It's been four months since Missguided launched its mobile application on iOS, and despite a soft launch, the app has already been downloaded half a million times.

And while some retailers are turning their back on mobile apps, preferring to concentrate on responsive web design, Missguided's head of eCommerce, Mark Leach, says the e-tailer created the app due to customer demand.

"Customers were telling us they wanted an app and we wanted to create an app because we knew we could create a really nice bespoke experience," he told Essential Retail.

While the mobile site still remains a core focus for Missguided, the retailer has stepped away from tablet and desktop development and they are no longer a key priority. "Phones are getting a lot better and bigger and laptops are getting a lot smaller, and there's no room for the tablet," he says.

Over three quarters of Missguided's customers own a smartphone, which they wake up next to every morning and say they can't live without. And 82% of these shoppers have Apple devices, which made developing for Android difficult as it would be unclear if it would deliver an ROI.

Instead, Missguided focused all of its efforts on iOS, taking time to ensure the design and customer experience was perfect. This resulted in a transactional app on Poq's app commerce platform, which reports 30% higher conversion than a mobile browser.

There are also certain app-only features which contribute to the conversion rate, such as being always logged into the app and a wishlist which sees users three times more likely to purchase.

Customers are encouraged to use the wishlist through its "Swipe to Hype" feature – Missguided's Tinder for clothes. The feature allows customers to swipe through different fashion items, choosing which they 'love' as they go along and saving them into the wish lists, which can be later remarketed to the customer.

The retailer, which is launching its first bricks and mortar store in London later this year, is also working on making the online checkout experience even more seamless by reducing the amount of data needed to make an order, which will complement features such as Apple Pay which is currently used for 5% of in-app transactions.

Leach is also excited about the prospect of artificial intelligence and chat bots in retail. While a number of retailers are looking at Facebook's chat bots to become virtual customer care assistants, Leach believes it will be the simple interactions where this technology will be the most valuable to begin with.

"As a retailer, the vast majority of customer contacts are simple things: where's my order, where's my return, do you have this in stock? So we think chat bots could be really nice for those little simple interactions, with a nice little smart chat bot that picks up on question of the return or order, confirms order number or postcode and delivers the response."

Another big change to eCommerce in the pipeline will be the way customers search websites for items. While Leach says Missguided has developed its text search really well, the future lies in visual and voice search.  

"We're just having a look at what's around at the minute, and examples of people doing it well. There are some really nice examples and bad examples – as with anything, the approach we'll take is probably work with a small company, a start-up, or somebody trying to do things a bit differently and we'll try to get it to a proof of concept or a test as soon as possible."

Social media is incredibly important for Missguided. Its 15-35 year-old empowered female customers are mostly on Instagram and Snapchat, with the retailer working on new features with the latter.

"We're not afraid of a non-converting journey," he explains. "Because social is a way into the brand, we do a lot of stuff just on social, but we don't try and tie it all back to the site and we're happy for it just to be a way of communicating and way of sharing."

One channel Leach is keen to do much more with is Whatsapp. He says this social messaging app is where Missguided customers want to solve their customer care issues, alongside Twitter and Facebook, while Instagram and Snapchat is all about the fashion and brand.

But Leach says he recently checked on Missguided's social share buttons – used by its millennial customers to share fashion items with friends and family for social approval pre-purchase – "But we'd forgotten about Whatsapp."

Now this sharing channel has been included, it is the number one way to share Missguided's product pages. "We have to think: is this really how our customers are using mobile?"

Leach is a self-confessed perfectionist, saying how he will not rest if the website has one pixel out of place, but this attention to detail is a challenge when you work for a rapid, fast-fashion business.

"We're almost a team that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the business, which is moving at such a rapid pace," says Leach. "We're the ones saying if we're going to do it, we're going to do it properly. And the only way we do it is by focusing on very specific things and taking the approach of one at a time. It's all about marginal gains, which is achieved through keeping everything very simple."