Business

PWA (Progressive Web Apps) for e-commerce – benefits, and advantages

Marlena Walburg
Marlena Walburg

Progressive Internet Applications, which are gaining more and more popularity, bring several benefits, including business ones. In the e-commerce industry, what counts is a user engagement, high quality of service and impeccable impressions when visiting the platform by potential customers. Fast page loading and trouble-free operation are essential. Does PWA answer these needs? You will find out by reading this article.


What Is a PWA?


A progressive web application is a solution meeting the needs of users who want faster, richer, and more attractive software than web applications. PWA runs over the web in a browser but gives the look and feel of a native application. It is typically built using web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. PWA works on any platform that uses a standards-compliant web browser. PWA offers a user interface that is more and more similar to native applications and is, therefore, a good competitor to regular web applications, from which it is much more attractive and faster.

Progressive Web App should have features such as working offline, support for push notifications, access to some built-in phone functions, background processing of service workers in a separate thread, and an icon on the phone’s home screen. Since PWA works in the browser, users do not need to download and install it from app stores such as the Apple App Store or Google Play. However, these largest app stores have started using PWA to varying degrees, which is a huge plus for developers of such applications.

Benefits of Progressive Web Apps for e-commerce

Higher conversion rate

Moving from a native application to PWA can solve some issues like a significantly lower conversion on mobile than desktop. PWAs provide better navigation through the app, a transparent user interface, and thanks to Service Workers, such applications are much faster. Moreover, in PWAs we still have native features. Thus, you can get the user experience much smoother on mobile devices which translates into a higher conversion rate. How big will the difference be after switching to PWA? In the TOP 30 PWAs report, results show that the average conversion rate for PWA was 36% higher than for native mobile applications.

Speed and accessibility

Undoubtedly, speed is one of the most prominent features of PWA. In combination with the ability to work offline, they allow access to the application at virtually any time. Speed is an extremely important factor when it comes to a good user experience. According to numerous studies, over 50% of users leave a mobile site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Besides, the TTI parameter is also important. TTI is the time until the user can interact with the page, even if it has not been fully loaded yet. PWA using Service Workers to store detailed information and application functions can load them immediately after accessing the application. Thus, PWAs are much faster than many of the other options available. Also, they are accessed just like a regular website, but the PWA can be pinned to the home screen of your device.

Offline functionality

PWAs work even when users are offline or have a poor internet connection. Most responsive websites do not offer this, which gives you another reason to choose PWA over them. The offline mode function allows buyers to view and edit their orders and often enables viewing the offer and available products.

Push Notifications

With push notifications function, you have much more possibilities to reach mobile visitors of your website, without having to provide personal data or an application. It significantly increases their engagement, and it may translate into increased sales, brand awareness and achievement of marketing goals. Although push notifications come from native applications, it is also a PWA functionality. Notifications for your e-commerce PWA can be used for such tasks as notifying the user about promotions, sales or product appearance. This feature is also based on Service Workers. It uses them to listen for “push events” provided by the push notification service. When an event is triggered, a notification is sent to the user’s device, even if the browser is not active. Push notifications are sent directly from the server to the web push service and contain the information needed by the push service to send them to the right recipient.

Faster and cheaper development 

PWAs do not require creating separate versions of the application for each platform, so the development cost is much lower. Such a development process does not require separate teams for each version, because one universal PWA is created, which also has a positive effect on the project budget. Moreover, this approach is much faster than developing a native application that needs to be developed separately for Android and iOS.

How to build a PWA e-commerce online marketplace?

Creating a PWA is not much different than creating any other type of web application. Developers have a few extra things to do, such as writing Service Worker scripts. 

For this reason, the PWA creation process begins just like any web application. After writing the code in selected technologies, developers create a manifest file. Technologies for building a PWA e-commerce marketplace are i.e. Angular, Vue and Gatsby. The manifest file specifies how the device should display the PWA to the end-user. It allows you to create PWA applications that are installable and that appear as if they are native applications. Manifests are in JSON format and allow developers to define different characteristics of the application. Another important step is to write Service Worker scripts. The process will certainly be easier for programmers experienced in working with JavaScript, which is the language normally used to write these scripts. They define how the Service Worker should interact with whatever browser APIs or APIs the PWA will use to intercept network requests to implement the requested functionality. The website employees act as intermediaries between the web browser and the network. By intercepting network requests, they can process them in ways that a conventional web application cannot provide. In this way, PWAs provide access to the native device interface and hardware functions.

What is Gatsby and how to use it in PWA development?

Gatsby is a React-based web development framework. It is designed to give the best performance out of the box. It supports code decomposition, minimization and optimization such as background preloading and image processing. The code is compiled in such a way that the site starts automatically and quickly, regardless of the device on which it is opened. This makes the website you build highly efficient without any manual adornment. These performance features are a big part of supporting a progressive approach to creating web applications.

When creating a PWA in Gatsby, remember to run it over HTTPS, which is a highly recommended security method. Operation under the HTTPS protocol is a standard for many new browser features that are required for the operation of Progressive Web Applications. Moreover, hosting websites when creating Gatsby is much simpler and cheaper than when using other technologies. The code does not run on the server, which means it consumes little data transfer and takes up a small amount of disk space. Therefore, any hosting provider should handle a website based on this framework.

PWA e-commerce examples

You may not even know it, but tons of popular e-commerce and marketplaces are PWAs. Here are some impressive examples. 

AliExpress

AliExpress is a giant among e-commerce. When his mobile sales strategy was no longer working and getting users to install and reuse a native app was difficult and cumbersome, the company decided to take other steps. AliExpress was looking for a way to ensure that all network users can benefit from its app’s benefits such as efficiency, offline-ability and user re-engagement. Ultimately, the company decided to create a PWA to combine the best features of the application with the wide network coverage. Conversion rates more than doubled after the implementation of PWA. The new strategy also provided a much better user experience, which translated into twice as many pages per session.

Lancôme
Lancôme, a luxury cosmetics brand, is one of the first companies to implement PWA. In 2016, the company recorded a conversion rate on mobile devices of 15%, which was disturbingly low compared to the values ​​achieved on the desktop. When looking for a suitable solution, the company initially considered creating an e-commerce application for mobile devices but understood that the application only made sense for customers who visit it regularly. To guarantee fast loading and a great user experience close to the native one, Lancôme decided to use PWA. With this approach, the number of Lancôme mobile sessions increased by over 50%, and conversions by 17%. Besides, the time until the site became interactive decreased by 84% compared to the previous version on mobile devices, with a corresponding 15% decrease in bounce rates. Just as the company wanted it, the cross-platform user experience has also gotten much better.

Flipkart

Flipkart is one of the largest e-commerce sites in India. In 2015, the company adopted an app-only strategy and temporarily shut down its mobile site. It became increasingly difficult for the company to provide users with an experience as fast and engaging as their mobile app. Therefore, Flipkart decided to rethink its development approach and returned to the web in a mobile version. The company decided to combine its web presence and native PWA application, which resulted in a 70% increase in conversion. It was influenced by the speed of operation, instant loading, and offline mode. Thus, Flipkart engaged users again and offered a great mobile experience.


Summary

How powerful can PWA for e-commerce be? Considering the rapid development of the app available immediately for each platform, the lack of downloading from application stores, and the speed of operation, the answer is clear – it is a technology with huge business potential. Placed in tabs on the user’s home screen, next to all other applications, does not differ in the user’s experience from native applications, but offers much greater involvement and discoverability in the network. The conclusion is simple if you plan to develop an e-commerce platform for your business, consider building a PWA.

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