PWA in eCommerce 2024: Exploring Progressive Web Apps' Value
For the last few years, there has been a lot of buzz around progressive web applications (PWA), making the technology one of the most asked-about by merchants and C-level managers in eCommerce.
As companies and brands around all industries are desperately trying to adapt to the tremendously increasing number of mobile users, progressive web apps started gaining impressive popularity.
Though the technology hasn’t yet reached the promised through-the-roof traction, it’s predicted to be the future for eCommerce and basically any brick-and-mortar business.
Let’s take a closer look at what PWAs in e-commerce actually are, why they get massively used, and how businesses worldwide take advantage of the technology.
What Exactly is a PWA?
In simple words, a PWA is a webpage with all the perks of a native mobile app. With a progressive web application, you get an enhanced version of your page. Your page works faster, more reliably, and supports all the features of native apps — such as offline work, or (if granted) access to your camera, mic, and location.
Thanks to PWA, you no longer need to spend money on building applications for each operating system (OS). PWAs perfectly operate as both — a website and mobile app, providing a native-like user experience on any device.
What’s in PWA for Business?
eCommerce is becoming mobile-first at the speed of sound. This industry is literally voracious for PWA implementation.
No matter what you sell, mobile devices including tablets are now the driving force behind business growth for thousands of brands worldwide. Here are some whooping numbers:
- mCommerce sales in the US are expected to 4X – going from an impressive $128.4B in 2019 to a mind-blowing $553.3B by 2024 (Business Insider).
- Over 1 billion users worldwide access banking services through mobile devices.
- 67.2% of all eCommerce purchases are made via mobile.
Did you know that the highest conversions are reported for webpages with 0-2 seconds loading time? There’s even more. Google reports a drastic 90% increase in bounce rate if your page loads more than 3 seconds.
That said, businesses are frantically adapting to the new-mobile reality, looking for cost-effective yet fast solutions. This is where PWAs enter the room.
Now, let’s further inspect the advantages and pitfalls behind PWA.
The Main Advantages of Using PWA:
- Fast loading and run time: a progressive web app runs faster than a website, and sometimes faster than a native application.
On average, a site using PWA can increase its speed by 63%. Pages load 2-4 times faster with PWA, with an average loading speed of 2.75s.
George.com demonstrated a remarkable increase in speed by 3.8 times (280%) due to the usage of the best PWA e-commerce practices.
Housing.com reduced loading time from 6s to 1.5s (300% increase in speed). Tinder has reduced its page loading time from 11.9 to 4.69 seconds.
Ease of Installation: Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) offer a user-friendly installation process directly from web browsers, ensuring a seamless experience for users. The ease of installation is a crucial factor in reducing user abandonment, as it eliminates the need for complex procedures or app store visits.
This simplicity contributes significantly to enhancing the overall user experience, making it more likely for users to engage with and adopt the PWA. After installation, PWAs maintain a high level of accessibility by conveniently residing on users' desktop home screens.
Offline Functionality: One of the most remarkable advantages that positions progressive web apps (PWAs) as cutting-edge solutions is their offline mode functionality. This distinctive feature allows users to interact with the app even when they are not connected to the internet.
Unlike traditional web apps, PWAs leverage service workers to cache essential resources, enabling a seamless offline experience.Google offers a range of official libraries that play a crucial role in simplifying the overall development process of PWAs.
These libraries provide developers with tools and resources to efficiently implement offline capabilities, ensuring that users can continue to engage with the app regardless of their internet connection status.
Web Push Notifications: PWAs enable the sending of notifications to users even when the web application is not open or in the foreground. This is achieved through the Push API, Notifications API, and Service Workers.
This capability allows for sending timely updates, promotional offers, order tracking, and updates, as well as announcements for new product launches.
Silent Updates: PWAs update automatically without user intervention, refreshing each time they are opened. This feature ensures users always have the latest version, with some PWAs also providing push notifications about new updates.
This streamlined update process enhances user experience by eliminating the need for manual updates, ensuring the web application is consistently up-to-date.
Cost-Effectiveness: The conventional systems development life cycle of a web application involves extensive processes. Developing a dynamic web application that meets user requirements demands significant time and effort.
