Traditional websites can no longer cope with the ever growing online market requirements. Customers need something light, fast, reliable and fresh. PWAs promise all of these and are the future of e-commerce that are already generating impressive turnovers.

Progressive Web Applications

The concept of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) stems from the historic inauguration of the Apple iPhone in 2007. Steve Jobs predicted an application-like ‘amazing web experience’ built using Web 2.0 and Ajax. Couple years later, the term PWA was coined by two Google Engineers, Alex Russel and Frances Berriman when they observed some websites delivering a better UX. They found these web-apps to be responsive, offline-capable, secure, discoverable, application-like and installable.

Simple, yet Capable

Running on modern APIs, the PWA apps can deliver native-like reliability, installation-friendliness, and have access to almost anyone on any device using a single codebase. PWAs highly resemble a typical web page, are server hosted, and  built using javascript, HTML or CSS. Another great feature is searchability and  discoverability. A PWA can easily be searched via a simple URL without having to put it up on any application store. Have a look at how PWA compares with React Native or Flutter.

PWAs are gaining so much traction, but the best ones are those which are:

  • Fast and remain highly responsive,
  • Supported by all modern browsers,
  • Fully scalable to screen size,
  • Capable of providing offline experience,
  • Search engine friendly.

What makes the PWAs ‘Progressive’

The ‘progressive’ attributes like service workers, a web application manifest, and an app shell under the hood of a PWA make it different from a native app in a better way. The offline capability and push notifications are made possible by the background script called service worker. Placing your PWA on the homescreen is enabled by the manifest that also ensures adaptability to differing screen sizes. Finally, the minimal response time and reliability are rendered possible by the app shell.

A PWA is made to look like a web page that has it’s unique URL. Just like any website, you can place it on your home screen with the added benefit of receiving notifications and interacting offline with the app. What makes PWAs great is that they are responsive, fresh, and provide the same UX as that of a rich web-page; all sans the hassle of installation.

The Beauty of Successful PWAs

Three screenshots demonstrate the PWA interface of Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

PWAs have become so versatile and flexible, that they can even be offered on Google Play Store. Take for instance the examples of lite versions of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tiktok etc. This all-round feature-packed and immersive experience which is offered by PWAs is what makes it highly desirable for businesses. The remarkable performance, access from any browser and minimal space requirements have made them sell like hot cakes in the domain of e-commerce. One of the prime leaders in PWA development was Flipkart, which exponentially increased the sales figures. Reason: customers loved the new UX and spent more time on their app.

The native or hybrid applications that are either pre-loaded on our phones or downloaded from application stores do not stand a chance against PWAs. Modern browsers are becoming more capable, as they provide access to the websites, and run web apps smoothly. This is exactly why e-commerce giants are setting market trends in PWA development, which has boosted their revenues and enhanced their bottom lines.

Was the PWA successful – Let’s see

PWA Stats keeps tabs on the PWA related statistics in the e-commerce domain across a wide range of industries including, but not limited to fashion, dating, apparel, food, travel etc. Let us have a look at some figures:

+162% Conversions Rooted Objects, a fashion brand, experienced a surge of 162% in conversions following the launch of their PWA. The page load times reduced by 25% while average redirection time came down by 80%.
Load time dropped from 11.91s to 4.69s Tinder cut down its load time from 11.91 seconds to 4.69 seconds due to their PWA which is 90% smaller than their native android app. Since then, user engagement has spiked across the board.
+60% Engagements
+44% Ad $
+40% User Time
Pinterest transformed their mobile site into a PWA, leading to a 60% rise in core engagements.  The result: 44% increase in ad-revenue, as time spent on the site went up by 40%.
2x Daily Users Starbucks saw a two-fold increase in its daily users as their PWA captured the stage. As a result, orders placed from desktops are now almost equal to orders placed from mobile phones.
2s Load time on 2G Uber custom built its PWA to work fast even on 2G. The core app boasts a minimal 50K ‘gzipped’ size and loads in almost 2 seconds on 2G networks.

