What Are Progressive Web Apps And Why Do They Matter?

Initially adopted by a handful of publishers and social networks, progressive web applications (PWAs) are now being used by hundreds of brands and are widely seen as the must-have tool for modern marketing. But what exactly are they?

A PWA is a mobile web page that acts and feels like a regular native app. And, like a native app, it can be accessed via the home screen of any device, shares much of the same functionality (like code scanners, geolocation applications, currency options and other customisable features), can be interacted with in the same way, and provides a nearly identical user experience. Because PWAs are hosted on users’ servers, they can be updated without having to download new versions via an app store. And, to provide a more app-like experience, they use the data cached during a user’s previous interactions to enable them to work offline or without a stable internet connection.

For the past few years, marketers and brands have tended to focus their mobile web development efforts on responsive design. However, thanks to their potential to combine mobile reach with native app engagement, the focus in 2020 will increasingly shift to PWAs. In fact, 50% of all consumer-facing native apps will be replaced by PWAs by 2020 (source: Gartner). 

Download our Trends 2020 guide for an in-depth look at using PWAs in your marketing strategy.

Less storage, more speed

Brands are quickly realising that PWAs can hugely improve the user experience, especially since they’re quick to load, helping to avoid cart abandonment. 53% of mobile visits are abandoned if a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load (source: Think with Google). Lancôme overcame this with their stylish PWA, which loads in a speedy 1.77 seconds and perfectly matches the brand’s luxury aesthetic. Animations attract users’ attention while the sub-navigation menu that appears just below the header is perfect for pointing people in the right direction. It’s these features and more that have led the brand to attribute a 36% increase in mobile revenue to its PWA. 

In addition, push notifications, just one of the web technologies powering PWAs, have been identified as being responsible for a 9.8% click-through rate. While Lancôme’s click-through rate for push notifications triggered by cart abandonment is 18% (source: Mobify). 

Also using PWA technology, Twitter’s Lite platform has been the default mobile web experience since April 2017 for anyone logging onto the social media platform. The benefits are clear – the PWA takes up less storage (3% less disk space for the Android version) and affords substantial data-usage savings. Twitter has credited this with a 75% increase in the number of Tweets being sent, a 65% increase in pages per session and a 20% decrease in bounce rates (source: Google Developers). 

Checkout, Not Checking Out

With mobile devices being used in more and more online transactions, PWAs are converting customers while helping to reduce bounce rates and cart abandonment. When faced with a site that may not be optimised or the choice of downloading a native app, customers can switch off and decide to look elsewhere. 

As revealed in a recent study by Google, 42% of people who haven’t downloaded their favourite brand’s app have never considered downloading it, while 63% of people say that when a brand forces them to download an app to access a deal, they will delete it soon after. However, customers who regularly interact with a PWA – and have become accustomed to having its icon on their home screen – might be inclined to download a native app at some point in the future.

And while some native apps can possess fatal security flaws, PWAs offer a secure form of online interaction because, in order to enable their functionality, they are served through a secure portal, such as one with the HTTPS protocol that safeguards user data. 

Related Read: How to Use Shoppable Features on Social Media 

Discoverable and shareable

If an app isn’t being talked about, how are people supposed to discover it? For PWAs, this isn’t an issue, as they’re discoverable via search engines. This has led to retailers using search engine optimisation techniques in a bid to boost their PWA’s ranking among search engine results pages, reducing their reliance on the paid acquisition methods usually required by native apps – in other words, the practice of paying to promote an app. 

By avoiding Apple and Google-run app stores, brands have the opportunity to reach people directly. It also means that users don’t need need to download or install updates to access the most recent version of the platform. That’s because a PWA is designed so that, when connected to the internet, users are presented with the most current version – meaning they are consistently up to date.

In addition, because a user initially engages with a PWA online, the browser (in conjunction with the device) asks if they are happy to install the app on their home screen – adding a sense of control to the process – something that’s very important when fears over privacy and personal data are rapidly increasing. 

It’s also easier to share recommendations from PWAs with friends on social, or other destinations or channels that support URL linking, meaning the contents of a brand’s PWA are likely to reach a broader audience than most native apps.

PWAs are poised to shake up the online shopping space this year, providing customers with a mobile-first experience that’s familiar but also faster. For more on the future of mobile shopping, download our latest guide, 2020 Trends: Marketing Trends with a Global Reach. 


Freedman International
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