Why PWAs are the Future of eCommerce

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are fast becoming the new standard for mobile eCommerce. Compared to the responsive web page, PWAs offer a better browsing and buying experience, all while attracting and converting more customers. The many benefits they offer relate to more sales and profit, so it’s no surprise that more and more retail firms are taking the leap. 

The Evolution of Mobile Web for eCommerce

It wasn’t long ago that creating a responsive website was the key to competitive advantage for retailers. The key was in having a website that would adapt for small screens, deliver fast-loading images and offer links as touch-friendly buttons. At the time, many competitors weren’t offering a good mobile shopping experience, and going responsive provided a relatively easy win.

However, the playing field has continued to evolve and optimising for mobile, and moreover putting mobile first when it comes to web design, has become commonplace. Retailers need to deliver an almost instantaneous mobile shopping experience along with features that are common to native apps. They also need to ensure they can be found amongst the ever-growing competition. 

How PWAs Have Changed eCommerce

Since the rapid pace of mobile adoptions began, digital experience technologies have changed just as fast. eCommerce sites need to be refreshed much more regularly to keep up with consumer expectations. The biggest of these expectations is the speed of service and the desire to be able to shop regardless of location or connectivity. For anyone wanting to run an eCommerce store, catering for their mobile users is paramount. 

Today’s eCommerce sites are nearly all responsive in design; they render well on all devices and have a fluid layout. To stay ahead of the game, PWAs have come to the forefront. They offer advanced modern web technologies for eCommerce sites such as service workers and push notifications. By creating a PWA, businesses are able to bring together the universal customer reach of the web along with the engaging experience of a mobile app. 

Until the rise of PWAs, mobile web wasn’t able to fully close the conversion rate gap compared to desktop. PWAs enable businesses the opportunity to deliver faster and improved customer experiences. While the apps look like regular web pages, they have advanced features, they can work offline, serve notifications and launch cameras. Most importantly, as we’ve touched on, is speed. With eCommerce, enabling customers to quickly find items and complete the purchasing process is vital. Ultimately, the faster these processes are, the more likely a customer is to buy. To give an idea of just how important speed is, Google research shows that as page load time increases from one to ten seconds, the probability of bouncing increases by 123%. The fact that PWAs serve pages more quickly and enable users to continue their shopping experience offline has become a real game-changer. 

Features PWAs Deliver for eCommerce

PWAs offer some incredible features that enable eCommerce sites to deliver a mobile-first approach to their customers:

  • Connectivity – PWAs work offline, which means that customers can continue to browse online stores if they lose connectivity. 
  • User acquisition – with an ‘add to home screen’ button available on Android, once a customer has saved the PWA it is there at the touch of a button. This lowers user acquisition costs and shortens the buying process for customers. In addition, as product pages can be shared via URLs, reach is further increased. 
  • Searchability – in contrast to native apps, PWAs are supported by search engines as they have URLs and can be indexed. 
  • Development and maintenance – as PWAs are built as web pages, their development cost is much lower than for native apps. Updates are done automatically, and they are independent of operating systems.
  • Business model – PWAs are independent of marketplace commissions. Businesses can publish their PWA site independently and freely plan diverse promotions, reacting to market changes more rapidly. 
  • User experience – due to their smaller size, PWAs are much easier to install than their native counterparts. What’s more, they have a consistent design across all devices, while resembling native apps. 
  • Speed – PWAs save the structure of a website’s layout to quickly reproduce them in a browser upon user request, saving vital seconds of loading time. Also, while responsive sites depend on connectivity and data can’t be stored offline, PWAs allow users to continue browsing offline, making them quicker and more reliable. 
  • Payments – using payment request APIs, PWAs enable more payment possibilities and a consistent user interface. Users can complete purchases instantly and securely, without the need for cumbersome check-out forms. 
  • Push notifications – sellers are able to notify their clients about new goods, services, special offers, and even let them know when they are back online, so they can complete any purchases they’ve started. 

The success of PWAs for eCommerce is no longer merely a prediction. While the technology is still relatively new, companies big and small adopting the approach have seen impressive conversion rate growth, application weight reduction and an increase in the number of users. 

How PWAs are Paving the Way for Omnichannel Retail

The growing challenge for retailers is how they can deliver an immersive and personalised experience. Businesses need to be able to connect with their customers at every step of their shopping journey. Whether someone is in a store, on the phone or using their mobile, the service needs to be unified. Building an omnichannel strategy is a complex endeavour, but one that is made a lot easier by the use of PWAs.

Using PWAs businesses are able to not only optimise their experiences for mobile, but to get closer to their customers. Increasing customer loyalty and building communities results in opportunities for both in-store and online experiences. There are a multitude of ways that PWAs can be used to enhance omnichannel retail. Notifications can be pushed by location, allowing brands to notify customers when items are available in nearby stores. Functionality such as location awareness can be built into PWAs, enabling retailers to send customers the right message at the right time. 

The Rise of Social Commerce

The line between social media and eCommerce is becoming ever more blurred, leading to the rise in social commerce. Younger generations are spending more and more time on social media, creating a new indisputable market for eCommerce in years to come. The younger generations use social channels for shopping, with the likes of Instagram and Snapchat taking the lead. As part of creating an omnichannel experience, a seamless and consistent experience needs to be delivered across all channels regardless of device. With Generation Z set to be the largest consumer generation, the importance of social commerce can’t be ignored. 

For younger generations who easily become impatient with slow load times and buffering, PWAs are a breath of fresh air. They create a significant opportunity for businesses to capitalise on social commerce. The technology is a powerful way to onboard more consumers, connecting social media users directly with brands. 

PWAs have already become the standard used by major eCommerce and social media players. Any business that receives most of its traffic from mobile devices would be crazy to ignore the benefits that PWAs can bring. What’s more, the technology is rapidly evolving. Each day we see new engaging features, and there will no doubt be more to come. 

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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