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Progressive Web Apps for E-Commerce: Get an Edge Over Your Competition

According to Statista, the percentage of mobile retail sales in retail e-commerce sales worldwide will amount to 72.9 in 2021. With so many consumers using mobile devices to make purchases online, optimizing e-commerce stores for mobiles has become a must. Until recently, the main methods to conduct e-commerce business through handheld devices were mobile websites, […]

GetDevDone Team

According to Statista, the percentage of mobile retail sales in retail e-commerce sales worldwide will amount to 72.9 in 2021. With so many consumers using mobile devices to make purchases online, optimizing e-commerce stores for mobiles has become a must.

Until recently, the main methods to conduct e-commerce business through handheld devices were mobile websites, mobile apps, and hybrid apps. All of them had certain limitations that didn’t allow e-commerce business owners to secure the maximum engagement of their target audiences and achieve the best user experience.

The search for optimal ways to satisfy the visitors of e-commerce sites with mobile devices continued. As a result, 2015 brought us a revolutionary type of application: a Progressive Web App (PWA). It stands on the crossroads between native apps and old faithful web sites, encompassing their best traits.

While PWAs have been around for some time, not all e-commerce business owners have switched over to them yet. There’s a chance that some may simply not know what PWAs are and what great benefits they can bring to an e-commerce business.

Still have no idea what this type of app is or have only heard about it in passing? Then, this post should dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s for you.

What Are PWAs?

The popularity of Progressive Web Applications has been on the increase recently

The popularity of PWAs has been on the increase since their introduction. Source: Google Trends.

Every definition of a PWA you can come across states that it combines the capabilities of a standard website with those Android and iOS-powered applications provide, and that’s perfectly true.

This new type of app represents a responsive website built by using the standard web development ingredients (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) with the addition of a technology called service workers.

You can access a PWA by entering its URL into the browser address field, just like when you visit a regular website. Once the app loads into the browser, it can be installed on your device in a fashion similar to a native app and access many of the device’s core functions, such as the camera.

A dialog box appears asking if you want to add the app to your smartphone or tablet (less frequently to desktop). Once you click ‘Yes,’ the app’s icon shows up on the main screen of your device.

That’s it. You can now access the PWA by tapping the icon even when you are not online. The app’s publisher, in their turn, can send push notifications to your device exactly as it happens with native apps.

There are some restrictions as for the content of a PWA in offline mode. However, unlike a standard website that simply goes offline and shows a 404 page, a PWA displays a part of the content as if it were still online. This is one of the numerous advantages of PWAs we’re going to discuss next.


Progressive Web Applications

#1: Pay Less, Get More — Build One PWA to Work Everywhere

iOS and Android have ousted all of their competitors from the market without remorse. With Google and Apple almost single-handedly dominating the mobile space, companies have no choice but target both of the tech giants’ operating systems.

Building two apps means paying twice as much, and you probably know that native app developers’ fees are quite hefty. For example, an app for iOS may cost tens of thousands of dollars! Add to this the cost of making an app for Android, and your head will start aching.

By contrast, a PWA, as mentioned earlier, has the basic web technologies under the hood. Once you have it built, it will function immaculately on a smartphone or tablet, regardless of the underlying OS. Moreover, you will hardly be able to distinguish a PWA from a native app, as it also has a home screen and works offline (more on that below).

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

PWAs cost much less to build

  1. There’s no need to hire two separate development teams to build two applications. You only require one team of developers who are well-versed in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (plus frameworks such as Angular, React, or Vue), can use service workers, and know the ins and outs of iOS and Android platforms to harness their power to the max. In the end, a PWA may turn out to be three or even four times cheaper than a native application.
  2. Built at a low cost, a PWA will cover all your customers and prospects no matter what devices they use to access the app — every marketer’s dream.

#2: Let Your Customers and Prospects Enjoy a Quick and Efficient Installation Flow

Getting a native app to work on your device can be a rather long and laborious process. Besides, developers have to meet the strictest requirements when adding their apps to Google Play or App Store.

Acquiring the new type of app is straightforward. There’s no need to go to an app store. A visitor accesses a PWA via a browser by specifying its URL in the same way they access an ordinary website. Here is how the installation flow looks:

Installing a PWA is easy and quick

  1. You enter the site’s URL and land on the home page. A prompt appears asking if you want to add the PWA’s icon to your home screen. Alternatively, you can tap the hamburger menu and select the ‘Add to Home screen’ option.
  2. You click ‘Add.’
  3. The PWA gets installed on your device and added to the list of the apps. You can now simply tap the app’s icon to access the app.

Simple and quick.

