How To Create a Delivery App (And the 7 Features You Must Include)

11 min read
Frank L.
Frank L.
Published December 1, 2022

Delivery apps have taken the market by storm, with an expected revenue annual growth rate of over 8% and $291 billion USD in market volume by 2027.

It's no surprise—they're convenient, save time, and are easy to use. With a few clicks, a delivery app can get your favorite dish or latest fashion delivered directly to your door—free of hassles.

With such market growth, it's understandable lots of businesses want to get in on the action. To create a delivery app, you need to understand all the features and development stacks that will give you an edge over the competition.

How To Design Your Delivery App in 5 Steps

Step 1. Research the Delivery App Industry 

The first step is to understand what current delivery apps are doing. This will help you understand the industry and predict trends to capture in your delivery app's offering.

By researching the delivery app industry, you can understand the app delivery market, and you can gauge market needs and saturation.

And in doing so, you'll be able to identify the gaps in the market that'll help you position your brand differently.

At this stage of the process, you should ask yourself:

  • What are the common features found in delivery apps?
  • What are the features helping the app's audience accomplish? 
  • What are the audience's feedback and reviews for each app?
  • Why are some delivery apps more successful than others?

To research the delivery app market, there are several resources available listed below.

Social Media Research

Follow delivery apps on each of their social media platforms to understand how they communicate with their audiences.

Each app will have a different approach, which will help you understand what resonates with users.

For example, Uber Eats has tutorials on its Instagram that show you how to order food in stadiums. This helps users understand new features and spreads awareness of new features to followers who'll likely try it out at their next sports game.

Another example is Grubhub's "item of the week": a weekly choice of grocery item that comes with a discount—normally themed with holidays and festivities. 

Experience Rival Apps Firsthand

Try out all the delivery apps and write down the features you like or dislike. This will make you familiar with parts of the user journey that have delighted you and unravel the parts that could use improvement.

Read Feedback and Reviews

Use platforms like the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to find user insights on app features and reviews of their firsthand experiences. This will help you find the points that users rejoice about the most and the points they dislike enough to leave a review.

Another good platform for finding reviews is to look through threads on platforms like Twitter and Reddit to find out what the public thinks and agrees upon. 

Find Industry Reports and Studies

Read and understand reports and studies to understand the findings and trends that might inspire a new feature or angle for your product.

Google Trends is a helpful resource for finding relevant keywords that might provide interesting avenues for product development. 

Step 2. Define Your Business Model 

With a defined business model, you'll be able to start aligning design and development teams for the project. 

B2B Delivery App Business Model

A business-to-business (B2B) model caters to professional services and deliveries. For example, Cargomatic helps with logistics and delivery.

  • Pros of a B2B model: Services and deliveries are normally ordered in bulk. This allows B2B models to have the ability to scale quickly and with less reliance on user volume.
  • Cons of a B2B model: As this model relies heavily on the delivery quantity of their customers, quality of service is extremely important for repeat orders. And B2B models may have a harder time finding ways to monetize their app since jobs are generally invoiced separately.

B2C Delivery App Business Model

Business-to-consumer (B2C) delivery models connect a product or service directly with a customer. For example, with the Starbucks app, customers are able to schedule their orders for pick-up or delivery.

  • Pros of a B2C model: Users don't have to pay commission fees from marketplace apps, like Uber Eats, for example, which provides different restaurant listings.
  • Cons of a B2C model: It's harder to grow, as it relies on acquiring a large group of customers that are interested in their product offering. 

Three-sided Delivery App Business Model

Probably the most common of all delivery app models, the three-sided delivery app unifies many product and delivery options for the customer to shop and choose their best fit from one platform. For example, Uber Eats offers a marketplace of restaurants and food delivery options.

  • Pros of a three-sided delivery app: It scales quickly and offers the most choice for customers, which means there's a higher likelihood of a potential purchase.
  • Cons of a three-sided delivery app: There is a risk that dedicated B2C apps have a cheaper price point for the same product without the commission fee. 

Choose Your Economic Model

Next, you'll need to decide the best approach to monetize your delivery app.

A clear monetization strategy will help you grow revenue as the app scales.

For users, understanding commission fees up front will avoid frustration and last-minute cart shock.

