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How to Sell Your Internal Team on Progressive Web Apps

6 Min Read
Duke Marr

By now, the general consensus about PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) at your office may be skepticism, intrigue, hesitation or some concoction of the three. The topic has seemingly gone from a side conversation to the forefront of discussion in recent months. Since Corra’s been on the front lines developing our own PWA storefront (FWRD), we’re in a unique position to give you some talking points for these discussions.

As ecommerce veterans ourselves, we’ve been around the block a few times. We understand that buzzwords and trends come and go. Throughout our careers, we’ve experienced this again and again. We’ve had to drop everything and move to responsive websites, and had to pivot and go mobile-first, and we’ve poured revenue into a stand-alone native app, in conjunction with our mobile web browser.

And now we’re entering the era of PWAs and we have to ask ourselves: is this just another buzzword? Or is it a new best practice? How long will it last before we’re riding the next trend wave? Is it even worth the investment?

These are all valid questions your organization is likely pondering. PWAs combine the discoverability and reach of the web with the experience and engagement of an app. In theory, this sounds like a brilliant brainchild of Google’s engineers. But in the business world, there’s a lot to consider.

EVERYONE’S DOING IT. 

You could begin with the argument that everyone’s doing it. If eBay, Starbucks, West Elm and Pinterest see the value of implementing PWAs, surely it’s worth doing, right? 

It’s wrong to build a web application that’s not a progressive web app.

– Jason Woosley, Magento’s VP Of Commerce Product & Platform

 

Our friend Jason Woosley over at Magento seems to agree. And Forrester went as far as to say it’s wrong to build any new web application that’s not a PWA.  But what exactly are the challenges or pain points they solve? 

MOBILE COMMERCE IS GROWING WHILE APP USAGE IS DECLINING. 

We all know mobile commerce is trending upwards. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop and 34% of all conversions now take place on mobile. Yet app usage seems to be declining. According to a study posted by Business Insider, 53% of worldwide shoppers prefer using a retailer’s mobile website rather than their app. So it seems that consumers just want the most engaging experience on mobile, directly from their browser, without being confined to an app. PWAs address this demand. 

Functional Benefits

  • Work offline or with minimal bandwidth
  • Voice & image search 
  • More native-like interaction design modalities 
  • Responsive
  • Connectivity-Independent 
  • App-like
  • Safe
  • Discoverable
  • Re-engageable
  • Installable
  • Linkable
  • Easier distribution than native apps 

We’re sure by now your team has heard all about the functional benefits of PWAs. So we won’t go into too much detail about these. But we will highlight a few crucial points – an important one being that PWAs are more discoverable than apps. A consumer doesn’t have to go through the app store to download or make a purchase, it’s just a Google search, so there’s less of a barrier of entry. Another benefit (that is arguably the most important) is performance. Nothing matters more than speed. 

If your team is still questioning what the challenges or pain points PWAs solve, more than anything else it’s just speed. A faster experience with reduced load times directly correlates to an increase in conversion rates – the same way a one-second delay in mobile load time can decrease conversion rates by 20%

According to research by Google, 53% of mobile users will abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. Meaning, in just three Mississippis, most potential customers would have already bounced from your site.

 

The ROI for PWAs is there. Even if we just calculate it on the speed benefit alone.  

 

PWAS ALSO IMPROVE PERCEIVED PERFORMANCE.

Yes, speed is important. But so is perceived speed. PWAs allow for skeleton loading of content, meaning the content blocks appear gradually so the user is reassured something is coming sooner rather than later. These blocks bridge the gap between a blank page and one that is fully loaded, preventing visitors from bouncing off the page prematurely. The content is cached behind the scenes, minimizing a lag in the browsing experience. 

BookMyShow’s PWA takes less than 2.94 seconds to load and enables checkout within 30 seconds– driving an 80% increase in conversion rates. 

 

 

 

AND THEN THERE’S THE SEO BENEFIT – OR NOT. 

