With just under 60% of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, companies that want to keep pace in their markets must focus on delivering a better experience to the fast-growing number of mobile-first users.
Naturally, the most direct way of achieving this is by developing a mobile app, which provides a range of functionality that increase user engagement and offer a great all-around experience. However, native mobile apps are often costly to develop, especially when accounting for multi-platform development for different operating systems.
Plus, despite their many significant benefits, native mobile apps still have their drawbacks – namely convincing users to install them. Consequently, companies also must factor in the cost of marketing and distributing their app.
Fortunately, progressive web apps (PWAs) have emerged as a viable alternative to mobile apps. PWAs present an excellent solution for companies seeking ways to better engage their existing customers and attract new ones.
Let’s take a look at PWAs and why your company should consider developing one of its own.
— What is a Progressive Web App?
A progressive web app (PWA) is a web application that possesses many of the capabilities of a native mobile app. A PWA is built and stored on the internet and can be opened in any mobile browser – but works in the same way as a native app.
Subsequently, as a PWA is a type of webpage, it doesn’t require separate bundling or distribution as with a native mobile app. Instead, a PWA can simply be published online, and users can add it to their home screen – crucially, without having to visit the App Store or Google Play to download it.
— What you will gain from PWAs?
The most common advantages attributed to PWAs are that they’re reliable, fast, and engaging – particularly when compared to conventional web apps.
Let’s look at the benefits of PWAs in greater detail.
Faster App Development
As they only need a single codebase to deliver cross-platform functionality, a PWA can be developed faster than separate native apps for iOS and Android devices. Also, as you don’t have to upload your PWA to the app stores, you won’t have to undergo their often-tedious publishing process – during which they can reject your app for any number of poorly-specified reasons.
By only needing to build a single app, you reduce the cost of its design, development, and distribution. Plus, PWAs reduce app maintenance costs as you won’t have to develop and push out updates and bug fixes for multiple native apps.
Your customers wouldn’t have to download and install PWA from an app store. Users can instantly install your PWA directly from their browsers onto their devices, lowering the barrier often caused by app stores. In fact, it’s been shown that 70% of users will abandon an app download if it’s too slow, so launching a PWA gives you a better chance of engaging with your customers.
Unlike native mobile apps, PWAs don’t require manual updates. Instead, PWAs are automatically updated in the background without the user’s permission on each visit, eliminating the need to download batch updates.
PWAs can issue push notifications, just like native apps. These can be used to inform customers of offers and promotions, tell them about new products that might interest them, remind them of abandoned carts, and more. Push notifications allow companies to engage with their customers more frequently, helping to drive up time spent on the app, conversion rates, and other key success metrics.
PWAs utilise service workers, a layer between the application and network to cache data from previous sessions, so they work in unstable network conditions.
As opposed to through an app store, users access the PWA via a conventional URL. This makes it significantly easier to share the app with family, friends, colleagues, etc. – and increases the likelihood that the recipient of the link will click through.
The fact that a PWA can be accessed through a URL means that it can be indexed by Google, Bing, and other search engines. This makes your PWA discoverable through a user’s search engine results pages (SERPs) and makes them far more likely to come across your app than if it was listed in an app store.
— PWAs Success Stories : They did It !
Let’s look at a few prominent examples of how companies, in a variety of industries, have used PWAs to reach more customers, increase user engagement, and ultimately, boost their profitability.
Online stores and marketplaces are moving towards PWAs to make the customer experience simpler and more accessible for the growing number of users that exclusively browse the web on mobile devices.
AliExpress.com, China’s biggest online marketplace, developed a PWA to merge their mobile app’s best features with enhanced discoverability and easier installation. The result of this was over 100% more new users across all browser types, double the number of pages visited per user session, longer session durations, and increased conversion rates.
Jumia.com, one of Africa’s leading eCommerce platforms, enjoyed similarly positive results with their PWA. Jumia was particularly invested in the success of their PWA, as most of their customers use lower-end mobile devices to access the web on 2G networks – so their experience is restricted by spotty connectivity and data limitations. Fortunately, Jumia’s PWA was a success, leading to an incredible 12 times more users installing the PWA compared to native apps – in addition to a higher conversion rate and half their previous bounce rate.
Debenhams, a UK-based clothing department store, with hundreds of stores across 22 countries, developed a PWA to better engage with their international customer base. The most significant result of this was that it enabled their online store to load four times faster – with the most important information, like product images and prices, configured to display first. This led to a 40% increase in revenue and a 20% rise in conversions from mobile users.
George, a huge UK fashion retailer owned by Walmart, enjoyed comparable results with their PWA launch – namely a 3.8 x faster page loading time and, consequently, a halved bounce rate. George also saw its conversion rate rise by over 30% and a 20% increase in page views.
PWAs can be highly beneficial for content publishers who want to reach readers that exclusively use mobile devices.
World-renowned business and entrepreneurship magazine Forbes launched a PWA and immediately saw user engagement double – thanks in large part to considerably faster page loading times. Forbes also saw a 43% increase in sessions per user and a 300% increase in scroll depth – indicating that readers were spending more time on each article. Similarly, esteemed.
British newspaper, the Financial Times, created a PWA version of their publication to allow readers to consume their articles when offline and on the go.
Trivago, one of the world’s leading hotel comparison sites, looked to PWAs to enhance experiences for mobile users and seize advantage of the rapid rise in mobile traffic. The results were startling: with a 150% increase in user engagement and 500,000 new users adding the Trivago PWA to their home screens.
Then there’s the case of Uber’s PWA, which was designed to make the ride-booking service viable on slower networks and low-spec smartphones. The Uber PWA has been a great success: attracting a significant number of installs from users with devices that aren’t compatible with the Uber native mobile apps. Best of all, the PWA is ultra-lightweight – and at a mere 50kB allows, it even loads within three seconds on 2G networks.
Food and Drink
For an excellent example of the use of progressive web apps in the food and drink industry, look no further than Starbucks.
They created a PWA featuring their ordering system, which enables users to browse the menu, input orders, and add items to their carts without reliable internet access. Then, when they regain connection, they can go ahead and place their order – with prices specific to their location. This is especially handy for customers on the go, who may dip in and out of connectivity, and for emerging markets with less reliable mobile coverage.
Starbucks swiftly saw success with the launch of their PWA, with double the number of daily orders from web users – and desktop users ordering at a similar rate as those on mobile devices.
With their ability to boost user engagement, and, subsequently, session times, conversion rates, and profits, progressive web apps are a sound investment for businesses looking to better cater to the fast-growing mobile-first user base.
Unlike native apps, PWAs can be indexed by search engines, which helps to alleviate the often-challenging problems of promotion and distribution. Better still, by allowing companies to avoid going down the app store route, PWAs also address the issue of app fatigue: where users install an app and use it once or twice – if at all – before deleting it. PWAs instead offer the advantage of being easily installed from browsers, which reduces the friction that can prevent a user from downloading an app from a store.
And perhaps best of all, although PWAs deliver an experience indistinguishable from native mobile apps, they perform better on less reliable mobile networks and low-cost mobile devices. As a result, companies that harness the vast capabilities of PWAs can gain a significant edge over their competition in mobile-first markets like Asia and Africa. With more leading brands embracing PWAs and tech giants like Google and Microsoft, throwing their weight behind them, the future for progressive web apps is bright.