In 2016, e-commerce sales in the U.S. hit an all time high of $394.86 billion, which is a whopping 15.6% increase since 2015. Meanwhile, e-commerce growth in the U.S. has consistently outpaced that of overall retail for the past six years, now accounting for 81% of the total retail market.
This continuous growth in e-commerce can be largely attributed to an increase in shoppers making purchases on mobile devices. According to a report by comScore, as of 2016 nearly 19% of all e-commerce purchases came from mobile devices, and 72% of shoppers used a smartphone to research an item before purchasing.
With this rapid change in the retail world, it seems that companies are constantly playing catch-up. Adapting an e-commerce store to every mobile device and browser, while keeping up with the increasing user expectations for speed and seamless interface, can be difficult and costly to say the least.
Technology, however, is changing nearly as rapidly as the retail world, and e-commerce stores will need to turn to the improving technology to stay ahead. One of the most promising new developments for e-commerce is Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs.
What are Progressive Web Apps?
A Progressive Web App is essentially an app within your browser, which uses modern web capabilities to deliver a user experience and interface very similar to that of a native app. PWAs may reside on your home screen like native apps, but because they are accessed directly through your web browser, they don’t need to be downloaded or installed.
PWAs are still discoverable through your search engine, and open in a browser tab like a mobile web site. Upon opening, you will be prompted to add the PWA to your home screen, which effectively blends the interface so that when launched from the home screen it feels and appears like an app with features such as fullscreen and offline mode.
The Benefits of PWAs for E-Commerce
- Improve your user's experience: PWAs use an App Shell design where the basic "shell" of the app's user interface is stored and loaded more quickly than the actual content. This effectively improves the load time and the user's overall perception of the app's speed and performance.
- Optimize engagement: Web push notifications have taken an increasingly vital role in marketing. PWAs can provide real-time, personalized push notifications to inform and re-engage your customers.
- Increase reliability: PWAs use Service Workers to pre-cache your key resources, freeing your app of its dependence on the network. This means that users can load your PWA instantly, regardless of network connection.
- Save time, money and effort: Possibly the most notable of the advantages to PWAs is that developers no longer need to create different apps for different mobile platforms. Because of this, Progressive Web Apps can help your business quickly reach the maximum number of people possible across all desired platforms with much less development effort.
The world of retail is seeing a massive shift toward e-commerce, and more specifically e-commerce on mobile devices. In order to stay ahead, e-commerce stores need to keep up with their customers' increasing expectations for high speed mobile apps with seamless interface. Progressive Web Apps offer a great option for meeting these expectations. PWAs have been highly successful for many retail companies such as Lancome, which has seen a 17% increase in conversions, 53% increase in mobile sessions on iOS, and 8% increase in conversion rates on recovered carts via Push Notifications.
Though there seems to be many reasons to see a shift toward PWAs, especially when it comes to e-commerce, native apps are still very reliable and "comfortable" for most users and developers. It’s still early, and remains unclear if PWAs will cause a mass shift away from native apps. It also remains a possibility that a hybrid model which embraces aspects of native and web apps could prevail. As PWAs increase in functionality however, the list of reasons to switch from native apps will increase as well.
Let us know what you think of PWAs and their impact on e-commerce in the next couple of years!