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The Business Case for Building a Progressive Web App

What’s a PWA?

Progressive Web Apps are websites that use new technology to behave like a native app e.g. they can be installed, they work offline. This best of both approach offers huge benefits for businesses and their customers. — Read our introduction to PWA

Unrestricted distribution

Consider the friction of distributing a native app: it must pass tricky approval rules, submit to mandated revenue sharing, and gain attention in a crowded app store. And it could all be for nothing: the average number of apps installed per month is 0 (comScore, 2017). For many businesses, it’s a risky investment to make.

Contrast that with PWA. Being a website, they’re publically available and swiftly updated. Users can discover them naturally through organic and paid search, or via shared links on social media, so marketing efforts are combined. They can also enjoy the new features immediately, right in their browser, before being prompted to save the app to their home screen.

Cross-platform reach

Native apps only work on the platform they’re created for. That means developing separate iOS and Android apps to cover most phones, and more versions if you want to reach desktop users. Full coverage requires significant upfront development, and creates a large maintenance cost. On the other hand, PWAs are built using web technologies, meaning that they can be built once and then naturally work anywhere the web does.

The “progressive” aspect of PWAs is also important here. It relates to the important concept of progressive enhancement, whereby a baseline experience is enriched where a user’s browser or device is more technically capable. So a PWA may function as a normal website in older environments, as a highly performant app on your smartphone, and then have some extra tricks on Windows 10 where PWAs saved to the desktop gain access to additional resources and functionality.

Re-engaging customers

Merchants with an eye on lifetime value work hard to encourage repeat purchases and build brand loyalty, re-engaging customers through product development, special promotions, and marketing campaigns. But if those traditional methods falter, PWA can offer new ways to regain and maintain engagement.

Push notifications are a headline feature of PWAs. Retailers could be using them for a range of purposes, displaying alerts for flash sales, restocked products, or delivery updates. Lancome USA uses notifications to reconnect shoppers with abandoned carts; they saw the recovery of carts increase by 12%, supporting an overall 17% increase in conversions.

Faster to market

One way to build a PWA is using a headless architecture where the back-end platform is separated from the front-end interface. Software like Magento continues to store and process data, but does not provide the storefront. Instead, a JavaScript app retrieves the data via APIs, renders the pages, and manages all interactions. Other platforms and services can be easily plugged in provided they offer the necessary API endpoints.

This separation provides a lot more creative freedom when designing the ideal experience, but we’ve found it also allows merchants to build a PWA as fast, if not faster, than a regular site. The nature of this architecture then makes maintenance and iteration much simpler, as the front-end can be changed without affecting the back-end, and new features can be developed as independent modules.

Operational savings

It’s not hard to draw a line from providing a richer customer experience to generating higher sales revenues. That incentive of building a PWA is clear. What’s less obvious, but equally important, are the operational savings that can be made throughout the lifetime of a PWA. This begins with the investment needed to build one, which is nominal compared to building a regular website plus one or two native apps.

As explained above, the architecture provides greater agility when it comes to fixing bugs or adding features. This means less budget is wasted on maintenance, and more is available to invest in driving growth. By moving to a PWA solution, merchants get to rethink their digital strategy, and the earlier they move, the sooner they compound the commercial benefits.

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It’s clear that implementing PWA offers a range of wins for businesses. It is easily implemented using current web technologies, and delivers a superior experience for users, which in turn raises satisfaction, encourages engagement, and improves conversion. JH is already including PWA features in new projects, and we believe they will soon become as commonly used as Responsive Web Design.

If you want to find out more about this new technology and how it can take your eCommerce site to the next level, then we’re ready to walk you through the benefits and development considerations, just get in touch.