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Why OpenStore Builds iOS Apps For Our Brands

Cal Chueh profile picture

Cal Chueh

Feb 12, 2024

Opening Up iOS apps

This is the first article in our new content series, Opening Up, where we peel back the curtain on how we scale our growing portfolio of DTC brands. We’ll share how we combine marketing strategies, economies of scale, and our advantage as a technology company to reach more customers, lower costs for us and shoppers, and build brands that are loved by millions.

  • Mobile apps can help brands deepen relationships with customers, driving brand affinity, AOV, and repeat purchases.

  • OpenStore built infrastructure to make high-quality iOS apps for our brands at a fast clip. 

  • OpenStore built 41 apps for our brands like men’s clothing brand Jack Archer and children’s toy brand Sensory Joy.

Now more than ever, having a mobile app for your Shopify brand can give you an edge over your competition. 

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. consumers report that they’re shopping more on their phones than they did two years prior, according to research from payments company Klarna. Nearly all of those Klarna surveyed—94%—said that they have shopping apps installed on their phones. At OpenStore, over two million shoppers have bought OpenStore products. To reach even more shoppers and drive more sales, we decided to invest in mobile apps for some of our brands.  

Building an app, however, requires engineers, time, and money, to name a few constraints. As a tech company, we’re constantly looking for ways to build our own tools, rather than rely on third-party companies. So, we developed infrastructure to build iOS apps for our brands in as little as under an hour, without relying on a third-party service.  

The problem: using a third-party service limited us

When I joined OpenStore in June of 2022, the team outsourced app development to a third-party service. We used that provider to develop 11 apps for our brands. We noticed increased retention for the brands that we had built dedicated apps for. 

Outsourcing that important work came with its own challenges. For each brand, it took the third party two weeks to turn around the app. Once they built the app, they turned it over for us to run, meaning we still had to manage all push notifications and promotions and keep the app up-to-date with the latest features. It began to make more sense to bring the entire production, from building the app to running it, in-house. Plus, having full control over our apps makes us better equipped to create the best possible in-app experience for our shoppers. 

The solution: build our own apps

After developing infrastructure to build iOS apps at scale from June to September 2022, we started collaborating with team members across engineering, design, and product to quickly launch our first app, for our women’s activewear brand, Feed Me Fight Me. Having proved our ability to build an iOS app on our own, we began building new features and transitioning away from our existing third-party vendor.

Now, when we acquire a new brand, we can develop an app for them in as little as an hour. We have a no-code template for each app that makes it possible for us to create the building blocks of each app, enabling us to apply specific brand details like colors and fonts that give each app a unique brand and identity. By sharing a common infrastructure, our apps provide customers with a consistent brand experience whether they are shopping on the web or mobile.

To build our apps, we use modern tools from Apple’s ecosystem like SwiftUI. While some tech companies have struggled to adopt SwiftUI and other modern frameworks, we’ve used it since we started developing our app infrastructure, which makes it easier to deliver updates as Apple comes out with new technologies. (One such update is Apple App Clips, which our team is working on incorporating into our apps.)

Not every brand in our portfolio needs an app, of course. EXO Drones, our popular drone brand that we acquired in 2022, doesn’t have an app since the average shopper won’t purchase drones repeatedly. Brands that are likely to have repeat purchases in categories like apparel and beauty are good contenders to build apps for. We also consider factors like large social media followings, which can help signal strong brand affinity, as we decide which of our brands to build apps for. 

The result: better customer retention and higher AOV

Currently, we’ve used our iOS infrastructure to build 41 apps. As we had hoped, bringing this process in-house has enabled us to get better insights into how our brands are performing. 

We’ve integrated payment options like Apple Pay, PayPal, and Shop Pay, making it even easier for shoppers to checkout. Customers can also save their shipping information in the app for simpler checkout. Having apps for brands also makes it easier for us to send push notifications to customers. For example, when a customer leaves the app without checking out, we can send them a reminder to lower cart abandonment rates. Apps also make it easier to run SMS marketing campaigns that drive our audience right to the app. 

Overall, we’ve seen that people who shop with our iOS apps are more likely to come back and make additional purchases than shoppers who make their first purchase on web, due to app features like upselling, bundling products, and offering similar items. Between the first and third quarter of 2023, our apps’ average order value (AOV) increased 23%, thanks in large part to the additional features we’ve launched. Additionally, shoppers who made in-app purchases at our men’s apparel brand Jack Archer in Q3, were 22% more likely to return to the app to make a purchase in the same month, versus the website. 

Creating apps for brands is one way that we continue to scale your brand and reach more customers once you’ve handed it over to OpenStore. Plus, putting a modern iOS infrastructure in place also allows us to be on the cutting edge of new iOS features and releases, enabling us to provide customers with a delightful experience. 

You can learn more about requesting an offer from OpenStore for your Shopify business here

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