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How a Progressive Web App will transform your customer experience

By blending the feel of native apps with the flexibility of websites, Progressive Web Apps (PWA) offer users an experience that is fast, reliable, and engaging. For merchants, these improvements translate into higher conversion rates and increased revenue.

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

Faster performance

When 53% of users abandon sites that take longer than 3 seconds to load (DoubleClick, 2016), it’s clear that performance should be at the top of your list for improving retention and conversion. If you need convincing, try Google’s revenue impact calculator to see what your load times are costing.

Load time comparison of Magento sites.

A PWA benefits from smarter cache control, allowing websites that are already streamlined to become truly turbo-charged. The result: a PWA can be launched from a home screen and ready to use in less than a second, rivalling and often beating native apps. This performance boost is a big deal to user experience, but also to bandwidth usage, and will have a huge benefit in emerging markets which depend on wireless connections.

Offline functionality

A key property of a PWA is reliability. With greater caching of assets and content, it’s possible for a PWA to cope with a poor connection, or even continue being used while offline. Users no longer have to be roadblocked by a blank screen as they go about their day; at the very least, the situation can be handled gracefully using a simple “You’re offline” notice.

Example offline screens for ecommerce.

But far smarter solutions could be achieved that allow users to carry on with their journey. A PWA for eCommerce might recall a handful of recently viewed products, or alternatively offer some best sellers to hint at what’s available. A retailer with physical stores could alternatively provide details like opening hours to continue facilitating high street visits.

Easy installation

Year on year, app store reports reveal a shocking fact: users download few, if any apps. That’s a daunting challenge for a business that’s investing in native apps. PWA have a number of ways of bypassing this reluctance to install. To begin with, when a user visits a store, they’re immediately using the PWA — they can test drive all features before deciding to install.

Comparison of installation journeys.

The next trick is the install prompt. It is only displayed to the user once they’ve demonstrated enough interest through repeat visits. If you only have one shot at installation, this qualification gets the timing right. Should they go ahead, the installation is instantaneous. This is partly due to the app size; Twitter’s PWA is 600KB, compared to 24MB for the full Android app.

Native-like interactions

Through the web app manifest, PWAs can break free of the web browser and be installed on a user’s home screen. This is key to encouraging re-engagement, as 86% of time on mobiles is spent in apps. Not only does the user get a full-screen app experience, but through modern web technologies, they can enjoy most of the same features that have made native-apps so useful.

Examples of modern web browser APIs.

There are many device integration APIs now available including key capabilities that users have come to expect, including geolocation, camera access, sensor input, payment processing, and VR. As browser vendors continue to expand support for PWA, more features will become available to developers, however some things like geofencing and access to contacts will probably remain restricted to native apps due to security and privacy concerns.

Multi-channel consistency

Long gone are the days when consumers would shop online solely at their desktop computers. In a single day, they might engage with several connected devices, and their shopping journeys have followed suit, switching from phone to laptop, smartwatch to TV, depending on our environment and objective. For retailers, it can be challenging to connect the data and design across these different platforms.

One experience reaches multiple platforms.

PWA supports our alway-on lifestyle perfectly. Because they are served from the web, and take advantage of responsive design, they are inherently device agnostic. A consistent brand experience can be achieved simply because customers are always accessing the same site.

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Responsive web design is no longer enough to meet the evolving expectations of consumers. With PWA, merchants can take a leap forward, offering a high-performance, mobile-first experience that delivers more revenue. We believe PWA are the future of eCommerce, and over the next few years, we expect everyone to be implementing them. But businesses that start today gain a huge advantage by leading their market and enjoying the proven returns sooner.

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.

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