The digital age has made smartphones, the unanimous choice for internet browsing, primarily for its on-the-go accessibility and ease-of-use. Where the websites lacked, apps were created to provide richer experiences to the users. And ever since then, the need to satisfy the dynamic user expectations online, continued to grow.
Progressive Website App or PWA was initially proposed by Google in 2015, with an idea to provide a native like experience to the users visiting a website.
PWAs are web pages that work more like an app, but don’t require any downloading or installation from any app-store. They are more reliable even in dwindling network conditions, have a faster response-time to user interactions, and are much more engaging as compared to a traditional website.
In short, PWAs contain the best features of both websites and native apps.
Mobile Apps vs. Progressive Web Apps vs. Responsive Sites
According to a study, you tend to lose 20% of your users at each step – starting from their first point of contact with your mobile app, till they actually start using it.
PWAs however, are accessed through the web browsers and enable the visitors to use them immediately, the moment they land on your site.
Like we said earlier, it doesn’t ‘force’ the users to first search, download, install and register with the app before they can use it. (Of course, it does give the visitors an option to install the full version, but at a later stage).
And with the ‘web app install banners’, the users can easily add the web app to their home screens as well.
Unlike native apps, PWAs are device independent, take up less storage space and update just like web pages – so that the users can always enjoy the latest functionalities which may include hardware integrations such as Bluetooth, NFC, webcam, microphone, and other hardware sensors.
We may say that PWA capitalizes on mobile app’s characteristics for improved performance and user retention.
Responsive websites, on the other hand, had gathered enough popularity due to its –
- Single code base across multiple devices
- Layout management for various screen sizes
- Improved site SEO
- Easy control and flexibility
However, mobile apps coupled with the customers expectations for ‘app-like experiences while online’, has risen the web complexities.
This means that even though Responsive websites do optimize the user experience across all devices, it cannot provide a rich app like experience to its users.
The default navigation of Responsive sites are restricted only from top-to-bottom and not left-to-right, a feature required by most retail sites for viewing carousel photo or video gallery. Infact, most mobile users with touch screens devices are more comfortable using left-to-right navigation.
Responsive sites also suffer from potential bandwidth issues whenever large media files or text heavy images are sent by the server. They need longer development time, are expensive and require content prioritization (so that the important content isn’t lost while switching the devices).
But with the browser advancements and innovations, the web standards are taken to a higher level incorporating more native features- leading to Progressive Web Apps. They are built to run over the internet from a central server and can be accessed by any device with a web browser.
Progressive Web Apps reign over Responsive sites as they are not only faster, but also provide both contextual and functional features similar to an app and optimizes the customer experience, which is beyond the scope of Responsive sites.
Does the e Commerce Industry really need Progressive Web App ?
The E commerce industry demands customer retention, that is, it requires the users to return frequently to their websites or apps. So it becomes imperative to provide seamless online experience to the users, in terms of usability and speed.
Despite the fact that native apps are still much more reliable with their unmatched user experiences, Progressive Web Apps still have numerous reasons to be considered seriously by the ecommerce retailers, especially with a tight budget. For instance, they are –
Many users find it cumbersome to download and install a mobile app, moreover for a one-time usage. The icons are difficult to identify quickly, and quite a few people end up uninstalling the apps to free up their device space.
But PWAs being websites, are easy to discover by search engines and require less data. They are also shareable like any other site link.
The responsive design of PWAs allows them to run on any kind of device. You don’t need to develop and maintain separate code bases for various platforms (Android, iOS, Web), making it one of the most cost effective options for a native look.
And irrespective of the device-type where they are loaded, PWAs are also capable of using the native functions of that device like camera, GPS etc.
3. Get Loaded Instantly
And because the code and resources are stored locally, PWAs can be accessed offline too.
4. Provide Better User Engagement
Similar to mobile apps, PWAs also support push notifications. This means the retailers can now engage and target their customers with their offers/ deals in real-time, without the need for costly apps!
Progressive Web Apps are simple and easy to access, and require minimal amount of effort to meet the customer-needs.
This increased level of user engagement is evident in several websites like Financial Times, Nasa, Washington Post, Air-Berlin who have incorporated PWAs as a part of their business model.
Giant e commerce sites such as Flipkart and Alibaba too have vastly improved their rate of engagement through the Progressive Web Apps.
According to stats, Flipkart launched a PWA called Flipkart Lite to re-engage with their mobile web users. As a result their time-on-site was tripled, and it saw 40% higher re-engagement rate in 2016.
Alibaba’s AliExpress also built a PWA that provided an effective and reliable mobile web experience to both, first-time and repeat visitors. It observed 76% rise in total conversion rates across all browsers, and 4 times higher interaction rate through ‘Add-to-Homescreen’. Even the monthly active user rates increased by 30 percent for Android and 14 percent for iOS.
Other websites such as MakeMyTrip saw 160% increase in shopper sessions, with 3 times improvement in conversion rates; whereas Voot, one of the top video-on-demand site in India, experienced 80% reduction in page load time, 39% increase in session time per user and 15% increase in the daily views per user in April 2017.
Progressive Web Apps provide an excellent alternative to native apps and are more economical. And with the way the app market is trending, PWAs would definitely be the next big step towards mobile…coming from the web.