There are different profit models your app can tackle:

  • Commission: A percentage of the order is paid to the platform from both the service side and the user
  • Delivery: A small delivery fee is paid to cover logistics
  • Pass fee: A monthly fee that comes with discounts and rewards
  • Ads: Profit from hosting ads from businesses advertising their offerings
  • Partnership: A fee for a partnership advertised on a platform

Once your business model and economic method are defined, you'll have a framework for your app development later.

Step 3. Define Your Target Audience 

Understanding your target audience is key. But particularly for delivery apps, you need to take into account your target audience's preferences at this stage.

Let's say your target audience is eco-conscious; you'll want to deliver sustainable groceries, clothing, or vegan food choices using green delivery methods.

To find your target audience, start with demographic criteria research, like age, sex, income level, location, and education, to create an outline. Then, use different user research methods like customer polls, surveys, and interviews to slowly start to color your target customer.

Lastly, go over user scenarios to really understand your audience's context and desires.

With a well-defined target audience, you'll be able to understand what features and partnerships to prioritize and what value and mission propositions will evoke the most support and interest from your intended users. 

Step 4. Prioritize Your Delivery App Features 

With your business model and target audience defined, it's time to put those insights to use and figure out which delivery app features to include at launch and which to roll out later.

To narrow down your app's features, use insights and feedback from your industry research, competitors, and target audience reviews. We've included a dedicated section further down with the most engaging delivery app features for impact and engagement.

Another good practice is to read reports and industry studies that have analyzed the most engaging app features and functions.

Start by listing all the features your app will need in order to fully cater to your user's needs. You can do this by plotting out the ideal user journey and all the features involved in onboarding, browsing, and final purchase.

Once all the scenarios have been played out, list the features that'll have the most impact. Then, discuss with your product development team to understand the scope of their availability and abilities.

In some cases, it may be necessary to plan to outsource parts of the build to freelance developers. In other cases, your team may have prior experience that'll help guide the project. 

Step 5. Create a Development Roadmap and Choose Your Tech Stack

Put actionable steps on a roadmap to organize and prepare the product development process and design approach.

Align design and development teams by setting clear goals, KPIs, and vision.

To help avoid mistakes and roadblocks in the product development strategy, put procedures, deadlines, and checkpoints in place to keep track of progress and procedure management.

Have a discussion with your development team to find tech stack solutions that will accelerate app development. 

Tech Stack Considerations

Here are some helpful APIs and SDKs that can accelerate the time to market for apps.

For restaurant listing and offers:

  • Foursquare API for location-based information about users, venues, and photos

To gather reviews and feedback:

  • Review API to help you gather feedback from customers to build your app's reputation
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To add secure and easy payment:

  • Stripe to add easy transaction and payment methods

  • PayPal to add payments and invoices

For user location:

For personalized push notifications:

  • OneSignal API to send out timely and personalized push notifications

Chat messaging:

  • Stream API for chat features and in-app messaging to engage with users

Activity feed:

  • Stream API to build engagement and community with activity feeds

  • Weavy API to add activity feeds to your app

  • Pipeless API to include a personalized activity feed

Essential Features To Make Your Delivery App a Success

Ease User Anticipation With Live Tracking and GPS Navigation

Live location and GPS help both users and delivery parties keep track of the status of their delivery.

For both parties, it helps with the coordination of the location of the delivery as well as the progress of the delivery stage to account for any problems with scheduled orders.

For example, Uber Eats uses live location and tracking to get hungry users excited about their food orders. Each stage in the delivery process has a different title and comes with an ETA and a little icon of the delivery being ordered.

To include this feature in your app, use location APIs like Google Maps API for real-time estimations.

Help Inform Users With Ratings and Feedback

Help users choose between options with ratings and feedback, taking away the guesswork and instead giving them an educated choice.

User reviews are especially important for social proofing that builds trust and confidence in their final choice.

Use surveys and customer polls after their experience with a product to help future customers with their decision-making process.

For example, DoorDash has feedback and user ratings in its portals to guide users through their choices with honest opinions.

Reviews and feedback can be left on singular items, and that data can be used to compile trending or popular products to help users with their choice based on the aggregated data. 

Personalize Push Notifications To Drive Sales

Push notifications keep users updated on their orders as well as drive purchases when new offers are released.