We have a director of SEO at Corra, he’s a really smart guy. We tried to get him to give us a reason why PWAs would be good for SEO and he wouldn’t do it. He said, “from a purely technical perspective they don’t help SEO. I can’t give you a data point.” However, indirectly it’s true. The faster your site is and the better your user experience is, generally speaking, the higher you will rank among organic search results. Google ranks sites according to how well they’re optimized for mobile, and in doing that, PWAs get the highest rankings. 

MARKETING CAN UTILIZE PUSH NOTIFICATIONS. 

Push notifications can be a very effective marketing tool to give users timely updates from the sites they love. Alerts may flash across a consumer’s screen like so: 

  • A product you viewed was just discounted!
  • You’re invited to our sample sale…bring a plus one. 
  • New in: our top picks for Fall.   
  • Hey, don’t forget about that gorgeous denim jacket in your cart. 

They’re a great way to re-engage your audience with personalized content, and in turn, convert more shoppers. Lancome’s PWA features a 17% increase in conversions. And their notification function contributes an 18% open rate and 12% increase in recovered carts. 

JUST LIKE A NATIVE APP, THEY CAN STILL LIVE ON YOUR HOME SCREEN. 

Adding a PWA to the home screen begins that app-like experience. It’s an instant motion that doesn’t involve a detour to the app store, a download or purchase, and remembering your Apple ID/password. It’s important to note that this feature is mainly supported by Android right now. However, iOS has always had the ability to ‘add to home screen’ they just don’t message it as well. By enabling this functionality, brands have seen an increase in usage. Alibaba has reported a 4x higher interaction rate after users added the PWA to their device’s home screen. And Flipkart has seen a 70% increase in conversion rate among shoppers who arrived via the home screen icon.

 

IOS SUPPORT IS COMING.

We are confident that iOS will become more PWA-friendly. One indication is the fact that Apple Music is now available as a PWA (music.apple.com). But we do have to be transparent with our clients about the unknowns. In addition, the September 19th (iOS 13) release provided a hand full of new supporting, including gestures. That being said, offline browsing and speed are worthwhile benefits irrespective of iOS and Android differences.

PWAS ARE A BUZZWORD AND A BEST PRACTICE. 

The truth is, we don’t know how long this PWA era will last – five years, ten years? It was native apps then responsive websites and now progressive web apps. This is certainly not the end of the evolution. Who knows what will be next? But to answer the initial question: are PWAs worth investing in? The answer is yes. They’re definitely the buzzword of the moment. But they’re also a best practice. To quote Alex Russell, one of the initial developers of PWAs, “these apps aren’t packaged and deployed through stores, they’re just websites that took all the right vitamins.” And if “taking the right vitamins” means faster and superior performance, they’ll definitely prove to be beneficial for your ecommerce business.

CORRA’S ALREADY DONE THE GROUNDWORK.

By leveraging Headless technology, Corra is creating FWRD: a platform-agnostic PWA storefront that combines lighting-fast performance with a sophisticated front end crafted around the needs of lifestyle consumers. Being completely headless, its architecture allows retailers to seamlessly attach the app-like front end to any backend system via APIs. To ensure even more agility, FWRD comes equipped with a proprietary library of UI components. This catalog was built using the latest front-end technologies, and offers dozens of features that can be smoothly implemented to convey your unique brand experience. Through FRWD, you can embrace the power of PWAs to increase your prominence among search rankings, improve site speed immensely, and convert mobile shoppers – even when they are browsing offline.

Reach out to Corra to learn more.

 

Duke Marr

Duke Marr is Corra's Senior VP of Digital Strategy and Customer Experience. In this role, he oversees three practice areas: Design, Optimization and Insights. Duke has enjoyed a 20+ year career in ecommerce, working on both agency and brand sides.

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Corra is the global digital agency that lifestyle brands trust to accelerate their growth. Working at the intersection of commerce technology and customer experience strategy, we deliver complex digital solutions to leading B2C and B2B retailers.

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