Market leaders

The frame containing icons of Flipkart, Selio, AliExpress, Digikala, Flipboard, Soundslice, Yummly, 2048, Spotify

The domain of e-commerce is dominated by the trends which are set by prime market players. From the introduction to touch-screen mobile phones to innovations like foldable screens, the pioneer is always credited with taking the first leap of faith. The rest simply pick up the breadcrumbs and try to get a piece out of the pie. Although relatively new on the horizon of e-commerce, many renown brands have already rolled out their custom-built Progressive Web Apps and have attributed amazing results to them. Some of the progressive web app examples of market leaders that have built them to success are:

  • Flipkart – the largest ecommerce web place of India
  • AliExpress – a global online wholesaler and retailer
  • Konga – Nigeria based e-commerce company
  • Selio – Spanish e-commerce website
  • Digikala – the biggest e-commerce startup in Iran
  • Flipboard – webplace for news from around the world
  • Soundslice – web based tool for learning to play guitar
  • 2048 Game – a retro game with large online fanbase
  • MakeMyTrip – online Indian travel company
  • Yummly – website that provides recipe recommendations
  • Spotify – Swedish international media service provider

With the expanding domain of online shopping, new and more feature-rich PWAs are released each day. Businesses in the domain of e-commerce are sharply inclined towards building PWAs because their intrinsic technical advantages translate directly into business benefits. As we saw earlier, PWAs widen the market, increase conversions, and stimulate engagement due to their offline capabilities and fast response even on slower connections. Further, serving adaptive content dramatically reduces bounce rates and enhances user engagement metrics which is a prominent SEO ranking signal.

Are PWAs expensive to build?

Another reason why these modern businesses are head over heels about PWAs is the reduced developmental budget! Yes, you read that right! The need to develop separate web and mobile apps ceases to exist, as PWAs are built like web pages but provide the UX of native apps. Features like ‘add to home screen’ and push notifications are the defining characteristics that give the lightweight PWAs a huge lead over native and hybrid apps.

With these, and a lot more benefits that PWAs offer, it should not come as a surprise why the major industry players are setting the stage for the dawn of PWA based e-commerce.

The future of app development

PWA interface on two devices that support dual-screen mode

Native apps do not offer the best solutions anymore, and PWAs have proven themselves to be equally interactive and perhaps even more responsive, as we have seen above in PWA examples. In this era when consumers spend no more than 3 seconds (on average) on a webpage, it is critical to offer them blazing fast, yet appealing and immersive experience.

Kenneth Rohde Christiansen projects a fascinating future of the opportunities and challenges that PWA developers will face. As a mobile and web tech engineer at Intel, Kenneth discusses the niche of dual-screen devices that are setting unique requirements for apps to be developed. The flexible & bendable screens or two screens having a hinge of varying width offers a totally new form factor to which the web based PWAs will have to adapt. The novel designs of upcoming devices will require making use of new web standards to write adaptable web apps.

This challenge combined with the fierce competition between e-commerce companies puts a lot of pressure on developers to deliver lightning fast websites and the best UX to gain competitive advantage. The bottom-line eventuality is to consider making your existing web page more receptive and turning it into an engaging and responsive PWA.

What PWAs mean for you

There is a reason why the Industry leading e-commerce giants set certain trends, and why those trends slowly become a certain future. The whopping R & D budgets of big firms lets them foresee the future with more clarity than a vast majority of other businesses, and this is what gives them the edge.

Most of the medium to small businesses simply look up to the prominent PWA examples and follow in the footsteps of these prime leaders to avoid taking risks of uncertainty and the associated R&D costs. It is wise in a way too, as data pertaining to the high rising implementation of PWAs in the domain of e-commerce speaks for itself. It would therefore be very sensible for you to follow the examples of the first movers. By transforming your conventional & slow web pages to PWAs that deliver a near instantaneous UX, it is certain that your business will experience increased conversions and enjoy SEO wins.

So, why PWAs again?

To sum it all up, it is certain that PWA rocks and is all set to take the center stage of web development and stand the test of time. Among the many benefits that PWAs offer, the prominent ones are

  • Higher user engagement due to offline working and push notifications,
  • Streamlined and fast website due to service workers,
  • More security due to having HTTP.

Ready for the shift

Speaking of the transformation, if you have a slow website but still you want to rise & shine and take a big chunk out of the opportunities and benefits of the PWA revolution, we at PixelPlex are capable and willing to assist you. With more than a decade of extensive experience and the knowledge of current market trends, we have the right tools and expertise that you will ever need. Our teams of scientists and developers have delivered custom-built solutions to hundreds of clients to their satisfaction, and this is all the more reason to trust us with your wonderful project.

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