Building Africa’s first React Native ecommerce app

The Challenge

To deliver a mobile platform that would maximise user experience for Loot.co.za’s mobile shoppers

The Result

The delivery of a fully functioning ecommerce app, using the latest in mobile technology and service layer architecture

Loot.co.za is a leading South African e-commerce retailer. Launched in 2002 as an online book store, Loot has grown into a general-merchandise superstore with 19 departments selling a range of electronics, homeware, fashion, music, games and more.

Recognising that the vast majority of South Africa’s over 20-million regular Internet users access the web via mobile, Loot CEO Gary Hadfield says it was critical for the retailer to make access to online purchases of one of their over 14-million products as inclusive as possible in a South African market where mobile data costs are among the highest on the continent.

“In general, shoppers are looking for value and are increasingly transacting via their mobile phones,” Hadfield said. “A robust mobile-shopping offering is a crucial success factor for us to reach lower LSMs and unbanked millennials, while delivering a great shopping experience for all our customers.”

A robust mobile-shopping offering is a crucial success factor for us to reach lower LSMs and unbanked millennials

– Loot CEO Gary Hadfield

In October 2016, Loot tasked Publisher’s Toolbox with creating an eCommerce mobile app that would integrate with its existing backend systems and provide their customers with a mobile-friendly shopping experience across Android and iOS.

Our Strategy

React Native Technology

We decided to invest in React Native, a scripting framework used by some of the world’s largest brands, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Wix and more.

The React Native technology stack allowed us to share code between Android and iOS rather than writing two separate codebases. The advantages of this approach include a consistent user experience across Android and iOS – and reduced overheads to maintain the apps due to the core underlying JavaScript codebase.

The single code base was achieved by leveraging one of React’s features – the Virtual DOM. This allows app components to be rendered as native app UI components for Android and iOS, resulting in a truly native, slick and lightweight shopping app experience.

Integration

The app was designed to be lightweight and integrate seamlessly with Loot’s e-commerce API. The team worked closely with LOOT to develop a scalable and robust API service layer needed to match the complete shopping experience of their website, with mobile app speed and ease of use a priority.

In order to save costs and easily deploy the application to both platforms, continuous integration techniques were applied. This means that app updates, through a series of automated build processes, could be easily deployed for testing and store submissions – allowing customer feedback within our control to be acted upon quickly and seamlessly.

The Outcome

The Publisher’s Toolbox team pulled together over a four-month period to produce a fully functioning ecommerce app, utilising mobile app technology scaled across both mobile platform runtime environments, thus reducing any duplication, costs and non-platform specific features.

“We’ve seen a 90% year-on-year increase in mobile phone traffic and a commensurate increase in revenues of over 136% for customers transacting on mobile,” said Hadfield. “Our app has made shopping via mobile devices a lot easier for our customers.”

Visit the Google Play Store or Apple’s iTunes Store to download the Loot app
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