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GUEST COMMENT It’s time retailers embrace progressive web apps

Six ways to get ready for peak – get your mobile ready

It’s not surprising that many retailers have embraced apps in the mobile age as a way to make it easier to engage with and sell to customers when research by Criteo reveals that retailers with a shopping app generate 67% of transactions on mobile devices.

Also, mobile is set to become even more valuable to retailers as a report by Google and PayPalpredicts that two-thirds of ecommerce purchases in the UK will be made by via a smartphone in 2020.

This makes it imperative that those in this industry strive to continue to deliver an outstanding experience for consumers on mobile.

To do so effectively they must embrace Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which are delivered through the web and function like native apps. PWAs combine everything that’s good about native mobile applications with everything that’s good about a mobile site and have become an increasingly hot topic at many ecommerce conferences around the world. They are arguably ‘app 2.0’ – the next evolutionary step in apps.

Why use PWAs over native (traditional) apps?

PWAs are easily accessible: native apps need to pass strict approval rules to be accepted on app stores, and then to gain attention in these crowded marketplaces. PWAs don’t have this problem, because being a website they are readily accessible, and can be found via organic and paid search, or links on social media. Users can open them in their browser before deciding whether to install – important because consumers spend 86 per cent of their mobile time on apps.

PWAs have better speed, improving the customer experience: a PWA can be launched from a home screen and can be ready in less than a second, often beating native apps in load time. This is important with research revealing over half of consumers leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.

PWAs function in areas of poor connectivity: where the signal is poor and intermittent using a native app will likely get a ‘You’re offline’ screen and not access to the content you are looking for. PWAs have pre-cached content they can make available in areas of poor connectivity, such as when on the move, in the car or on the train.

Updates are a thing of the past: unlike native apps which often need updates that have to be manually accepted and updated by the consumer, PWAs benefit from instant updates. So no manual updates are required, or App or Play Store approval.

No precious phone storage space used: we all know that traditional apps can take up a fairly significant amount of space in a phone – causing consumers to think twice before downloading them. This isn’t an issue with PWAs which take significantly less. Also, the fact a PWA is linkable means they can be opened using a URL and shared on social media, by email, text message, and online ads, for example.

No apps for different systems and devices: native apps need to be designed differently for the systems they use, such as iOS or Android. The good thing about PWAs is that they are device agnostic and work across all mobile platforms. This means retailers can deliver the same stand out customer experience on whatever mobile device consumers are on, saving them time and money in designing apps for different devices and systems. Additionally, with PWAs retailers no longer need to choose between creating an app that provides an amazing experience or a website that’ll see more traffic, because they provide the best of both worlds.

PWAs are supported by existing technology: many browsers such as Chrome and Opera support PWAs. Also, Magento launched a PWA Studio in April to help retailers develop them.

Retailers are successfully embracing PWAs

Retailers in the UK and around the world are already using PWAs to deliver a better mobile experience for their customers.

In the UK retailers including Debenhams and Hobbycraft are already using the technology, and at a global level so are Starbucks and Alibaba, along with Uber and Twitter.
To take the example of Alibaba, since they upgraded their website to a PWA they have experienced a 76% increase in conversions across browsers and a 30 per cent increase in monthly active user rates on Android with a 14% increase on iOS.

PWAs – a must have

With PWAs we have reached the 2.0 of the app world. They are not only straightforward to create using existing web technologies, but deliver a faster and better experience for users on mobile, driving engagement and conversion rates. They are also much easier to deliver reach from and maintain than traditional native apps.

As mobile becomes an even more important route to engage with and sell to consumers PWAs are a must have for retailers today.

Author: Mark Fitzsimmons, managing director at Xigen

Image credit: Fotolia

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