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Shopify App vs Shopify Mobile Store

two mobiles one showing the mobile apps menu and one showing a mobile store separated by vs

According to Statista, retail sales made using mobile devices in the US are projected to cross $276 billion in 2022. That’s a 25% year-on-year increase from the estimated $221.2 billion for 2021, making it the perfect opportunity for retailers looking to leverage the growing ecommerce industry.

Choosing between a Shopify app and a mobile store is challenging; both have compelling advantages. While some businesses might employ both a mobile store and an app, it isn’t always feasible for everyone. In this article, we’ll help you understand the major differences between both approaches and show you how to choose the right one for your business.

Shopify Mobile Apps

Shopify mobile apps are applications designed using the Android Buy SDK to create storefronts for mobile devices. They connect with the Shopify platform using GraphQL, an open-source query language for APIs, and provide customers with a seamless shopping experience on their smartphones.

You can build a mobile app using one of the several Shopify mobile app builders on the market today. Alternatively, you can also build one from scratch with the help of a Shopify app development agency.

Here are some of the major advantages and disadvantages of using a Shopify mobile app:

Advantages of using a Shopify mobile app

Better personalization

Epsilon Data Management, LLC found that 80% of online shoppers prefer buying from brands that personalize their shopping experience. With access to real-time customer data such as location, Shopify mobile apps allow you to localize the shopping experience for your customers using tailored promotions. Thus, you can boost customer engagement and sales.

Offline access

Mobile apps can operate without an internet connection. Although they require intermittent connectivity, they can be configured to prefetch data and save it locally for offline use. This feature allows customers to check past orders, browse products, and even initiate checkout without network connectivity.

Push notifications

Another upside of using a Shopify mobile app instead of a web store is that it allows you to access in-app and push notifications. In-app notifications let you send real-time alerts while the customer is using the app. You can use them to encourage a buyer to follow through with their purchase with targeted discounts.

In contrast, push notifications allow you to send alerts even when customers aren’t using the app. You can use them to notify customers of upcoming sales, abandoned carts, and even turn cold leads into warm leads.

Disadvantages of using a Shopify mobile app

Higher upfront costs

The biggest downside of using a Shopify mobile app is that it can be expensive. When you’re building a custom app, you need to develop it for Android and iOS separately. This doubles the development costs up front.

Even with a Shopify mobile app builder, you might need to budget anywhere from $99 to $499 or more per month for the subscription. Although this may seem like a lower cost upfront, it doesn’t account for the additional overheads of managing a separate mobile app.

No organic reach

When using a Shopify web store, you can optimize your website’s SEO to drive organic traffic and increase sales. However, with a mobile app, you don’t enjoy the same luxury. Search engines don’t index native applications, and thus, you can’t use them to drive traffic organically.

You’ll have to market your app on Google Play Store and the Apple App Store to help customers find it. Relying on users to find it organically is likely to hurt your sales.

Shopify Mobile store

A Shopify mobile store is an ecommerce store that is optimized for display in mobile device browsers. Its primary purpose is to provide site visitors using mobile devices with a user-friendly shopping experience.

Your customers won’t need to pinch and pan to browse your website. Instead, when they access it on a mobile device, your Shopify theme will automatically resize and rearrange page elements to suit the client device.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a Shopify mobile store.

Advantages of using a Shopify mobile store

Better for SEO

Starting July 1st, 2019, Google switched to mobile-first indexing for all new websites. This means that they started using the mobile version of new websites to index and rank them. Although they’ve postponed doing this for all websites until now, they’re likely to do it in the near future.

Once Google switches to mobile-first indexing for all websites, desktop-only websites may experience a drop in rankings. In contrast, a mobile-friendly website will help you maintain and improve your search engine rankings.


Most Shopify themes are mobile-friendly by default. So you don’t need to invest in a mobile-friendly website separately or worry about building it yourself. This allows you to use your operating capital effectively and reduces the cost of building a Shopify store upfront.

Easier maintenance

A Shopify mobile store is easier to manage and maintain as compared to a Shopify mobile app. You don’t need to manage multiple technologies, carry out tedious updates, or gather data from multiple sources to analyze your site performance.

Disadvantages of using a Shopify mobile store

Cannot access device functionality

Unlike a mobile app, a mobile store cannot access native device functionality. It can only access limited data such as payment and customer information stored in the browser. This limits your ability to provide a personalized shopping experience significantly.

Additionally, you can’t use push notifications to nurture cold leads. You’re limited to traditional marketing channels like email and social for leads.

Needs an internet connection

A Shopify mobile store cannot operate without the internet. It needs an internet connection to send and receive requests to your store database to generate pages. Although customers can browse cached pages, they cannot start or complete checkout when the device is offline.

Shopify App vs. Mobile Store: How to choose

Both a Shopify mobile app and mobile store have notable advantages. A mobile store gives you better organic reach, while a mobile app lets you offer advanced functionality. Analyzing your business needs can make it easier to choose one over the other.

For example, if you’re a retail clothing brand looking to launch a new AR/VR feature for virtual try-on, a mobile app will be more suitable for you. It’ll help you tap into native device functionality and allow you to offer your customers the best shopping experience possible.

On the other hand, if you’re a small business on a budget, a Shopify mobile store will be more suitable for you. It’s cost-effective, better for ranking on search engines, and simpler to maintain.

Ready to choose?

Shopify apps allow you to offer personalization, offline access, and advanced shopping capabilities that can give you a significant edge over your competition. But a Shopify mobile store is perfect for driving traffic organically and easier to maintain. A mobile store can help you get off the ground and drive traffic to your site quickly when you’re starting.

It helps to approach building a Shopify mobile app or mobile store as a long-term investment. Choosing the one that’ll help your business for the next three to five years is a great way to ensure that you get the best return on your investment.

And if you’re still undecided, let’s jump on a call and figure this out together. Our Shopify experts have helped leading ecommerce businesses design bespoke shopping experiences with Shopify. They’ll help you choose the right approach, plan it to perfection, and execute it flawlessly.