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Progressive Web Apps

Easy as Pie — Striking the Balance Between Mobile Apps and Web

As engaging the mobile app customer remains a key challenge for retailers, recent data released by Criteo in its Global Commerce Review points out that the efforts may be well worth it. Consider these statistics for Q4, 2017 from the report:

  • Apps account for 66% mobile sales for retailers who invest in both mobile web and shopping apps.
  • 26% of desktop sales are preceded by a click on a mobile device.
  • Sporting goods and fashion/luxury are the two retail subcategories with the highest share of mobile sales.
  • Mobile apps account now for 44% of eCommerce transactions in North America as compared to 33% and 23% for desktop and mobile web, respectively.

Progressive Web AppsThe data reflects consumers’ inherent need to be able to use their mobile devices for shopping as well as they do for everything else. However, the mobile app is just a piece of the whole pie, not the pie itself.

Purchasing is an activity that happens across devices, physical stores and websites, with consumers often using a combination of different solutions to buy things. A typical purchase journey could start on a mobile device in response to an ad, continue to a physical store for inspecting the quality of a product, and finally end on a website to place the order. Each medium has its own purpose to serve and its own role to play in tackling market competition. It would be a mistake to consider them as competing resources amongst themselves as they all have their benefits and limitations, and each of them fulfils users’ needs in different ways and contexts. While the web has a larger reach, the app is an engagement tool for loyal customers.

The reason why there is so much talk of mobile apps in tech town is that of the massive surge in mobile usage, and the possibility of using that to retailers’ advantage. Brands are still exploring what an “ideal” app shopping experience is and how that fits into a given customer’s overall journey. Customers, on the other hand, love the convenience it provides, shopping is no longer a weekend activity, it can just as easily be done on a train ride or during a lunch break. Obviously, retailers need to buck up their mobile strategies to be able to fare well on customers’ expectations, support them through their journey and optimize their marketing efforts.

That being said, it is true that getting a mobile strategy right is no mean feat. In fact, developing an app is the easier part — the real challenge is in getting people to download it, and make it valuable enough to occupy a part of customers’ mobile devices and sustain usage over time. That’s where Progressive Web Apps might simplify the problem.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

A match made in heaven, that’s what Progressive Web Apps are for the ambivalent retailer. PWAs are basically mobile apps delivered via the web, providing the benefits of a native app and the convenience to use them on the web browser. Users have many shopping needs and may prefer different brands to fulfil those needs. However, they may not necessarily want to download a separate app for each of those brands. PWAs are a win-win solution here: they load efficiently even under low connectivity, are smaller in size, pre-cache data and facilitate the same app-like gestures, navigation and mechanisms, thus broadening their reach and utility. On the user side, they provide the same quality of shopping experience, give away the same offers and discounts, enable fast checkouts, autofill details — all the benefits minus the commitment and resource expenditure on installation and subsequent updates that native apps require. PWAs display the most recent version whenever they are launched, thus saving customers from frequent actions and consumption of data.

Countless companies are taking the leap from native to PWAs as they provide the best of both worlds, both for the buyer and the seller. BookMyShow’s new PWA registered an increase of 80% in conversions, while a leading UK clothing brand, george.com saw a 31% increase. As for Flipkart, 60% users who had uninstalled their native app came back to the PWA and stayed 200% longer in each session.

Do you think PWAs will completely replace native apps in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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