However, progressive web app development significantly reduces this time and effort, resulting in functional PWAs with relatively low costs.
Let’s not wear rose-colored glasses and look closer at the weak spots of using PWAs.
The Main Limitations of PWA
The bounce rate for PWAs is 42.86 percent lower than that of comparable mobile websites, according to Google's research. Additionally, PWAs exhibit a 50 percent increase in customer engagement, as reported by Smashing Ideas.
- Not all browsers support PWA:Worth noting that Mozilla, the open web leader, has abandoned PWA support for desktop Firefox.
- Problems with push notifications on iOS: The standard browser – Safari – currently does not support push notifications. However, in future versions, Apple developers promise to fix this inconvenience. So if most of your customers browse your page from iPhones, iPads, or MacBooks via Safari, you should consult with tech experts first to see what solution fits you best;
- Development Complexity: While Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) aim to narrow the divide between web and enhanced user experiences, the development and maintenance of a PWA for e-commerce might demand specialized expertise in web development.
This specificity can potentially elevate the complexity of development. Achieving high scores in Google PageSpeed and Core Web Vitals can be more challenging for PWAs compared to alternatives like Hyva. This is because PWAs require more effort, time, and money to develop and optimize.
The Pillars of PWA
As a technology, PWA stands on several main pillars. Here they are:
- Service Worker: the main PWA pattern. It’s a sort of layer between the client and the server. Service Worker defines the working logic for incoming requests – from the front end and other functionality. However, the website caching logic is sufficient for most applications. You can use SW generators to write a Service Worker;
- Web App Manifest: data about the application in JSON format (application name, description, icons, etc.). It’s necessary for displaying your app similarly to the native application;
- Application Shell: an architectural pattern for creating a PWA. Simply said, the App Shell is a site structure critical minimum. It’s a skeleton of the site needed for the offline work of your page. This means that, at first, the shell of your app and critical-for-fast-loading resources are cached. Then, the necessary remaining data is loaded over a network;
- HTTPS: an encryption protocol to ensure the security of your application. One of the mandatory conditions of PWA;
- Push notifications: Using push notifications, you can send customers information about new promotions, order status, promo codes, or basically any sort of nudging-towards-a-purchase signal.
How PWA Works
This ensures instant loading of content and provides a native-like perception of an "app". This feature is important for progressive web apps because most of them are SPAs.
How exactly does a PWA provide instant downloading, native-app-like user experience, offline work, push notifications, and so on?
All of these features are ensured through the use of the already mentioned Service Worker, which adds an additional layer between the server and the client. A new layer simulates functionality similar to native applications.
PWA for Enhanced SEO
Although there is a lot of controversy around whether PWAs are truly boosting SEO efforts, it’s battle-tested that PWAs architecture is SEO- and crawler-friendly. Let’s take a deeper look at it.
- Optimization of the indexing process. One of the main goals of creating PWA was to speed up page indexing. Indirectly, this means improving PWA usage for mobile visitors. At the same time, webmasters no longer need to use deep links, which positively affects search engine optimization.
- Increased productivity. PWA demonstrates consistently high productivity in comparison with general websites. In particular, this is facilitated by the use of Service Workers, which request only raw data. The high productivity of the solution directly impacts the increase in conversion, which means that the site begins to rank higher in search results.
For even greater conversion, PWA allows you to use push notifications that notify users about current promotions, discounts, and special offers while the application runs in the background.
- Improved usability. And finally, another benefit from the SEO perspective is a reduction in the total number of steps required to complete the target action, specifically, downloading and installing the application on a user device. So, there is no need for users to download apps from Google Play or the App Store and tediously wait for the installation to complete.
Examples of World-Known Brands Using PWA Technology
Here are some big names with literally millions of daily impatient customers, who have reached staggering results with progressive web apps.
- Uber: their application weighs only 50 kB, which allows loading in 3 seconds even with a 2G network.
- BMW: yet another app that weighs tiny 50 kB, ensuring less-then-3-seconds loading even when users are on 2G.
- Starbucks: their PWA app is 99.84% astonishingly lighter than an existing iOS app.
