Just a few years ago, it was considered inconvenient to browse online stores using a smartphone or tablet. The pages would load slowly, users would have to zoom in and squint to see product details, and the small buttons made it nearly impossible to select the right options on the first try. Today, customers have come to expect online sites to be quick and easy to navigate, regardless of the device they’re using.
The director of subscription marketing for Business Insider Intelligence, Andrew Meola, predicts that the volume of mobile commerce will reach $488 billion by 2024, making up approximately 44% of total eCommerce sales. For online sellers hoping to retain their loyal customers and attract new shoppers, creating a mobile app or PWA (Progressive Web App) is crucial for success in 2021 and beyond.
What are PWAs?
A progressive web app, or PWA, functions like a mobile app without requiring users to install or download anything. As opposed to native apps, PWAs are designed to work in any internet browser, and they can utilize additional features, such as geotargeting, to give customers more personalized experiences.
According to a checklist released by Google developers, all PWAs should be “installable and usable by all users, regardless of size or input type.” They also state that the core requirements of a PWA should include:
- Fast performance and loading speeds.
- An option that lets customers browse offline.
- Compatibility with all devices.
- The flexibility to function on any browser.
- An option for the user to install the app to their device.
PWAs vs. Native Apps
Although PWAs give customers the same kind of engaging experiences they would expect from native apps, they’re less time-consuming and expensive for retailers to develop. With native apps, developers need to choose whether they want to create an app compatible with iOS or Android devices, or create two entirely separate apps for both platforms. Furthermore, online shoppers tend to show reluctance to download an app simply to browse a specific website. Taking the extra time to create a native app can ironically cause customers to shop at different sites that don’t require them to download anything.
PWAs prevent many of the obstacles associated with native app development because they’re functional on all internet browsers. Developers don’t have to create an app for each type of platform a customer may be using. PWAs also let users browse even when they’re not connected to the internet due to a content caching feature, and if customers would like to, they can still choose to add the PWA directly to their home screen for easy access.
Benefits of PWAs
PWAs aim to strike a balance between traditional eCommerce stores and familiar smartphone apps to deliver the best of both platforms to users and retailers. Along with increasing flexibility and reducing development costs for sellers, PWAs can also:
- Boost customer engagement. Mobile-friendly sites will naturally attract more traffic than stores that require users to download an app before browsing. Furthermore, PWAs allow sellers to send push notifications, such as personalized product recommendations, directly to users’ phones to improve loyalty.
- Enhance performance. PWAs require less disk space and storage space than native apps, which translates to faster loading times and reduced data usage.
- Improve SEO. Since PWAs are created to be compatible with browsers, content on PWAs can be found using any search engine. Using SEO best practices, sellers can improve their Google rankings since the algorithm favors fast and mobile-friendly sites.
- Provide security. To protect customers’ personal data, PWAs have to meet the same HTTPS requirements of eCommerce sites. Shoppers can feel safe knowing that their personal information won’t be compromised due to poor or outdated security.
- Save time. Developing a PWA instead of a native app will already save retailers plenty of time and money, but actually posting content to the app is faster through a PWA as well. In fact, it’s similar to posting content on a typical eCommerce website. Anything you post will appear automatically, whereas native apps might require additional steps or updates before new content appears to shoppers.
Building PWAs with BigCommerce
For merchants already using the BigCommerce platform, there are plenty of seamless ways to create a PWA for your store. Agencies including Deity and Third and Grove have partnered with BigCommerce to help merchants build their PWA storefronts and even utilize the lightning-fast headless architecture that’s quickly overtaking the traditional, monolithic eCommerce model.
BigCommerce sellers have access to a wide range of PWA frameworks and pre-built templates to choose from, and B2Commerce developers can help with every step of the process. If you’ve been thinking about switching to BigCommerce, check out how our developers can create a beautiful, customized website for your brand!