With push notifications, you create visibility to current and timely rewards that are relevant to your user's preferences and choices.

To grab the attention of the user, send out engaging and appealing offers. For example, send out a special discount for users' birthdays from their most frequently ordered restaurant.

It's a good idea to use past order history to customize push notifications in order to resonate with users. For example, Uber Eats uses past behavior and interactions to prompt users to complete an order purchase.

With personalized push notifications that offer rewards, you not only target the users' interest but also delight users by showing them that their app interactions are appreciated and rewarded.

Avoid User Frustration With Chat

Instantly connect users with delivery couriers and avoid confusion or frustration with in-app chat channels.

The biggest benefit of in-app chat is the ability to receive information instantly. This helps to ensure smooth logistics and fast problem-solving.

Chat is especially helpful for delivering time-sensitive information, clarifying order queries, and communicating issues that can be resolved on the spot.

You can integrate a chat API, which allows you to personalize the chat feature to your brand's needs and scale as your business grows.

For example, TaskRabbit connects people with independent "taskers" to solve almost any problem. By integrating a chat API, the company found a fast solution for users and "taskers" to communicate and engage in a plan instantly.

[ Source: TaskRabbit App Store]

With chat included in a delivery app's features, users hold more power in terms of scheduling, delivery, and task actions. This helps improve engagement and user satisfaction. 

Secure Payment and Proof of Payment

Ease of payment is a key factor in users completing their purchases. Users want peace of mind and to purchase their goods without any difficulty or confusion.

With easy payment, you avoid cart abandonment if the payment page is hard to navigate. Moreover, avoid user frustration by having all the costs appear up front without any extra fees.

For example, Grubhub prides itself in having no hidden upfront costs and details the breakdown before checkout.

Use payment API for fast payment development options that are secure and widely recognized and trusted by the public, like Stripe or PayPal.

Advanced Search and Order History

Users want to find what they need quickly and easily. With advanced search features, such as filtering down results, for example, "vegetarian-only" or " red women's jacket," the user is swiftly led through the buying experience.

Advanced search features help hasten the purchase process with easy-to-find search and filter options. This narrows down offers to users' interests and price ranges.

With filters, users can quickly find exactly what they want and complete their order. This avoids cart abandonment as well as users leaving the app because they were unable to find their choice quickly.

It's good practice to include a previous order history for users to repeat an earlier purchase in a couple of clicks.

Having "you may also like" features helps narrow down the choices based on your users' previous preferences, and either drive them to additional purchases or redirect them to alternatives if products are unavailable without them leaving the app.

For example, Instacart uses users' previous purchases and recurrence data to suggest quick add-on "basic essentials."

With quick orders based on purchase history, you gain user loyalty as they become accustomed to the convenience.

Appreciate Users With Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs help build and maintain customer engagement and satisfaction, which improves overall customer lifetime value and brand advocacy.

Loyalty programs reward customers for their repeat order purchases, giving special discounts that incentivize these purchases and show appreciation for loyalty.

You can create loyalty programs through:

  • Points: Each purchase gets allocated a certain number of points, which in turn become discounts or free products or deliveries. 

  • Referrals: Reward members for their brand advocacy. This normally comes with an incentive such as a discount or reward for each new member added. 

  • Memberships: Monthly memberships show appreciation to loyal and dedicated members through special discounts and early-bird deal access. This helps build communities and brand affinity.

For example, Postmates offers free delivery and 5% off orders for members. With these incentives, it's easier for users to rationalize order purchases due to the curtain of discounts offered.

With membership and loyalty programs, you build brand affinity and increase user satisfaction. And as users see they are appreciated, it will incentivize them to try the app one more time.

Now That You've Got the App Inspiration, It's Time for Action

The key to building a successful delivery app is to center all the functionalities, features, and goals around the user's journey. By keeping the user in mind, you ensure that every design and development process will ultimately delight the end user. In turn, users will find value in your app as it delivers what they want in a frictionless fashion.

The biggest differentiator to improve the level of attention and support to users is communication, and this is best achieved through in-app chat. This can be used to immediately request help, clarifications, and better organization.

Moreover, by including chat features in your app, you can actively improve your users' experience by hearing their thoughts and ideas firsthand. Happy customers are repeat customers, and that's the foundation of a successful delivery app.

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