’ expectations.

9. Ongoing shopping app support & new functionality

With tons of new apps, you can't expect to get ahead if you do not please your customers with new features, updates, and app improvements.

The best mobile shopping apps guarantee a hassle free user-experience 24/7.

Required Timeline & Budget to Create a Shopping App

How much does it cost to create a shopping app and how much time could it take? To save your time and effort we have broken things down in the following summary.

The cost of a shopping app can vary from $5,000 to $150,000+ depending on the tech stack, development approach (custom, cross-platform, with the help of ready-made software, etc), and many other factors.

Here is a table that presents the costs of custom shopping app development depending on the feature-set, complexity of UX/UI design, and the number of platforms. The basic shopping app version may cost around $50,000 and be built within 3-5 months.

Basic App
(simplest features, 1 platform)
Medium App
(custom design, additional features, 1-2 platforms)
Large App
(complex design, unique features, development and support, 2 platforms)
UX/UI Design $5,000+ $10,000+ $21,000+
Custom Development $30,000+ $60,000+ $150,000+
Quality Assurance $5,000+ $10,000+ $25,000+
Project Management $7,000+ $15,000+ $32,000+
Business Analysis $2,500+ $5,000+ $12,000+
Total setup $50,000-$80,000 $100,000+ $240,000+
Time ~3-5 months ~6-9 months 9+ months (ongoing)

If you decide to build a custom app, a reliable software development company will walk you through the project phases you will have to go through, which will also help you better understand the price.

To create a shopping app, you will need to allocate a budget that will cover the services involved in application development. At MLSDev, we break custom product development into two major phases, which include the following activities and services:

Discovery stage:

  • Business analysis
  • UX/UI design
  • Software architecture planning
  • Project management
  • Team review

Development stage:

  • Early planning (1-2 week period, 1st development sprint)
  • Development
  • Quality assurance and testing
  • Project management
  • Team review

Custom Software Development Process to Create a Shopping App
Custom Software Development Process to Create a Shopping App

Note: When thinking about how to make a shopping app from a financial standpoint, make sure you discuss all the project phases with a vendor in advance.

At the very beginning, it is really hard to provide a precise project estimate and understand the exact app cost and timeline. The most influential factors that determine the final cost to build an app are the following:

  • Vendor type and location
  • Complexity and number of app features
  • Back-end infrastructure and connected APIs
  • Complexity of UX/UI design
  • Inclusion of additional branded visual elements
  • Development approach (native, mobile web, hybrid, etc.)
  • Number of platforms to be developed (iOS, Android, Web, etc.)

It is very important to understand these specifics and choose a reliable software developer in order to create a shopping app successfully.

Full Guide to Understanding App Development Cost
Full Guide to Understanding App Development Cost

To learn more, we recommend reading our article: App Development Cost: Understand Your Budget to Build Powerful Apps.

Here, you can find a detailed guide on different app development scenarios and hidden costs that increase the price of the software, as well as check app pricing benchmarks form the top research.

Another factor in shopping app cost that is also worth your attention is the software development approach and vendor you choose.

Let’s briefly compare the options you have in order to create a shopping app:

  • Freelance developer

If you are contemplating how to make a shopping app with a limited budget, hiring a freelance shopping app developer may seem attractive, although no one can guarantee protection from risks, extended deadlines, additional costs, or unexpected blockers.

You may calculate the cost of this option by multiplying a freelancer’s rate by the time needed for app development. According to Upwork, the hourly rate of a freelance developer ranges from $20 to $99.

  • Dedicated team

When hiring a dedicated team to create a shopping app, you can expect an exact budget calculation, risk analysis, and commitment.

To keep the collaboration crystal clear, before each stage, the team should provide an estimate and timeline (sometimes it can be rough, depending on the project complexity). Further, the client can be guided by up-to-date feedback on the progress.

Benefits of Dedicated Development Team Model
Benefits of Dedicated Development Team Model

To conclude: There is a fundamental truth behind the choice of the tech approach: with the proper choice of vendor, and clear-set communication and collaboration, you may expect a successful project outcome.

The MLSDev team works by following a dedicated team model and 10+ years of experience. Along with a client, we first elaborate on the project, then continue with a discovery stage, and further with the app development stage. Our team advises that you focus on unique values and scale up according to the demand of the audience.

Do you have a brilliant shopping app idea in mind?

We would be happy to discuss your ideas and provide an app development quotation along with an expert consultation by our business analyst and software architect for free.

Contact us

Frequently Asked Questions:

🔥 Why Wish app for shopping is so popular?
Wish is one of the top apps for shopping. According to Sensor Tower, it topped Amazon by a number of downloads and even approached Netflix in 2018. This is due to its simple-to-use app with the functionality of product videos, purchase tracking, in-app customer support, reward coupon system, and Blitz Buy feature for more discounts.
🎯 What is the conversion rate of a Wish app?
The conversion rate of purchases from websites like Wish was 4.14% in 2019, which is more than 2% higher compared to mobile shopping (1.53%). Thus, consider building a shopping website as well, as it would be a great booster for your further business growth.
👍 What are the must-have and advanced features included in any good shopping app?
If you want to build a shopping app, think about implementing key features like user authorization, push notifications, search & catalog functionality, the possibility of rating and reviews, customer support, and user-friendly checkout process and payment gateway. To add more value, consider adding extra features like shopping suggestions, wish lists, shipping systems, personal assistant option, or even innovative functions with the help of iBeacon, VR & AR shopping.
⏳ How much time does it take to develop a shopping app?
The time required to build a shopping app depends on factors like the software vendor you hire and rates, functionality scope, the number of operating platforms (web, iOS, Android, etc.), level of customization, etc. Generally, it takes around 3-6 months to develop the first app version and the timeline to design and develop a fully-fledged system is around 9 months or more.