What are Progressive Web Apps?

Touted as the future of front-end development, the Progressive Web App (PWA) is front-end architecture that allows you to present a responsive and secure native app like shopping experience regardless of the quality of a customer’s internet connection.

Leveraging modern browser features, such as service workers (a service worker is a script that your browser runs in the background to manage web requests programmatically), and a web app manifest (centralized place to store metadata), PWAs bring new features like push notifications, full-screen mode, offline mode, secure payments, and more much; all with significantly less development effort than a traditional standalone app. Progressive Web Apps are installable and live on the user’s home screen without the need for an android or apple app store, terms, and conditions, or sizeable downloads. Both iOS and Android mobile devices support PWAs; however, push notifications will differ between the two.

You can find examples of Progressive Web Apps in action on sites like Flipkart, Starbucks, and Carved.com. These companies are leveraging PWAs for a mobile-first experience and have seen significant results. Flipkart, India’s largest ecommerce site, decided to combine their web presence and native app into a Progressive Web Application that has resulted in a 70% increase in conversion rate. Starbucks reportedly say they doubled the number of people who used the website to place orders each day, with desktop users now ordering at about the same rate as mobile users. For Carved.com, the average page load speed was 37% faster, and the bounce rate was 33% lower after implementing PWAs combined with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) across the site.

Why Invest in a Progressive Web App?

Search Rankings

One clear advantage is that Google began using mobile page speed as a ranking factor in July 2018. Staying ahead of, or even in step with, all of the factors that Google considers when ranking sites for search results is a never-ending process. However, the combination of better search rankings AND a richer end-user experience make Progressive Web Apps a no-brainer.

Improved Mobile Experience

If your mobile commerce isn’t converting the way you would like, it could be the result of a clunky and lagged experience. PWAs mimic the look and feel of a native mobile app experience, resulting in an optimized, fast loading mobile website.

The offline capability benefits both mobile and desktop users. For example, if a customer goes through a tunnel while shopping on their mobile phone, they can continue through the experience uninterrupted (some functionality will be disabled in offline mode).

Unlike a mobile application, a PWA is linkable and can be bookmarked to the homepage of a customer’s mobile device. The web app will retain or reload its latest state.

People Who Would Love For You to Invest in a PWA

The Field Buyer (Mobile First)

This user is always on the go, rarely has access to a desktop and leverages their phone as their primary tool for browsing and purchasing. They are looking for a quick, one-click ordering process, with visibility into availability, notifications, videos, and account history on the go.

The Account Manager (Content and Flexibility)

This user primarily leverages their tablet because they are constantly on the road with potential buyers. They are looking for high-end content and videos, configurable products, buildable customer order lists, quoting features as well as the ability to review orders and analytics.

The Approver (Real-Time Notifications)

This user needs to be in the order flow all the time to approve orders and quotes as they come in. They are looking for on-time notifications and an easy approval process that isn’t time or resource intense.

What Ecommerce Platforms are Offering

PWA Studio From Magento

Magento Commerce recently announced Magento PWA Studio, which will include a new PWA optimized reference theme, called “Venia,” designed to improve mobile experiences but work seamlessly on desktops as well. According to Magento, the new PWA studio will decrease load time by two to three seconds and improve performance and conversion rate by 50%. The new function will launch late November, but its beta version is currently accessible.

In preparation for PWA Studio, Magento community members created standards and processes so developers can quickly learn and implement the new functionality.

GraphQL From Magento

Magento is also introducing a new API endpoint in addition to REST and SOAP called GraphQL to ensure lightning fast frontends and enable independent backend and frontend development. GraphQL is a data query API language developed internally by Facebook in 2012 before being publicly released in 2015.

GraphQL allows you to define the structure of the data that you need, and the server returns only the data you request. If you run a REST call such as GET /V1/products/:sku on a simple product, the system might fetch more than 100 lines of data. If all you need is the current price, the call has returned significantly more information than you need. With GraphQL, a query against the same SKU could return just the price.

How to Take Advantage of Progressive Web Apps

It’s only a matter of time before all the leading ecommerce platforms will enable and natively support PWA technology, but in ecommerce, the first to leverage new technology in the best way typically reaps the most rewards. Blue Acorn can help you understand how PWA technology can improve your buyer’s experiences and your business. If you are interested in taking advantage of PWAs before your competition does, contact us today here.

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