The advent of technology has always created new opportunities for businesses to enhance the customer experience they deliver. It is evident that great customer experience starts with “making things easy” for the customer. Likewise, businesses have evolved from websites to mobile apps and responsive websites while offering services to their customers. And, the endeavor to increase the convenience of the customer still continues and Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are a prominent example here.
But, does it mean that you should forego your native mobile app for iOS and Android for a progressive web app? This article will discuss exactly what a progressive web app is and what it can do for your business. Also, it will explain to you how and why it must co-exist with your native mobile application for iOS and Android.
What Are Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web app framework combines what’s great about the web and what’s great about native apps. They offer a seamless experience. There is no installation required and users use progressive web apps right in the browser, and they work in every browser. Seen as a hybrid of regular websites and mobile application development, it combines the features of both.
Unlike native mobile applications, which are developed for use only on one particular platform or device, progressive web apps let the user choose where and how they want to use them.
Progressive web apps were first introduced in 2015 by Google and e-commerce marketers have eagerly jumped on the bandwagon, pursuing ways to build progressive web apps for their businesses. Said to be the “next big thing” that will revolutionize the way users use the web, progressive web apps have all of the good of the browser and the native app.
They utilize service workers, which provide a scriptable network proxy in the web browser, which manages the web requests programmatically.
What Is So Great About Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web apps are future-forward because they are incredibly responsive, fresh and flexible. They can be used on the desktop, mobile, tablet or any other device. They work even when users are offline or have poor network connectivity.
Even though you use a progressive web app in the browser, they feel like an app, because of the app-style interactions and navigation, which are built on a native app template. Users don’t have to install the app or the updates, although a user can keep the app on their home screen. Also, progressive web apps are discoverable, re-engageable and linkable. It’s not uncommon to find a native mobile app developer speaking in favor of progressive web apps.
There are a number of features in a progressive web app that gives it a web-like and app-like feel. These include:
- Local notifications
- Push messages
- Speech recognition
- Touch gestures
- Camera and mic
- Device orientation
- Battery status
- Adding an icon to the home screen
As a sort of hybrid app development, a progressive web app uses less and fewer data from the internet as it stores frequently used resources on the device. This feature makes it very powerful.
Where All Progressive Web Apps Score Over Native Mobile Apps
Typically, you could say that progressive web apps are “better” than native apps because they combine the features of the web experience and those of native app experience. When using a native app, users need to download and install them to their mobile device. If space is limited, the user will need to make room for the new app by deleting other previously-installed apps.
They may love the app, but it can only be used when they have an internet connection, rendering it useless in low-connectivity spots. Then, once a newer and more efficient app is found, in order to create space on their devices for that app, the older app gets deleted. It is estimated that the majority of users of e-commerce and other retail apps only use the app for a month after downloading.
Not only is there the issue of space on a device, but users get easily frustrated when apps take too much time loading, even if this happens due to poor internet connectivity. The same holds true for the mobile website. It may load slowly in environments with poor connectivity and the site may also not be mobile-optimized.
Studies show that apps lose 20% of their users at every touchpoint after the first contact. These steps include finding the app in the app store, downloading, installing and opening. Considering those four steps, an app could lose up to 80% of its users before they’ve even used the app.
Research shows that mobile apps that have push notifications keep three times more customers than those without it and users are much more likely to reopen an app than a website. This indicates that apps definitely can be put to good use. This is where the progressive web app enters into the picture.
Why Progressive Web Apps Cannot Replace Native Mobile Applications
Companies considering developing progressive web apps should first consider what actions are most important to their users. While a progressive web app replicates all the functionalities of a traditional website, the company will need to discover what functionality best serves the user while offline. If there is a lack of cross-browser support and certain critical features are required for users, a native app might be more useful to the user.
Not all of the browsers support progressive web apps or their features. Apple’s Safari currently won’t allow for push notifications or storing data locally on the device using the service work, which is essential to the progressive web app’s functionality. Over time, it can be expected that browsers will get with the program and allow users all of the functions needed to run progressive web apps. But, in the meantime, this is where native mobile apps for iOS and Android can fill in the gap.
There are a few features that native mobile applications for iOS and Android have that aren’t available on progressive web apps (although this doesn’t mean the technology won’t be there in the future). These include:
- Browser bookmarks
- Telephony features
- Access to some hardware features
- System access
Native mobile applications for iOS and Android definitely hold some benefits over progressive web apps and these benefits are ones that users might not be willing to give up just yet. Until progressive web apps can incorporate all of the features available in a traditional web-browsing session or a native app experience, all of the platforms will need to be available to the user for a more seamless experience.
Examples of Businesses Where Progressive Web Apps Are Adding A Great Value
Progressive web apps add an enormous amount of value to a number of businesses. These include eCommerce, customer-facing domains, and industries where a user may need to access information while offline.
If your business entails content with regular updates or real-time data, a chat platform with push notifications, an audience that pulls data to browse offline or an audience where the majority uses a supported browser, a progressive web app framework can be an appropriate choice.
Flipkart, the largest e-commerce site in India was finding it difficult to provide a fast and engaging user experience through their mobile website. Wanting to combine the features that make the mobile web work, combined with the app experience, they created Flipkart Lite, a progressive web app framework. The results were astounding.
Flipkart saw a 70% increase in conversions, three-times more time spent on the site by users, a 40% higher re-engagement rate, and three-times lower data usage.
Even though users are visiting through their browser, they are finding a fast and app-line user experience. On return to the site, loading is instantaneous and users can add the site to the home screen with a single tap. Flipkart Lite is seen as a powerful progressive web app framework that performs just as well as Flipkart’s native app, giving Flipkart users flexibility and choice in the way they engage with the brand.
Basically, Flipkart was able to have a strong and engaging mobile website, which engaged users who didn’t want to download an app. This has allowed them to engage and re-engage with high-value customers. Their future plans are to re-invest more into their progressive web app and believe that it is just getting started as a future-forward technology.
Air Berlin has employed a progressive web app for online check-in, which allows its users to access their tickets without needing an internet connection. This is important because not all airports have wi-fi capabilities and many users aren’t interested in turning on their cellular data while away from their home country in view of roaming fees.
The ability to access important information while traveling, like flight information, without having an internet connection, is incredibly useful for the user. A traveler may only be using that airline once and may not want to download their app, as it won’t be used again.
Having the functionality of the progressive web app framework, where they can use the features of an app, without having to download and install is an efficient way to engage with an airline and get the information the user needs. The user will get the push notifications (i.e., flight status), without having to download the app, which is incredibly convenient for new visitors.
While the user may believe that he’ll only fly one time with that airline, the user experience that he had with the progressive app will stay on in his mind for long. If he visits again, the progressive web app, he is much likely to remember the previous experience.
The fitness app industry can also benefit from a progressive web app, allowing users to track their runs and compete with others. Gaming, business, news, reference, and other progressive web apps are available already and more are popping up each day. Even social networks can benefit from the addition of a progressive web app.
Rather than asking whether your business needs a progressive web app or a native mobile application for iOS and Android, many businesses would do better having both. Both provide benefits to their users and provide users the flexibility to choose how they like to access the brand.
But, a business wouldn’t be doing itself any favors not having a progressive web app, which will reduce data costs and target both mobile and desktop users. The future is definitely betting on progressive web apps. This is similar to any form of marketing where using a variety of platforms always adds to better outreach to your audience.
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