How can a progressive web app benefit e-commerce?

The smartphone is the device of choice for large numbers of users around the world. However, network coverage and data availability are still variable and so there are considerable disparities in mobile phone use.

While in Europe, YouTube and Netflix account for 30% and 23% respectively of bandwidth consumption, emerging countries have to manage with weaker network performance, while the mobile phone remains the main access point to the internet for their inhabitants. In 2015, Google introduced a new development “standard” to address this issue: the Progressive Web Application (PWA). What are the three main benefits for websites, in an e-commerce context?  

A Progressive Web Application is an application which can be accessed from a simple browser and no longer only through the app store. This means that a website can offer an experience similar to that offered by a native or mobile application. What makes it unique is that it uses a manifest, which means that the site can be installed on a mobile phone without going through an app store, and service workers, which means it can operate on a basic level in the event of network failure and offer a better user experience.   

Faster speed 

According to Google, 53% of users leave a page if it does not load within 3 seconds. On a PWA site, content download has been optimised to guarantee good display performance. The cache system has also been designed to update only the element or elements modified since the user’s last visit. Even with a very weak network, Google cuts download time and guarantees a faster and smoother browsing experience.   According to a case study by Forbes, the page load time before the move to PWA was between 3 and 12 seconds. Now, with the new architecture, the load time is 0.8 seconds! AliExpress announced as early as 2016 that the number of visits to the pages of its website had doubled, browsing time had risen by 74%, and the conversion rate had increased by 104%. Alibaba had noted a 76% increase in its conversion rate and Uber was offering users the possibility of booking a ride through a 2G network.   As a result of the optimisation of load times, the reduction in the bounce rate and the increase in the number of pages viewed, brands observed another direct benefit: better natural referencing.   

Improved reliability 

The architecture of a PWA offers a seamless user experience. The PWA can operate on a basic level, even in the event of network failure, and therefore enables users to do certain things, such as post a tweet which will be published when the connection is restored.  In the e-commerce context, this advantage is twofold: users can log in even when offline, and losses are reduced when users place an order when the network is back up.   

A stronger commitment  

The  unique selling proposition involves providing a user experience as close as possible to that offered by a mobile application whose main advantages are that it can:  

  • Offer a full-screen display for a more immersive experience 
  • Create an abridged version of the brand’s website which is accessible directly from smartphones 
  • Implement a notification strategy to boost the number of return visits to the site and secure customer loyalty 

Thanks to push notifications, Lancôme, for example, noted a 17% rise in its conversion rate in 2017 and an 8% increase in recovered baskets.  In spite of their incontestable results, PWA sites are still rare in the digital landscape. As this standard is supported by just one player, Google, its adoption has been restricted. Until recently, it was not possible to offer the same experience to all users using operating systems and web browsers. Microsoft, Apple and other players have now changed their strategies and are increasingly working with this architecture.   And what if we look even further?into the future? The smartphone is an information aggregator; being able to interact with this information in a more native way would allow brands to open up a whole raft of possibilities through their sites. So users could access calendars of future private sales, or even carry out transactions with a single click by using payment APIs. 

PWA is a goldmine whose potential is crying out to be tapped by brands!