The ecommerce world is pretty excited about progressive web apps (PWAs).
PWAs are highly effective in improving page load times and increasing user engagement, conversion rates and revenue. DTC brands are already taking advantage of progressive web apps to provide a better shopping experience to their customers.
In this guide, we’ll explore progressive web apps and how they work. We’ll also discuss their benefits and challenges, as well as look at six brands that have seen great success after implementing them.
What are Progressive Web Apps?
A progressive web app is a website that takes advantage of modern web capabilities to provide users with an app-like experience in their browser. By offering extremely fast loading speeds, offline functionality and a responsive experience, PWAs combine the best features of websites and mobile apps.
For an app to be considered a progressive web app, it needs to satisfy the following conditions:
- Use HTTPS: All PWAs need to use the HTTPS protocol.
- Include a Web App Manifest File: To be considered a PWA, an app needs to include a .JSON file containing its metadata.
- Use a Service Worker: All PWAs need to register a service worker that will be responsible for file caching, data handling, push notifications, etc.
How Do PWAs Work?
Most PWAs work like this:
- A user visits a website.
- They're asked if they want to save the website as an app on their smartphone’s home screen.
- If the user accepts, they can revisit the app from their home screen at any time, even if they’re not online.
PWAs rely on three pillars:
- Service Worker: A script that runs in the background and manages requests, storing and caching data, enabling PWAs to provide features such as push notifications and offline browsing.
- Application Shell: The user interface framework in which the PWA loads on a user’s screen.
- Web App Manifest: A JSON file that contains all of the PWA’s metadata, such as name, author, description and icon.
The service worker, application shell and Web App Manifest work in unison to enhance PWA performance.
Benefits of Progressive Web Apps
PWAs are marked by a number of benefits, including:
- Reliability: PWAs work in limited connectivity environments, as well as offline. Additionally, users don’t need to download or install PWAs to be able to use them.
- Fast Load Times: PWAs can cache content and resources in a way that allows them to be launched as fast as native apps. Their ability to use background processing also helps them improve load times significantly.
- Improved Engagement: PWAs can help businesses achieve more engagement — take Flipkart, which saw a 40% higher re-engagement rate — through features such as push notifications.
- Increased Conversion Rates and Revenue: Speed and accessibility are key. AliExpress saw its conversion rates improve by as much as 104% and Paula's Choice experienced revenue boosts of up to 40% through their PWAs.
- Responsiveness and Cross-Browser Functionality: PWAs, by nature, are responsive and work flawlessly on screens of all sizes. For the most part, they also perform the same across different browsers.
- Integrated User Experience: PWAs can take advantage of all features available on a user’s device, including the camera, GPS and push notifications.
- SEO Advantages: PWAs are faster, more engaging and have lower bounce rates compared to regular websites, which can benefit search engine rankings.
Challenges of PWAs
While PWAs have shown to have a number of advantages over native apps, they come with their own set of challenges. Here are three main ones.
1. Tracking User Behavior
Measuring user behavior in PWAs can be very difficult, especially when it comes to PWAs that take advantage of offline browsing or checkout.
Since PWAs use dynamic page loading and only fire an analytics code once, standard pageview tracking usually doesn’t work properly, preventing brands from tracking their users’ behavior on every page. This can be solved through the implementation of an adjusted tracking code that accounts for “virtual pageviews.”
Then there’s the issue of tracking user behavior in offline mode. While this can be addressed through the usage of Fetch API, it’s still a complex issue that needs to be handled very carefully to ensure there’s no data loss or corruption.
2. Lack of Support for Advanced Device Features
While PWAs can take advantage of features such as push notifications and offline mode, they’re not able to use advanced smartphone features, such as NFC, proximity sensors and geofencing. This makes PWAs less powerful in terms of capabilities compared to native apps.
3. Battery Consumption
Smartphone owners use their devices for multiple hours every day. As a result, most users drain their batteries by the end of the day, or even sooner.
Since PWAs are less battery-efficient compared to native apps, they can make this matter even worse. Users who notice a PWA drains their battery significantly might decide against using it.
6 DTC Brands Seeing Amazing Results with PWAs
While there are pros and cons to PWAs, the results don't lie: DTC brands that have implemented PWAs have seen substantial improvements in load speeds, user engagement, conversion rates and revenue.
