How will Progressive Web Apps transform your customer engagement strategy?

At the start of the year, retailers were focused on enticing in-store customers with experiences. Smart technologies, such as interactive displays and magic mirrors, were seen as key investments to surprise and delight customers. Fast forward three months and the focus is now on providing a more functional shopping experience. Covid-19 has seen our buying behaviors change for good, as well as a drastic shift in business priorities.

With nearly two-thirds (62%) of UK retailers considering e-commerce as a cornerstone of their future investments, our research clearly shows that digital is now the top priority. The pandemic has seen much of our daily lives migrate to the online world, and brands have responded by looking for new and innovative ways to improve the buyer’s journey.

Apps were previously seen as the go-to solution for companies looking to bolster their services with digital equivalents. While they have undoubtedly helped deliver more engaging experiences, now app fatigue has arrived. Investing large sums in the development of new applications therefore seems counterproductive.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) represent the next step in the evolution of customer engagement. By enabling brands to connect with customers proactively rather than reactively, PWAs bring the benefits of apps without the hassle – so how will they change brands’ customer engagement strategies?

Harnessing the potential of our devices

PWAs have the potential to be a true game-changing moment for mobile shopping, disrupting the very foundation on which mobile commerce is built. They represent an opportunity to create a better, more stable and smoother mobile shopping experience. Not only that, they also work well on low-quality networks and have full functionality when loaded, meaning shoppers can now even pay offline. Today’s mobile experiences struggle to keep up with ever-changing consumer expectations, and PWAs represent the next evolution of mobile commerce.

But why is it so important? We’ve reached a milestone in internet traffic across the world, with over 50% now generated through mobile devices. Almost one in three people now own a smartphone, and that number is expected to grow by hundreds of millions over the next few years, with huge implications for PWAs and mCommerce. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of all retail e-commerce is expected to be generated through our mobile devices by 2021, and so it’s clear that the development of PWAs will be central to that development.

Additionally, from a business perspective, PWAs have the potential to reduce the maintenance burden of a mobile website and mobile app. They are already starting to replace standard websites as retailers use them to drive more conversions. With conversions considered the lifeblood of e-commerce, this means we’re likely to see an increase in adoption over time. They also have the potential to reduce costs compared to developing a new native application, as the PWA code works on all platforms – desktop, mobile and tablets, as well as all browsers.

Successful applications

PWAs were announced in 2015 as “experiences that combine the best of the web and the best of apps.” As the technology continues to develop and mature, a group of early adopters showcased the transformative change the technology has the potential to bring to businesses.

British clothing brand George is a shining example of what can be achieved by upgrading a website to a PWA – after taking the plunge, the retailer saw a 31% increase in conversion on its mobile site. Other quantifiable benefits include:

  • 3.8x – Faster average page load time
  • 2 x – Lower Bounce Rate
  • 31% – Increase in conversion rate
  • 20% – More page views per visit
  • 28% – Longer average time on site for visits from the home screen

Elsewhere, PWAs helped Debenhams drive a 40% increase in mobile revenue and a 20% increase in conversions; Tinder reduced load times from 11.91 seconds to 4.69 seconds; and Trivago saw a 150% increase in customers adding it to their home screen, as well as a 97% increase in clicks on hotel deals.

Move away from app stores

Clearly, PWAs can help brands in all industries generate substantial ROI, but one problem that needs to be overcome is distribution and consumer behavior. Once a PWA is designed, it is uploaded directly to a web server just like any other web application – users can then interact with them as soon as they visit the website, provided they are properly flagged .

It follows that a major problem for PWAs is a proven distribution method. If companies fail to establish themselves and spend money educating consumers about how they can be viewed on the Internet, they are unlikely to become mainstream. Consumer awareness must be strengthened for this new type of application.

Deciding whether or not to adopt

Right now, much of the noise around PWAs has focused on their use as part of broader mobile strategies. That said, their impact will be felt far beyond. PWAs represent the first time brands can leverage an app across the entire multi-channel pantheon, whether it’s our laptops, smartphones, voice channels, or watches.

The likes of Debenhams, George, Trivago and Tinder have pioneered their use and shown what can be achieved. It will take more brands joining the early adopter group before a case can be made for bringing PWAs into the mainstream. Before making the leap, brands need to consider factors such as purpose, costs incurred, and distribution method for projects to succeed. It will ultimately take a lot of work to bring an effective PWA to market, but early adopters have shown that hard work pays off.

Paul Bidder, Customer Experience Thought Leader, LiveArea

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