However, the abandonment rate on mobile is even higher, clocking in at nearly 86 percent. A significant reason for the alarmingly high number of ditched orders is the limitations experienced by small screen audiences using mobile web browsers.
While dedicated applications have long been the alternative to the often under-optimized sometimes clunky mobile web shopping experience, users continue to express resistance to downloading an app for specific brands. As revealed by a 2018 Google and Heart+Mind Strategies study, “42% of those who haven’t downloaded their favorite brand’s app have never considered downloading it…and 63% of people say that when a brand forces them to download an app to access a deal, they will typically delete it shortly thereafter.”
As the study goes on to note:
“Most people expect their experience on a brand’s mobile site to be as easy as their experience on the app. When a mobile site doesn’t live up to expectations, people look for another that will.”
Progressive web apps deliver users application-like experiences that are accessible through a device’s mobile web browser. Consider this technology the meeting point between websites and apps.
Speaking to the problems of the current mobile experience, Peter Sheldon, senior director of Strategy at Adobe, professed that, “Technology companies have responded with a new approach that will be a foundational change that will drive the future of the web. Progressive web applications (PWAs) will drive the next wave of mobile interaction.”
But what is it about progressive web apps that will “drive the next wave” for small screen interactions?
Why Use a Progressive Web App?
While there are tons of benefits to deploying a progressive web app for eCommerce retailers (which we will get into momentarily), the one key factor that enables all the perks is that PWAs are not located within an app store.
Given that app stores only give any advantage to 0.001 percent of the applications featured, most are buried and rarely see the light of day–if ever.
Progressive web apps, on the other hand, are discoverable via search engines, which makes a massive amount of difference as retailers can utilize SEO optimization techniques to rank progressive web apps in the SERPs, thereby resulting in far less reliance on the paid acquisition methods that apps tend to require.
Moreover, when a user first engages a progressive web app online, the browser (in conjunction with the device) asks users if they wish to install the app on their home screen.
PWAs circumvent app stores run by Apple and Google and enable brands to reach consumers directly.
While this is a significant win for brands, there are a considerable number of other benefits that shoppers gain from retailers employing PWA technology.
Progressive Web App Benefits
The list of PWA benefits is long and varied. However, the best part of this list of advantages is that whatever benefits the customer, benefits the brand.
Some of the most noteworthy contributions that progressive web apps bring to the company-consumer relationship include:
Looks and Works Like a Native App
Progressive web apps are capable of touting feature-rich experiences that look and feel much like traditional applications, thereby producing a near nonexistent learning curve.
Customers can store account information and log in across different devices, access search features, add items to a shopping cart and check out like normal. Moreover, PWAs can tout a multitude of microinteractions such as swiping to open or close menus, in addition to an array of more sophisticated functionalities like code scanners, geolocation applications, currency options and other customizable features.
All this gives PWAs a look and feel that users are accustomed to, thereby increasing the likelihood of adoption.
Seamless Access Across Devices
Giving the platform a high degree of flexibility, PWAs are compatible with every browser on any device, which means that all potential users can access progressive web apps. The same cannot be said for their native counterparts, which require separate Android and iOS versions.
Moreover, the app-like interface ensures responsiveness to screens of all sizes, thereby enabling a seamless, universal shopping experience across any and all devices.
Lightning-Fast Load Times
Progressive web apps are built on a framework which enables them to load incredibly fast, and instantly upon repeat visits. By utilizing device-level caching, PWAs minimize the data required to respond to user requests. Thanks to modern technologies, the application can save data to the device’s cache, thereby enabling it to load like a native application on subsequent visits while delivering the rest of the page progressively.
In eCommerce, the faster a site loads, the more likely the brand is to make a sale.
Unlike web experiences, progressive web apps enable these alerts via the mobile browser, even when it is not running. This means that retailers–via PWAs–can engage users in a more personal way without forcing them to download a dedicated application.
However, if shoppers do want to interact with the brand through a more traditional app-like experience, they can do that, too.
Add PWAs to the Home Screen
Users have the option of adding an icon for the progressive web app to their phone’s home screen. This capability truly gives shoppers the best of both worlds as each can decide how to interact with the PWA based on their personal interests.
Those who do elect to accept a prompt to install a progressive web app on their device can launch a standard full-screen experience and control the over screen orientation.
Additionally, progressive web apps give retailers the flexibility to determine how the web app appears to users, enabling a new level of branding where businesses control the home screen icon, splash screen and address bar color within specific browsers.
Speaking to the caching system once more, progressive web apps can respond to some user requests even when disconnected from the internet as some of the data is stored on the device itself. This dynamic allows users to continue browsing certain parts of the app until the whole thing is accessible again via an internet connection.
Progressive web applications utilize a developing web standard that streamlines and secures the online payment process known as Web Payments.
Web Payments eliminate the need for buyers to fill out standard checkout forms by recalling and populating stored address and payment information.
Given that this technology is built into the device’s browser, progressive web apps put forth a fast and consistent checkout process for all customers. Moreover, the flexibility of Web Payments allows retailers to provide shoppers with a multitude of payment options.
This technology dramatically increases the chances of a mobile conversion given that “they simplify checkout flow, by making it a few taps instead of typing small characters many times on a virtual keyboard.”
The more friction retailers can remove, the more sales they are likely to make.
A Secure Shopping Experience
By default, progressive web apps are a secured form of online interaction as, to enable its functionality, it is served through a secure portal such as with the ever-more necessary HTTPS protocol.
Given the nature of PWAs, users need not download or install updates to access the most recent version of the platform. By design, if a progressive web app is connected to the internet, users will be served the most current version.
Discoverable and Shareable
As eCommerce competition continues to mount, customer acquisition costs consistently rise.
Given that progressive web apps are discoverable via search engines, this gives the framework a massive leg up over traditional apps as, through the implementation of an effective SEO strategy, user acquisition is far more likely and less costly.
As mentioned earlier, search spiders can crawl and index PWAs, thereby increasing visibility substantially.
Moreover, each page within a progressive web app is linkable. This means that pages within a progressive web app can be shared across social platforms and any other destinations or channels that support URL linking. This capacity allows PWAs to reach much broader audiences than most apps could ever achieve.
Progressive web apps are poised to revolutionize the mobile eCommerce dynamic by providing a familiar yet thoroughly enhanced shopping experience in which shoppers are treated to faster load times, app functionality like push notifications and a myriad of personalization options. These flexible, discoverable, shareable modes of customer interaction stand to help reduce shopping cart abandonment rates drastically and increase customer loyalty in meaningful ways.
However, to put forth such a compelling experience, retailers must seek out an expert eCommerce web development team that can take a brand’s existing online presence and push it into the future with a progressive web application.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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