Let’s take a look at six examples.
1. Tommy Bahama
Tommy Bahama is a manufacturer of men’s and women’s activewear, footwear and accessories. The brand’s products are available at a variety of retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.
The company’s DTC segment, operated through an ecommerce website, has seen major improvements in recent years. The company has been hard at work, improving all aspects of its ecommerce enterprise, including CRM, order management and analytics.
One of the major changes for Tommy Bahama was the development and implementation of a PWA on its website. This led to an improvement in mobile performance and an increase in customer satisfaction.
Petlove is a Brazilian DTC brand that sells a variety of pet products. Its product catalog includes pet food, toys, collars, houses and accessories.
With 25% of online purchases in Brazil made using mobile devices, Petlove understood the importance of providing an excellent shopping experience for mobile users. While the brand has both an Android and an iOS app, Petlove decided that implementing a PWA would be a great way to improve the shopping experience for its customers even further.
After upgrading their website using PWA technology, Petlove experienced a 2.7x improvement in average time spent on site and a 2.8x increase in conversion rate.
Implementing a PWA also helped the brand reduce the amount of data users needed to download to access the store. This is crucial in Brazil, where a large number of consumers are using 2G and 3G Internet connection.
Implementing a PWA has made Petlove’s online store a lot more accessible to mobile users.
3. Paula's Choice
Paula’s Choice is a skincare brand founded by author and radio talk host Paula Begoun. It focuses on providing consumers with non-irritating, fragrance-free skincare products backed by scientific research.
While the brand’s products can be purchased at a number of online and brick-and-mortar retailers, Paula’s Choice also has a DTC component through its ecommerce website. Understanding the importance of providing a fast shopping experience for its mobile customers, the brand set out to create a PWA that would improve load times and the overall performance of its online storefront.
Once the PWA was complete, the Paula’s Choice team wanted to know how it would affect overall performance and the user experience. After performing an A/B test comparing the responsive version of the brand’s website and the new PWA, it was clear that the PWA outperformed the mobile website in every way.
The PWA helped create a smooth and immersive shopping experience for its customers, decreasing the average time it takes shoppers to search for a product and then add it to their cart by 67%. The website’s conversion rate rose by 46%, and the brand experienced a 40% boost in revenue. The implementation of the PWA also helped drive 55% more product views and resulted in an improved add-to-cart rate, according to this Mobify press release.
AKIRA is a women’s clothing and footwear brand launched in 2002. Today, it sells its product in 32 brick-and-mortar locations, as well as online through the brand’s official website.
Implementing a PWA allowed AKIRA to achieve significantly reduced load times and improve the customer experience significantly. This, in turn, resulted in an increase in the overall conversion rate.
The SEO benefits associated with implementing a PWA also enabled the brand’s website to outrank retailers such as Zappos and Nordstrom for key phrases online.
VENUS is a women’s clothing, lingerie and swimwear brand.
After implementing a PWA, the brand experienced significant improvements in page load time, with more than 80% of website pages loading in less than one second, and more than 50% of pages loading in less than 320 milliseconds, according to Moovweb.
The improved load speeds helped to create a smoother shopping experience for mobile users, boosting customer satisfaction substantially. It also helped VENUS achieve a 24% increase in conversion rate.
6. Annie Selke
Annie Selke is a DTC furniture and bedding brand. It’s known for its quality-conscious products and commitment to responsible practices.
After implementing a PWA, Annie Selke experienced a 32% increase in organic traffic and achieved a revenue boost of 13%. The fast load times and reduced bounce rate that come with implementing a PWA helped the brand outrank Amazon and Wayfair in search engine results, too.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are the Future of Ecommerce
Progressive web apps combine the best features of websites and native apps, providing users with fast load times, offline functionality and a responsive experience.
Brands such as Tommy Bahama, Petlove, Paula’s Choice, AKIRA, VENUS and Annie Selke have all experienced improvements in load time and increases in user engagement, conversion rate and revenue, thanks to PWAs. Imagine what this technology can do for your company.
Boris Mustapic is a writer and content marketing specialist with a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. Having built his own successful ecommerce business, Boris likes to share his knowledge with ecommerce enthusiasts. Apart from writing about marketing and ecommerce, Boris also enjoys a good book and a glass of red wine.