Ultimate Guide on PWA for eCommerce – Why, What, & How?
Sector: Digital Commerce, Technology
Author: Nisarg Mehta
Date Published: 04/04/2023
The concept of PWAs began in 2015 when Google engineer Alex Russell coined the term “Progressive Web Apps.” The idea was to create web applications that provide users with the same functionality and experience as native mobile apps. The goal was to bridge the gap between web and mobile app experiences and provide users with a better, more seamless experience.
Web App Manifests are JSON files that provide metadata about the PWA, such as its name, icon, and color scheme. This information is used to make the PWA feel more like a native app.
Push Notifications enable PWAs to send notifications to users even when the app is not open.
In 2023, many eCommerce companies have started to migrate their mobile applications to PWA. Wonder why?
How Do PWAs and eCommerce Go Hand in Hand?
In the past, certain functions might have only been achievable through a native app, but nowadays, PWAs offer similar advantages, allowing eCommerce businesses to achieve the same level of functionality through this approach.
Here are some benefits of PWA for eCommerce:
Low Cost of Development
Additionally, PWAs can be developed to work on various devices and platforms with the same codebase, eliminating the need to develop and maintain separate apps for different operating systems. This reduces development costs and time-to-market.
Furthermore, PWAs can leverage the caching mechanisms of modern web browsers, reducing the amount of data that needs to be downloaded by the user, resulting in faster load times and improved user experience. This can also lower hosting and bandwidth costs for the eCommerce business.
Enhanced User Engagement
PWAs can significantly improve user engagement for eCommerce businesses. Here are some user engagement traits PWAs have:
Push Notifications: PWAs can send push notifications to users’ devices, even when the website is not open, keeping them updated on new products, discounts, and other relevant information. This keeps users engaged with the eCommerce business, leading to increased conversions and sales.
Add to Home Screen: PWAs can be added to the user’s home screen, giving them easy access to the website with just a single tap. This increases the likelihood that users will return to the website, resulting in higher engagement and repeat business.
Offline Access: PWAs can work offline, allowing users to browse products and add them to their shopping carts even when they don’t have an internet connection. This improves user engagement by allowing them to continue shopping even when they are not connected to the internet.
Improved User Experience: PWAs can provide a mobile app-like experience with features such as smooth animations, gestures, and full-screen mode. This creates a seamless user experience that keeps users engaged and encourages them to spend more time on the website.
Better User Adoption
PWAs are platform agnostic, which means they can work on any device or operating system, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. This makes it easier for users to access the eCommerce website, regardless of the device they are using, which leads to better user adoption.
Moreover, unlike native apps, PWAs do not require users to download and install the app from an app store. Instead, users can simply access the website through their browser, which reduces the friction of adoption and eliminates the need for users to take extra steps to access the eCommerce website.
PWAs are also easy to share with others, thanks to their URL-based architecture. Users can simply share the website URL with others through social media, email, or messaging apps, which can lead to increased adoption and more potential customers.
Page speed is critical for eCommerce because it directly impacts the user experience and, ultimately, the success of an online store. Slow-loading pages can lead to frustration and abandonment by users, resulting in lost revenue for the eCommerce business.
Here are some reasons why page speed is important for eCommerce:
Better User Experience: Fast-loading pages provide a better user experience by reducing the time it takes for users to find the products they want to buy and complete their purchase.
Improved SEO: Page speed is a ranking factor for search engines like Google. Faster-loading pages can improve a website’s search engine ranking, resulting in increased visibility and traffic.
Findable Pages: PWAs have web pages with URLs that work like any other website, making their pages findable by search engines. This is an advantage over native apps since these pages can be crawled, indexed, and ranked, benefitting eCommerce store’s SEO.
Higher Conversion Rates: Faster-loading pages have been shown to increase conversion rates, as users are more likely to make a purchase when they can easily navigate and find what they are looking for.
According to Google, more than half (53%) of mobile users will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
Therefore, loading time is another reason why eCommerce businesses should use PWA apps. They load faster than traditional websites because of their ability to cache content.
When a user visits a PWA for the first time, the assets are downloaded and stored in the user’s browser cache. So when the user visits the website the next time, the assets are served from the cache, reducing the time it takes to load the website.
