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Progressive Web Apps: Why Ecommerce Providers Should Use Them

Good marketing alone does not guarantee that you will reach your customers.

For the market presence of e-commerce companies, barrier-free access from various devices is essential, especially smartphones and tablets. Based on eMarketer estimates, Statista predicts strong growth in mobile e-commerce. As a result, this could already account for 73% of online sales worldwide in 2021 - that corresponds to a sum of 3.5 trillion US dollars.

This influx of customers to mobile e-commerce is not least due to the advantages of highly functional and attractive mobile apps - also known as progressive web apps (PWAs).

In this article, I'll explain what PWAs are, use case studies to explain three popular websites their benefits for e-commerce providers, and show you how to use this technology for your own online store.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive web apps are responsive web apps for mobile platforms that can represent an attractive alternative to the constantly growing number of native apps. PWAs enable push notifications and synchronization with your personal data. They provide high-quality services that are comparable to those of an iOS or Android app.

PWAs are independent of operating systems. Since the same application can be used on iOS as well as on Android, PWAs save the time and costs of developing separate native apps.

Does the lower cost of a PWA negatively impact the customer experience? Probably not. A comparison of Flipkart's iOS and Android app with the provider's PWA shows that they hardly differ. And while the traditional mobile app takes up 10 megabytes of storage space (starting with the download), the PWA version only needs 100 kilobytes or less.

These screenshots show the user interfaces of both app versions:

Flipkart: Android app vs. PWA

The benefits of PWAs for e-commerce providers

They enable shorter development times:

PWAs are based on reusable code blocks so that developers can quickly create new apps from existing modules. Since the app also primarily directs traffic to the actual e-commerce site, the basic infrastructure is already in place. For e-commerce operators who want to offer their customers features like a native app as quickly as possible, a PWA can prove to be the most efficient alternative to developing a native app or responsive website.

They reduce the distance between company and customers:

According to data from the 2017 U.S. ComScore Mobile App Report, most smartphone users in the US only use three to ten mobile apps. On the other hand, Google claims that Twitter saw significant increases in user interactions after launching its "Twitter Lite" PWA in 2017. If native apps are a hurdle preventing your customers from interacting with your company, a PWA can help solve the problem.

They save you the costs for app stores:

Native apps are delivered via the app stores of the corresponding operating systems, where you need a paid developer account for publication. With a PWA, you can avoid the fees without sacrificing visibility.

They improve visibility:

A native app "slumbers" in the App Store while potential customers search for you in the browser. This visibility problem does not exist with PWAs, because they offer the same app functions in the form of websites that can be found using search engines.

So are PWAs better than native apps? The following graphic shows a selection of their advantages:

Case studies of selected e-commerce websites

Here are some real-world cases where ecommerce brands have successfully adopted PWAs to complement native apps and websites as traditional marketing channels.

AliExpress

Source: Mobile screenshots

Success:Conversion rate increased to 104%

The online retail marketplace AliExpress no longer needs to be introduced to market insiders. With a customer base of around 150 million people, he was already well positioned with his native app. But there were also problems.

Challenges:

  • The native app was not received to the extent expected.
  • The mobile version of the website relied on a strong internet connection.
  • The mobile conversion rate was very low.

Solution:

The introduction of a PWA has proven to be the right solution for AliExpress, and it works on mobile and desktop devices with all major browsers.

Benefits gained:

  • A fast and reliable user interface.
  • Push notifications activated.
  • Offline access possible.
  • Improved usability.

Results:

Users can now spend more time on the online marketplace without downloading a mobile app.

  • The conversion rate for new mobile users across all browsers rose to 104%.
  • On iOS devices alone, the conversion rate increased by 82%.
  • The number of page views per session and user doubled in all browsers.
  • The session duration increased by 74%, again across all browsers.

Data Source:Widely.io

Lancôme

Source: Mobile screenshots

Achievement: Time to Interact decreased by 84%

Lancôme is a French luxury perfume and cosmetics brand that sells its products internationally. The parent company L’Oreal offers skin care products and also perfumes.

Challenges:

While the luxury brand saw a relative increase in mobile traffic versus desktop traffic in 2016, desktop devices delivered a superior conversion rate of 38% versus mobile 15%. Abandoned shopping carts by mobile users and other problems posed challenges for the brand.

Solution:

Thanks to push notifications in the PWA version, abandoned shopping baskets could be reactivated, which increased the conversion rate. The fact that the PWA worked well in areas with weak internet connections also increased conversions.

Results:

  • Conversions up 17%
  • Bounce rate decreased by 15%.
  • Time to interact reduced by 84%.
  • Mobile sessions up 51%.

Data Source: Google

Flipkart

Source: Mobile screenshots

Success: session duration tripled

Besides Amazon, Flipkart is the most popular online shop in India and is the largest shop for products such as cell phones, fashion, electronics, jewelry and household appliances there.

