Article

What is a Progressive Web App (PWA) and why does my business need one?

With Google’s implementation of the Mobile First index, whereby a brand’s mobile website is to be the default listing in the Google search results, it is clear that designing a great mobile user experience should be a top priority for every business. 

If your website was initially designed for desktop, but is responsive to mobile devices, this is sufficient to meet the needs of Google’s mobile-first index. However designing with ‘mobile-first’ is better i.e. you consider and design the mobile user experience before the desktop version.

If you are already embracing mobile-first or want to take your existing online experience to the next level, Progressive Web Apps offer an exciting (and cost effective) new way to engage with your consumers.

What is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

A PWA is a website that looks and behaves like a native mobile app. It combines the features of web browsing with an intuitive app like experience, without the barrier of needing to visit an app store and having to download an app.

The term ‘Progressive Web App’ was coined by designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell in 2015. Google have paved the way for PWAs, but in addition to Google Chrome they are now also being supported by Opera, Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Samsung Internet browser is showing commitment to PWAs and Apple are also joining in with service workers (a key component of supporting Progressive Web Apps) being available in Safari 11.1 for iOS 11.3.

Why are PWAs so important?

Many brands like the idea of having a native mobile app. Features such as an intuitive and user-friendly digital interface, push notifications, offline availability and easy access from the mobile device home screen are appealing.  However, the user acquisition and retention challenges of native apps are often too much of a barrier.

Native apps operate in an extremely competitive market. There are currently over 3.6 m android apps available on Google Playstore1, growing at a rate of 1,300 apps per day with an estimated 197 billion app downloads in 20172 In Q4 of 2017 alone 19 billion apps downloaded were from the Google Play Store.

Even if your app does successfully get downloaded, retention rates are very low. 80% of apps are deleted after one use, with the average app losing 77% of its Daily App Users (DAU) within the first 3 days of install, and 90% within the first 30 days after download3.

For the user, if the cost of having an app (mainly the precious disk space it needs) out-ways its value, it will just be deleted.

With these challenges in mind, here is where Progressive Web App technology can provide a welcome solution. Providing an app-like experience but without the need to download from an app store.

What are the benefits of Progressive web apps? 4

  • Progressive - Work for every user, regardless of browser choice because they’re built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
  • Responsive - Fit any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or forms yet to emerge.
  • Connectivity independent - Service workers allow work offline, or on low quality networks.
  • App-like - Feel like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation.
  • Fresh - Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
  • Safe - Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and ensure content hasn’t been tampered with.
  • Discoverable - Are identifiable as “applications” thanks to W3C manifests5 and service worker registration scope allowing search engines to find them.
  • Re-engageable - Make re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
  • Installable - Allow users to “keep” apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
  • Linkable - Easily shared via a URL and do not require installation.

Is a PWA right for my business and my customers?

A Progressive Web App is particularly relevant if you have (or have considered developing) a native app and/ or your customers want to do any of the following via your website: 

  • Visit your website regularly e.g. to see what’s new
  • Want to access information quickly e.g. account details
  • Want to undertake a particular process often e.g. make a purchase
  • Want to access your site when there is no Internet connection.

What is the cost of a Progressive Web App?

The biggest advantage of developing a Progressive Web App is the cost saving in terms of app development and maintenance. Average customer acquisition costs may be up to ten times smaller compared to those of native applications.6

The technology for PWAs is free, just you need a skilled developer to build your website as a PWA and to include the relevant components.

Who is using a PWA and what impact has it had?

George.com, clothing brand part of Asda Walmart saw a 31% increase in mobile conversions after upgrading their site to a PWA.

Other results included7:

  • 3.8x - Faster average page load time
  • 2x - Lower bounce rate
  • 20% - More page views per visit
  • 28% - Longer average time on site for visits from Home screen

Beauty brand Lancome increase conversions8 by 17% with new PWA, they also saw:

  • 51% increase in mobile sessions 
  • 8% increase in conversion rates on recovered carts via Push Notifications

Travel company Carnival Cruise Linewanted to provide personalised and engaging communications for its customers without fighting for attention in the inbox. The company achieved 24% opt- in to push notifications with a 42% open rate9.

When Google devised the concept of Progressive Web App they worked with several companies like The Washington PostThe Guardian, The Weather Channel, FlipkartAlibaba, and AliExpress for their app development strategy and helped them build a better mobile web presence. 

After implementing their Progressive Web App, AliExpress saw conversion rates for new users increase by 104%. This investment in the mobile web also resulted in conversion rates on Safari increasing by 82%. The new strategy also delivered a much better experience. Users now visit twice as many pages per session, and time spent per session increased an average of 74% across all browsers.

The future

The most successful digital experiences are founded on providing a great user experience (UX). With smart phones being the first connected device to hand for most consumers, the solutions that continue to evolve great UX on mobile devices will continue to gain traction.

Consider contactless payment on the high street, only introduced in the last few years has now become commonplace. If contactless payment isn’t offered during your payment experience, it feels awkward and not seamless.

Combine the on-going consumer expectations for a great user experience with the fact that most of the big name browsers are now supporting PWAs, it is certain that Progressive Web Apps are the future.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve and gain competitive advantage, now is the time to discover if and how, a Progressive Web App could benefit your business.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/289418/number-of-available-apps-in-the-google-play-store-quarter/
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271644/worldwide-free-and-paid-mobile-app-store-downloads/
  3. http://andrewchen.co/new-data-shows-why-losing-80-of-your-mobile-users-is-normal-and-that-the-best-apps-do-much-better/
  4.  Your First Progressive Web App, By Pete LePage – Google Developer Advocate
  5.   W3C “https://www.w3.org/TR/appmanifest/
  6. https://techathlon.com/progressive-web-apps-native-hybrid-app-developers/
  7. https://developers.google.com/web/showcase/2018/asda-george
  8. https://developers.google.com/web/showcase/2017/lancome
  9. https://developers.google.com/web/showcase/2016/carnival

Article orginally published on the DotLabel website 

 

 

 

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