In addition to caching content, PWAs can also use other techniques to improve page speed, such as lazy loading images, compressing resources, and minimizing the number of requests made to the server. These techniques can further reduce load times and improve the user experience for eCommerce apps.
All the benefits we’ve discussed earlier makes PWAs a powerhouse for eCommerce conversion.
One example of an eCommerce business that successfully implemented a PWA and saw conversion increase is Lancôme.
Lancôme, a French luxury cosmetics brand, decided to build a PWA instead of a native app for their mobile customers. By using a PWA, they were able to achieve a seamless mobile experience with features such as push notifications, offline access, and add-to-home screen functionality.
According to their case study, Lancôme saw a 17% increase in conversions after launching their PWA, and they were able to achieve this with only a fraction of the cost compared to building a native app. Additionally, their PWA was able to work on all major mobile platforms, eliminating the need to develop separate apps for iOS and Android.
Enables Headless Commerce
Headless commerce involves separating a website’s front and back ends, allowing them to communicate through APIs, such as GraphQL. This architecture enables businesses to create multiple frontends that can cater to different touchpoints, such as native applications, PWAs, smart speakers, or smart refrigerators.
All these frontends are connected to the same backend and database, allowing for a more flexible and customizable shopping experience. By separating the monolithic architecture, each frontend can be optimized for a particular device type, leading to better user experience, improved performance, and increased conversions.
Additionally, decoupling the front and back ends makes it easier and faster to implement changes in the online store from a development perspective.
But is it necessary to bring in PWAs for headless commerce?
PWAs can enable headless commerce better than native applications because they are designed to be lightweight, flexible, and easily accessible across different devices and platforms.
PWAs can also be easily integrated with different APIs, allowing for seamless communication between the front and back ends of the website. This makes it easier to implement headless commerce as PWAs can be designed to work with any backend system, making it simple to customize the front end to suit different touchpoints.
What Trending Technologies Can You Use to Build eCommerce PWAs?
Even though you can build eCommerce PWAs from scratch, it’s always recommended to utilize an eCommerce platform so that you don’t have to build marketing and operations modules to support your online store.
Therefore you can pick among the following eCommerce platforms to build your store PWA:
Magento provides a wide range of features, including multi-store support, a flexible product catalog, advanced inventory management, and powerful SEO capabilities.
It also offers a range of customization options and integrations, making it a popular choice for building eCommerce PWAs.
Magento has both a Community edition, which is free to use, and an Enterprise edition which comes with additional features and support.
Shopify comes with a range of functionalities, including a customizable storefront, flexible product management, and an easy-to-use interface.
It also includes built-in features like payment processing, shipping, and tax management, which makes it an all-in-one solution for building eCommerce PWAs.
Shopify offers a range of plans, including a Lite plan for small businesses, a Basic plan for growing businesses, and an Advanced plan for larger businesses.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress that provides a range of features, including a customizable storefront, flexible product management, and a range of extensions and plugins.
It also brings along built-in functionalities like payment processing and tax management, making it a great solution for building eCommerce PWAs.
WooCommerce is free to use, but additional features and support can be purchased through paid extensions and plugins.
BigCommerce offers a range of features, including a customizable storefront, flexible product management, and a range of integrations.
Moreover, it also offers built-in features like payment processing, shipping, and tax management, which makes it a one-stop solution for building eCommerce PWAs.
BigCommerce offers a range of plans, including a Standard plan for small businesses, a Plus plan for growing businesses, and an Enterprise plan for larger businesses.
Start Your PWA Journey
PWAs can be beneficial for any online business as slow page load time and checkout process can lead to increased bounce rates and a loss of sales.
By offering enhanced user experience and faster page speeds, PWAs enable customers to quickly and efficiently complete their desired tasks. With page speeds two to four times faster than traditional websites, PWAs keep users engaged and more likely to convert.
While it’s difficult to predict if an eCommerce site will double its conversion rate with a PWA, this new technology certainly allows businesses to provide a high-converting, app-like experience to a larger audience on the mobile web. Early adopters have already witnessed significant improvements in their business with the adoption of PWAs.