Challenges:

More than 63% of Flipkart users accessed the site over a 2G network, which is why it took a long time to load. As the target group got more and more used to mobile internet use, the e-commerce giant needed a more efficient option.

Solution:

Progressive web apps load quickly even over slower connections. Compared to a dedicated app, the PWA version (Flipkart Lite) only consumes a third of the data volume.

Results:

The PWA version brought a 70% increase in conversions relative to the previously available options, i.e. the website and the native app. The introduction of an "Add to Home Screen" button proved to be an extremely successful move.

  • 60% of all visits via Flipkart Lite come from the "Add to Home Screen" button.
  • The visitors who came through the "Add to Home Screen" button had a fantastic conversion rate of 70%.
  • The number of returning customers increased by 40%.
  • Users spent an average of 3.5 minutes on the site with the PWA Flipkart Lite, compared to previous mobile sessions lasting just 70 seconds. This tripled the length of the session.

Data Source: Google

Does your ecommerce website need a PWA?

Without a doubt, PWAs offer a long list of benefits for ecommerce sites. Whether they are worthwhile, however, depends on how your online business is set up.

For example, if you're doing good business with iPhone users, you'd better avoid PWAs as they aren't well optimized for the iOS platform. For Android users, however, PWAs can work wonders.

Using a PWA can be a very good choice under the following conditions:

1. Your e-commerce business is still in the early stages

Ecommerce companies tend to have raw but exciting ideas. Often the only thing they lack is the budget and direction to prioritize their vision.

With limited resources and time, site owners must take risks on a minimal investment basis.

2. Your target group mainly uses Android

The App Store is a major source of income for Apple. That's one reason why it took the company years to allow PWAs.

Android has been more open from the start. Most websites now have a PWA with almost the same functionality as the corresponding APK (Android package).

3. You are in a hurry and don't want to compromise on quality

Compared to a native app, a PWA requires much less development time and resources, but still offers a competitive mobile user experience. It will be ready for marketing to your m-commerce customers in no time.

4. Your conversion rate goes down

In the case studies above, we saw that ecommerce providers sometimes struggle to convert sessions into conversions even though they have a fully functional native app. It has been shown that these applications place high demands on the Internet connection and database.

It's not unlikely that your native app's performance will lag behind your brand's potential. Give it a try, implement a PWA and offer your customers the best possible version of your ecommerce website.

Tools to develop a PWA for your ecommerce website

More and more platforms are opening up for PWA development, especially e-commerce development platforms such as Magento and Shopify. I've discussed PWAs in detail to show business owners the benefits of this technology as well as the essential steps in developing your own PWA.

Below, I'll introduce you to the development tools that are available for Magento and Shopify. Although you cannot use them completely for Shopify SEO.

The Magento PWA Studio

Magento 2 dedicates a completely new project to the PWAs: the Magento PWA Studio. This enables you to implement, use and maintain a PWA on the Magento 2 platform.

With the PWA Studio for Magento 2.3, Magento providers receive a PWA layout for their entire website. Everything you need for a successful implementation is included:

PWA Buildpack:
This is a build and development tool for the Magento PWA. The PWA Buildpack is used to set up and configure the local environment for PWA development.

Venia storefront:
This sets up the shop interface of the e-commerce website. Included is a standard theme called "Luma."

Peregrine:
This defines the UI components for Magento PWA projects. You can use it to create individual shop interfaces.

The Shopify store

Shopify has its own range of apps for PWA integration that enable an optimized mobile version of the web app. Users add the URL of their online shop and receive a PWA version in simple steps. Just as Magento PWA Studio covers all components for easy PWA development, Shopify also comes with ready-made tools. You should keep these Shopify optimization tips in mind.

The following PWA tools are enjoying some popularity in the Shopify Store:

PWA from Litefy

Litefy is one of the first Shopify app developers to give users the ability to convert websites to PWAs directly.

PWA from Litefy

Functions:

  • No programming necessary
  • Compatible with Shopify AR
  • Allows push notifications
  • Easy integration with various applications

PWA from AmpifyMe

PWA from AmpifyMe

AmpifyMe's PWA app is integrated with the provider's AMP tool to enable high-quality mobile apps with a wide range of functions.

Superchargify from Etherbits

Superchargify AMP + PWA

Superchargify perfectly combines AMP and PWA to enable highly functional mobile apps. It uses PWA functions to make the app resource-efficient, while AMP multiplies the functions of the application.

Resource-saving future technology

PWAs are a promising glimpse into the future. Properties such as user-friendliness, a wide range of functions and resource efficiency make them a highly attractive option for many e-commerce providers.

No solution guarantees a 100 percent success rate. This is also not to be expected from PWAs. But by doing a thorough research of your traffic and its sources, you can find out how you can benefit from PWAs, now and in the future.

Case studies like the one above have drawn many vendors' attention to the possibility of a less expensive but highly scalable alternative to conventional mobile apps. It is to be hoped that e-commerce companies will see the need to open up to future-proof solutions of this type in preparation for the increasing demand.