As Forbes noted, an increasing number of small businesses have adopted mobile apps. They provide another channel through which brands can market to consumers, and companies can use instant push notifications to promote in real time. Apps also build brand recognition and increase customer engagement. What's more, shoppers actually prefer mobile apps – especially the younger ones. According to a survey by Dynatrace, 54 percent of millennial mobile users prefer to use an app rather than a company's website. Sixty-two percent said company apps show improved performance and provide a better experience than a website. 

It's easy to see the benefits of a mobile app, but it's not so easy to create one. Programming languages aside, mobile devices just don't have the same display sizes as desktop computers. There's a lot less screen to work with, leaving amateur designers confused as to how space should best be utilized. Plus, navigation and data entry on a phone are all done with a pointer finger, not the handy and accommodating keyboard and mouse. Still, these factors should not be the reason a small business avoids the world of mobile. E-commerce retailers should use the following tips when designing an application specifically for their company:

Create simple forms
Long signup and checkout processes are annoying to navigate. Some websites insist on lengthy forms with several input fields to create an account. Others force shoppers to navigate through several pages in order to complete a purchase. Consumers find such occurrences bothersome. They'd much rather keep things as simple as possible, and they want an even easier experience on their phones. To keep things simple, Envato, a marketplace for digital creatives, suggested allowing users to register via their preferred social media profile or buy products as a guest. 

Businesses unable to avoid a lengthy process should have a progress bar displayed somewhere on each screen, Envato added. This lets users know approximately how much time remains or how many steps are left until they're finished signing up or checking out. Seeing an end in sight makes consumers less likely to abandon their shopping carts.

Prioritize speed
Consumers like instant feedback. They want websites that load in less than a second, search bars that pull exactly what they're looking for and online payments that process the moment they hit the submit button. If they have to wait for a loading screen, they're less likely to continue using your app. If such a delay happens during the crucial checkout process, some paranoid shoppers may be afraid their payment information was compromised.

One way to keep things moving, Envato noted, was to limit the number of high-resolution images on your screen. Each photo adds a lengthy loading time, and consumers really only need one. Developers can use thumbnails to indicate other pictures or employ a gallery-style method where users swipe between images.

Build for scale
Ideally, the number of consumers using your e-commerce app will increase. Therefore, as Multichannel Merchant noted, it's important to make sure apps can handle a large number of users from the start. Programmers don't have to start off coding for millions of shoppers at once, but a fresh app should be able to handle more than a few hundred. After all, it costs money every time a developer has to overhaul code to handle increased traffic. If such redesigns happen frequently over the years, the expenses will add up.

Ultimately, apps must be easy to use. If a consumer finds the experience too annoying or too slow to load, that shopper will take his or her business elsewhere. By keeping things simple and efficient, e-commerce businesses can get the most out of their mobile application.

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