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How will progressive web apps transform your customer engagement strategy?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Atm2003 / Shutterstock)

At the beginning of the year, retailers were focused on enticing customers in-store 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 shopping behaviors change for good, along with a dramatic shift in business priorities.

With almost two-thirds (62 percent) of UK retailers calling out eCommerce as a cornerstone for future investment, our research makes it clear that digital is now the key priority. The pandemic has seen much of our daily lives migrate to the online world, and brands have reacted by searching for new and innovative ways to improve the buyer journey.

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

Progressive web apps (PWAs) represent the next step in the evolution of customer engagement. By allowing 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?

Leveraging the potential of our devices

PWAs have the potential to be a real game-changing moment for mobile shopping, disrupting the very foundation that mobile commerce sits on. They represent an opportunity to create a better, more stable, smoother mobile shopping experience. Not only this, they also work well on low-quality networks and have full functionality when loaded, meaning shoppers can now even checkout offline. Current mobile experiences struggle to meet ever-changing consumer expectations, and PWAs represent the next evolution in mobile-driven commerce.

But why is this so important? We’ve reached a milestone when it comes to internet traffic across the globe, with over 50 percent now generated through mobile devices. Almost every third person now owns a smartphone, and this is set to grow by several hundred million in the next few years which will have huge implications for both PWAs and mCommerce. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of all retail eCommerce is expected to be generated through our mobile devices by 2021, and so it’s clear how the development of PWAs will sit at the heart of this development.

What’s more, from a business perspective, PWAs have the potential to reduce the burden of maintaining both a mobile website and a mobile app. They’re already beginning to replace standard websites since retailers have been using them to generate more conversions – with conversions seen as the lifeblood of eCommerce, this means we’ll likely see uptake rise over time. They also have the potential to cut costs compared with developing a new native app, since PWA code works across all platforms – desktop, mobile and tablets, along with every browser.

Successful applications

PWAs were announced back in 2015 as “experiences that combine the best of the web and the best of apps.” While the technology is still developing and maturing, a group of early adopters has showcased the transformative change the technology stands to bring to business.

The UK clothing brand George is a shining example of what can be achieved by upgrading a website to a PWA – after making the move, the retailer saw a 31 percent increase in conversion on its mobile site. Other quantifiable benefits included:

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

Elsewhere, PWAs have helped Debenhams deliver a 40 percent increase in mobile revenue and a 20 percent rise in conversions; Tinder has cut load times down from 11.91 seconds to 4.69 seconds; and Trivago saw a 150 percent increase in customers adding it to their home screen along with a 97 percent rise in clicks onto hotel offers. 

Moving away from app stores

Clearly, PWAs can help brands across every industry generate substantial ROI, but one issue which needs to be overcome is distribution and consumer behavior. Once a PWA is designed, it’s uploaded straight to a web server like any other web app – users can then interact with them as soon as they visit the website, providing they’re signposted well.

It follows that a major issue for PWAs is a proven way of distribution. If companies fail to establish and spend money to notify consumers how they can be accessed on the internet, they are unlikely to go mainstream. Consumer awareness needs to build for this new type of app.

Deciding whether to adopt

Right now, a lot of the noise around PWAs has focused on their use within wider mobile strategies. That said, their impact will be felt far beyond this. PWAs represent the first time where brands can leverage one app across the entire multi-channel pantheon, whether that’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 group of early adopters before a case can be made to bring PWAs into the mainstream. Before making the move, brands must consider factors like the goal, costs incurred and method of distribution if projects are to be successful. A lot of work will ultimately go into bringing an effective PWA to market, but the early adopters have shown that hard work pays off.

Paul Bidder, Customer Experience Thought Leader, LiveArea

Paul Bidder is the Senior EMEA Director at LiveArea.