What Are eCommerce Progressive Web Apps?

July 29, 2019

Category: Best Practices

In 2017, mobile eCommerce sales accounted for 34.5% of total eCommerce sales, and that number continues to grow. It’s predicted that by 2021, mobile eCommerce sales will account for 54% of total eCommerce sales.

It’s clear that if mobile is not part of your digital strategy, you’re going to fall behind.

But beyond just making sure your web presence is mobile responsive, when should you start investing in a Progressive Web App (PWA)? And when is that a better direction relative to a native app?

What are eCommerce Progressive Web Apps

According to Technopedia, a progressive web app (PWA) is a browser-based application that has become an alternative to a native mobile app. Experts describe PWAs as web apps that “look and feel” similar to a native mobile app.

When Google developed PWAs several years ago, the goal was to deliver a native app-like experience on the internet. PWAs mix the benefits of both apps and the mobile web. You can navigate to a PWA from any browser and get an app-like experience without actually having to download a mobile app. From a development standpoint, they’re also simpler to build than a native app.

What is an example of a Progressive Web App?

One of the best examples of a Progressive Web App is the Starbucks App.

With its Progressive Web App, Starbucks is able to provide an accessible, easy to use ordering experience on the web delivering a similar experience to its downloadable app. With its ability to run offline, the Starbucks Progressive Web App allows customers to look at the menu and add items to their cart without access to the internet. As a result, they doubled the number of web users who place orders each day, with desktop users now ordering at about the same rate as mobile users.

What are some of the benefits of an eCommerce Progressive Web App compared to mobile responsive sites and native applications?

  • Progressive Web Apps tend to perform consistently faster than a mobile responsive site: Because responsive sites depend on internet connection and data can’t be stored offline, they tend to be much slower than Progressive Web Apps. With Progressive Web Apps, parts of the content can be stored locally on the users’ phone and used offline, making them quicker and more reliable.
  • Progressive Web Apps tend to have a stronger user experience than a mobile responsive site: PWAs are built to resemble native apps, making the user experience more app-like than mobile responsive design. This generally means they are easier to navigate and more engaging.
  • Progressive Web Apps are much more discoverable than native apps: Because PWAs can be accessed from any internet browser and don’t need to be downloaded from an app store, they’re way more accessible. Interestingly, the additional step of having to download an app reduces the number of potential users by 20%.
  • Progressive Web Apps are easier to update than native apps: PWA users avoid having to wait to accept and download upgrades to applications when new features are released. Instead, users always have access to the most up-to-date experience and features and developers don’t need to worry about maintaining old versions of the software.

When should you build an eCommerce Progressive Web App?

Developing a Progressive Web App can help you solve three main business challenges:

  1. Increasing customer engagement: Today, more than 50% of US smartphone users don’t download even a single app a month. With a PWA, your users can engage with an app-like experience without having to download an application onto their device.
  2. Enabling offline ordering: PWAs don’t require internet connectivity to use. So if, for example, you have a sales team who is spending days in the field traveling to different accounts, customers, and prospects, a PWA allows them to keep up on orders and customer management without consistent access to the internet.
  3. Speed to market: PWAs are faster and cheaper than developing native apps. So if you need a solution for a one-time event or a campaign on a tight timeline, a PWA might be the best route to take.

Depending on the experience you’re trying to deliver for your customers, an eCommerce Progressive Web app might be a good choice for your business. Considering things like performance, functionality, development time frames and costs, and the desired user experience can help you decide whether or not this is the direction to go.