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

PWA installation flow benefits

  1. Everything is at a user’s fingertips. They don’t have to go to an app store, search for the app, and go through all the tedious steps to complete the installation. This means that more users will prefer to stay on your site.
  2. Since all that users need to access a PWA is a URL, it can be easily shared. This can attract more prospects to your e-commerce store within a short time frame.

#3: Stay Connected with Your Customers Through Push Notifications

Let us repeat ourselves: PWAs are websites that use the capabilities of native mobile apps. One of such capabilities is the use of push notifications to keep connected with your customers or prospects once they’ve installed your app on their devices.

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

Use push notifications with PWAs

  1. Since a PWA’s icon is added to the home screen, once you send a push notification, the device owner will get reminded of your brand, even if they choose not to open your message.
  2. Push notifications serve as a powerful sales/advertising channel, particularly for e-commerce businesses. According to some estimates, over half of PWA users enable push notifications.

#4: Help Your Customers Feel Safe Thanks to the Enhanced Security Mechanism Provided by PWAs

Progressive web apps use the https protocol for data transmission

Security is a very serious matter for any e-commerce business. Hackers are all over the place hunting for sensitive user data. To keep them empty-handed, all PWAs use the https protocol by default. It encodes all user data traveling over the wires. Thus, cybercriminals will never get hold of what they are after.

In addition to https, PWAs employ Web Bluetooth technology to create a layer of extra protection.

Furthermore, be savvy about back-end security issues and nip them in the bud proactively. For example, you can use an SQL vulnerabilities checker tool to ensure the database that underpins your web app is not exploitable.

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

When consumers are certain that a site is absolutely secure and their financial or personal data will not get into the wrong hands, they feel confident and will keep returning to purchase more products.

#5: Show Site Visitors Your Catalogs Even When Their Gadgets Are Working in Offline Mode

What makes progressive web applications especially valuable for e-commerce is their ability to display pages with offered products even when users are not online.

That’s a clear edge over regular websites that show a ‘not found’ page when online access is unavailable. The offline browsing mode is achieved through the use of service workers. Those cache the content a visitor has browsed before, making it ready to be served at any time.

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

Browsing an e-commerce site offline contributes to retaining more customers, who can continue selecting goods to purchase later when they’re online again. This is particularly valuable for markets with poor Internet coverage or slow-speed networks.

#6: Give Your Customers Better User Experience Thanks to the Fast Loading Speed of a PWA

Fast speed and ideal performance are two of the most important characteristics of an e-commerce website. Who wants to wait for your store to load with so many alternatives around?

After installation, a progressive web app can work as fast or even faster than most applications you can find in an app store. Why? The secret is in an almost ideal caching mechanism that serves visitors pages locally rather than retrieving them from computers somewhere in a different hemisphere.

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

It should be obvious. A fast, glitch-free e-commerce website is likely to attract and retain more customers, regardless of the method they use to access it. This should positively reflect on sales figures.

#7: Let the Search Engines Find Your PWA Just Like an Ordinary Website

A PWA's pages are indexible by search engines

With so many e-commerce solutions fiercely vying with each other to get to the top of search results pages, you must let web crawlers discover your website. Unlike regular iOS or Android apps that don’t expose their data to the outside world, PWAs have all the features of standard websites, retrieving data from databases.

Thus, PWAs are not ignored by Google and the like that index their pages. All you need to do is apply the best SEO practices in the same way you’ve been doing with your regular website.

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

Consumers get a powerful combination: excellent performance and speed comparable to those iOS and Android applications provide plus Google-friendliness that websites boast. Your prospects will find your store more easily and convert more frequently.


The Main Benefits of Progressive Web Apps for E-Commerce Businesses

PWAs are powerful, Google-backed solutions that can give your e-commerce business a competitive edge over rival stores. By combining the advantages of mobile apps with those of ordinary websites, PWAs provide unrivaled user experience, lighting-fast loading speed, perfect search engine visibility, and bullet-proof security for your demanding customers to enjoy. They are easy and quick to install and comparatively cheap to build.

An increased number of e-commerce business owners have come to realize the great value of PWAs, with numerous companies reporting higher conversion rates after trying the new technology (examples).

It’s true that PWAs are more challenging to build than ordinary mobile websites. Not only must developers know the essential web technologies, but they must also be experts in using service workers and JavaScript frameworks plus be familiar with the restrictions that the Android and iOS platforms impose.

The GetDevDone professionals have all that it takes to create high-quality, fast, visually attractive, and efficient PWAs. We have all the expertise gathered in one central location. We can build a PWA from scratch or enhance your existing e-commerce website with all the powers of the new technology. Just give us your design or share your ideas with us.