- Pinterest: these guys report a 40% increase in time spent on the app compared to the mobile web version. More importantly, the revenue from advertising created by users increased by 44%.
- Tinder: A dating app with 60M MAU (monthly active users) by delivering a progressive web app for mobile and desktop could significantly cut load times from 11.9 to 4.69 seconds.
Magebit PWA-Built Clients
These clients, at the forefront of their industries and partnering with Magebit, have achieved swift loading speeds and an improved mobile experience by leveraging Magebit's profound expertise in crafting Magento PWA stores and eCommerce platforms.
- Thomaskent: a home furnishing company that supplies many of the best-known stores in the UK and around the world.
- Hardwarestore: the oldest family-owned and operated hardware store chain in America, has been a local staple for generations with over 100 stores in New England and Upstate New York.
- MADARA Cosmetics: the largest beauty manufacturer in Latvia and a leading manufacturer in Northern Europe, specializing in high-performance skincare, makeup, and personal care products.
Once Again, What's for Your Business in PWAs
PWAs are a great choice if you need app-like functionality and feel on the website or if you want to list your site on app stores and provide an app for the shopper.
It is also important to consider that:
- PWAs are usually more expensive to maintain and more challenging to achieve great pagespeed and core web vital scores.
- PWAs are not meant for everyone, and just because you can afford it, doesn't mean it's the best option out there. For some businesses, building a lightweight storefront can be a better choice. It really depends on the nature of the business.
If you find yourself navigating the complexities of app development or deciding between a PWA and a lightweight storefront, we've got your back. Contact us at Magebit, and we'll give you a nudge in the right direction—for free.
Notably, Forbes stood out as an early adopter among major media companies, being quick to embrace progressive web app technology in response to the imperative of enhancing the initial rendering speed of its website. The prior mobile website performance at Forbes was notably subpar, featuring a slow start render time of 6.5 seconds.
Created to speed up the overall performance, progressive web applications bring valuable improvements for businesses across B2C and B2B – be that online marketplaces, restaurants, delivery, automotive & car repair, beauty services, online courses, broadcasting, or pretty much any niche.
If you still have questions about whether your business can benefit from PWA, let’s have a quick chat where we will provide you with comprehensive advice.
Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) revolutionize eCommerce with enhanced speed, offline access, and cost-effective development. They empower a mobile-first approach, aiding businesses by offering fast loading times, offline capabilities, and push notifications, significantly boosting user engagement and conversions.
SEO-friendly architecture ensures improved indexing and user experiences, positively impacting rankings.
Renowned brands like Uber, BMW, Starbucks, Pinterest, and Tinder exemplify PWA success, reducing load times drastically and engaging users effectively. These PWAs redefine efficiency, offering a robust alternative to native apps, significantly benefiting businesses across industries, making the technology a game-changer for improved customer engagement and business growth.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) emerge as compelling option for your business, providing cross-platform accessibility, and offline functionality. However, it's important to note that not all browsers support PWAs, and challenges may arise in development complexity and push notification implementation.
Depending on your specific needs, with numerous benefits and notable companies experiencing success in PWA adoption, the choice remains contingent on your business's unique requirements. Carefully assess PWA's features, benefits, and limitations to make the right choice for your business's growth and improved customer engagement.
What are the main advantages of using PWAs in eCommerce?
PWAs offer faster loading times, enhanced user experience, offline access, push notifications, reduced development costs, and cross-platform compatibility, fostering higher user engagement and conversion rates.
How PWAs Benefit Mobile-First Business Strategies?
PWAs enable businesses to provide a seamless mobile experience, cater to the increasing number of mobile users, ensure faster page loading, and support offline access, aligning with the mobile-first trend in a cost-effective manner.
How do major brands use PWAs for business improvement?
The convenience of accessibility, compatibility across different browsers, and quicker page loading contribute to companies delivering an enhanced user experience that captivates consumers and keeps them engaged.
What is the loading speed of PWAs?
On mobile, the average load time for PWAs is 2.75 seconds. Keep in mind that hosting and other factors can still affect the speed.
Magebit is a full service eCommerce agency specialized in Magento. At Magebit we create the wonders of eCommerce and support small sites as well as large enterprises.
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