Want to Boost eCommerce? There’s a PWA for That

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Retailers are turning to Progressive Web Applications as they reconsider their approach to the digital experience and look for better ways to engage customers and convert online shoppers.

Increasingly, consumers want immersive and purposeful shopping experiences, from anywhere at any time, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association. In its report, Delivering for the New Consumer, RILA found that among online retailers, ubiquitous shopping and more streamlined, personalized interactions are driving investment in technologies such as PWAs.

Progressive Web Applications combine modern web features with device capabilities to serve consistent, reliable user experiences and engagement across desktop and mobile devices, replacing the need for separate Android and iOS apps. Google, Microsoft, and Apple all have begun supporting PWA technology in their browsers.

“Retailers must be prepared to rethink what they do, taking advantage of their deep expertise to become trusted advisors for their customers and curators of truly meaningful consumer experiences,” RILA said in the report.

Mobile Disconnect

In the last 10 years, ubiquitous has mostly come to mean “mobile.” Companies built native mobile apps as customers favored shopping on their phones or other smart devices over shopping on desktop devices. But there’s a disconnect.

Adobe found smartphones account for 51% of site traffic, but only 31% of purchases, while desktops account for only 41% of traffic but 60% of purchases. While the use of mobile continues to grow, the interactions with native mobile apps and web browsers are evolving, fueling the rise of PWAs.

Two fundamental issues are at the heart of Progressive Web Application development in the retail industry: the need for a scalable, stable, and fast back end paired with an attractive, intuitive, and seamless front end user experience.

Mind the Gap

There are a few ways a shopper might access an eCommerce site. They might visit a website from a browser on a desktop or laptop computer, peruse pages, and make a purchase. Some might be motivated to download a retail mobile application onto a smartphone and make purchases through the app. Others might use a phone or tablet to to visit a retailer’s mobile site.

If there are gaps in any of those interactions — say, pages are loading slowly or the shopping cart checkout process is confusing — retailers will find themselves with significantly higher abandonment rates and lost revenue.

PWAs are bridging these gaps. While mobile websites receive more visitors and native mobile apps typically have greater engagement, Progressive Web Applications combine the best of native mobile apps and web capabilities to offer greater conversion potential. PWAs load like any other web page but offer advanced native features, including offline work, push notifications, and HTTPS hosting. Progessive Web Apps can be added to mobile device home screens with one touch, as well, so they can appear alongside native mobile apps downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

PWAs to the Rescue

UK clothier George.com recognized that a Progressive Web App could improve the user experience for online shoppers. With 65% of customers visiting the eCommerce site on a mobile device, the site’s outdated mobile experience was slowing down page load times and making online shoppers lose interest.

Using mobile-first design and engineering principles, the company created a PWA that allowed customers to receive push notifications, add the site to their home screen for a native-like experience, and access pages offline. As a result, George.com reported in a Google case study that its pages load 3.8 times faster, the retailer receives 20% more pageviews per visit, with a 31% increase in mobile conversions. George.com also saw an increase by 28% in time spent on its site after customers could add it to their home screens.

Conversion is King

For an industry that depends on sales and repeat purchases to drive revenue, retail’s conversion metric from potential shopper to loyal, returning customer drives its technology investment choices. Progressive Web Applications help impact conversion metrics and the bottom line.

Pinterest — often used to facilitate shopping experiences — decided on a PWA to boost its mobile web performance and make it more globally accessible. While some users were downloading the Pinterest native mobile app from the mobile site, the engagement was drastically low.

In redesigning the mobile web experience as a PWA, Pinterest deployed the ability to add its website to home screens, enabled push notifications, and used asset caching and server workers to load website pages and create near-instant page refreshes. The result has been exponential engagement, with logins increasing by 370% and new signups by 843% year-over-year, according to the company’s blog. In addition, within six months of deployment, 800,000 weekly users began using Pinterest like a native mobile app by adding the site to their home screens.

PWAs Designed to Pay

Customers will expect the same experience with a retail website, regardless of when and how it’s accessed. No matter how fast pages load, if the content isn’t in the same place after a refresh or moving back a page, customers will be disengaged. Intelligent PWA design will help lift conversion rates of eCommerce businesses.

Best Western River North, a modern, high-end hotel in the heart of Chicago, ensured its PWA design retained the look and feel of its mobile application and included familiar app-style interactions. The hotel made content easily scannable so guests would quickly be able to make bookings or call the hotel. Moving across website pages became seamless, and after launching, the hotel saw a 300% increase in revenue and a 500% increase in room nights, compared to conversions on its former website.

A host of companies across industries — from Twitter and Forbes in media and entertainment to Housing.com in real estate — have begun to realize Progressive Web Applications are the cornerstone of their development.

As online shopping experiences become more ubiquitous, personal, and purposeful across categories — such as consumer goods, furniture, software services, and hospitality and travel — retailers that want to transform customer expectations will join peers including George.com, Pinterest, and Best Western River North as well as Uber, Lancome, Trivago, and West Elm as they invest in the technologies that drive better digital experiences.

DockYard is a digital product agency offering custom software, mobile, and web application development consulting. We provide exceptional professional services in strategy, user experience, design, and full stack engineering using Ember.js, React.js, and Elixir. With a nationwide staff, we’ve got consultants in key markets across the United States, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Austin, New York, and Boston.