Why Can’t E-Commerce Businesses Ignore PWAs?

Why Can’t E-Commerce Businesses Ignore PWAs?

Once every few years, the web goes through a significant revolution. At first, we’ve had static websites. Then, we’ve got dynamic content. In 2008, Apple introduced native applications. Available offline and benefitting from push notifications and smooth graphics, native applications made the web seem outdated in comparison.

But it soon became clear that native applications have their downsides too. The most important one is that there is no easy way to get a user to install your app. Just think about the process:

  • First, you have to run an advertising campaign so the users find out about your website
  • Second, they have to jump from the website to the app store
  • Third, the users must tap to install your app and, equally important, not get diverted by competitors who might rank better than you on the app store.
  • Then, they are expected to set app various permissions and wait until the application gets downloaded.
  • Lastly, users can finally enjoy the app.

What this means is that, if you are a new company trying to break into the market with a new native app, it is going to cost you lots of money to acquire users and will take more time than you’d probably expected.

Now, let’s fast-forward to 2015 when Google’s Alex Russel introduced something called Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). Again, this changed everything. In a nutshell, PWAs bring the best of both worlds – the low user acquisition cost specific to responsive websites coupled with rich native-like app features.

How do PWAs Work?

Under the hood, a PWA is nothing more than a website that uses the most recent advances in mobile browser technology to deliver users a rich native-like experience. At the same time, a Progressive Web App can be installed without any hassle by adding it to the home screen through the browser.

This means you will launch it with just one tap. Next, it will be almost impossible to tell the difference between a PWA and an application downloaded from an app store.

Moreover, a new concept called Service Workers allows PWAs to show notifications, cache data, and store information. Service workers sit outside of any browser window and act as a layer between the actual webpage and the web server. It is worth mentioning that the service worker is a separated process and, as a result, it doesn’t affect the performance of the user interface. This makes service workers suitable for running some extra resource-consuming computations.

Equally important, service workers make sure any actions performed by the user are delivered to the server, even if the network connectivity is temporarily lost. As you might have already guessed, this layer can communicate with the server when all browser windows are closed and display push notifications.

Why Use PWAs for E-Commerce

Even if the popularity of native apps has been growing at a fast rate, PWAs bring a significant number of features that made them the preferred solution for companies of all sizes, including the likes of AliExpress, Alibaba, and Flipkart. Let’s take a look into it to understand why.

Reduced costs and accelerated time to market

To build a native app, a company has to actually create a different app for each platform and pay for access and advertising on each marketplace. Furthermore, since the tech stack is different (HTML/JS for the web, Swift for iOS, and Java for Android), the cost of updating and maintaining a native app is going to be quite high.

On the other side…

PWAs are basically web pages. This means that a company will only have to manage and update a single codebase, making the cost of development much lower and considerable speeding up the time to market. Click To Tweet

Independence from marketplaces

Big companies like Google and Apple usually charge marketplace commissions of up to 30% and control when new versions are rolled out. With Progressive Apps, once a company publishes a PWA on its website, it is free of commissions and it can be updated in no time as a reaction to market changes.

Better user experience

Besides the fact that progressive Web Apps update themselves automatically, it is worth mentioning that a PWA shares the exact same design on all platforms.

And here comes the best part. Let’s say that a customer is searching for a particular product. Since PWAs are able to cache data locally, the user could continue doing so even if the internet connection drops. Next, when he/she wants to check out, the app can simply show a message offering to send a push notification once the network connection gets restored. This is exactly the behavior that, until now, only native apps could offer. By leveraging service workers, PWAs are offering the exact same experience.

By leveraging their innovative technical design, PWAs bring significant improvements over traditional websites with respect to a few key user experience metrics such as:

  • Time to interactive: it measures how long it takes a page to display useful content.
  • First contentful paint: it measures the amount of time passed from the moment users lands on a particular page to the moment the first bit of content is rendered.

Search engine friendly

Recently, Google shifted to mobile-first indexing which means that they will consider the mobile version of any website as the primary one. Thanks to W3C Manifests, PWAs are natively indexed by the search engines. As a result, Progressive Web Apps are more likely to show up at the top of Google search results.

Let’s Wrap Things Up

It is impossible to predict the future but, based on the emphasis companies in various industries are putting on this technology, we believe PWAs will gain more traction in 2019. Polcode is keeping an eye on the latest developments in this space with the purpose of providing the most accurate and up to date information to our readers.

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