PWA, or Progressive Web Application, is a technology that allows customers to install your website on their smartphone as an application without the need for developing a website, an iOS app, and an Android app separately.
Despite PWAs being considered less popular than native mobile apps, we use them more than we think. Brands like Twitter, Tinder, Uber, Telegram, Starbucks, Forbes and AliExpress use PWA-based applications as the main app or in addition to a mobile application.
Businesses can consider PWAs as an alternative to developing a full-fledged mobile app for several reasons:
A desire to be independent from app stores,
Limited time frame and budget,
A need to test a business hypothesis without investing into a regular mobile app development.
In this article we describe what a PWA is, its disadvantages and advantages, and examples of the positive impact of PWA on business.
Strictly speaking, PWA is a web application. However, some features incorporated at the initial stage of frontend development transform it into something very close to a native application that the user could install on their smartphone through Google Market or AppStore.
In other words, PWA is a website that your customers download from the browser like a regular application.
Like a native application, PWA has the ability to send push notifications, work offline without an Internet connection, and store data locally. Using the HTTPS protocol for data transfer, PWA has a secure connection that ensures the confidentiality of user data.
According to statista, in the first quarter of 2023, mobile devices generated 58.33% of global website traffic. It is this fact that businesses need to focus on when planning their next steps: over half of your customers will want to use your company’s services through a smartphone.
Making an appointment at a beauty salon, ordering cleaning services, booking an appointment at a car service station — the client will do it all with a phone in their hands, often in a hurry. This is the main task of PWA:
On the one hand, make the user’s experience more pleasant and memorable when interacting with your service using a mobile device,
On the other hand, make app development more accessible to business.
PWA is faster and cheaper to implement than a mobile app: you create one product for both Android and iOS. Testing hypotheses is easier since updates are available to your users immediately after their release without additional downloading from app stores. At the same time, PWA is indexed in search engines, making SEO your ally. Installation from the browser reduces the number of necessary actions for clients.
According to Search Engine Watch, one of the first to implement PWA technology for their business was Twitter. After some time, the company shared statistics on the use of their new service by users:
increase in pages viewed per session by 65%,
75% increase in tweets sent,
reducing the load on infrastructure by 20%.
Now, based on the positive experience of large corporations, more and more companies are paying attention to PWA. Some of them officially reported on positive experience in implementing the technology:
The Washington Post: exponential increase in productivity,
Lancome: increase in conversion by 17%,
Alibaba: 76% increase in conversion,
AliExpress: increase in conversion by 104%,
Forbes: increase in session duration by 40%.
One of the main questions about PWAs is whether or not they are a good substitute to native apps. The answer depends on your needs, but, as all things, PWAs have both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the latter.
Unfortunately, a PWA installed on a device using Safari will not have access to Face ID and Touch ID. Sending push notifications to the user also won’t be supported.
An alternative in this case is to provide additional UI elements responsible for viewing events that may be of interest to the user. For example, a “bell” with the number of unread messages.
PWAs use a limited portion of processor and RAM resources, which negatively affects the speed of the application. However, a well-designed architecture and the use of a local cache can increase performance and reduce response time. To do this, your development team must have a lot of experience in mobile development and include senior mobile development engineers.
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PWAs are supported by under-the-hood processes that cannot be stopped, thus users may experience faster battery drain. Most likely, this will not be noticeable to your users as people are now accustomed to the continuous operation of products in their gadgets.
For example, in applications for fitness bracelets, periodic data synchronization is enabled, and in social networks, notifications are sent. The disadvantage of PWA here is that it cannot be influenced by going to the settings and unchecking the necessary boxes.
Now, let’s discuss the advantages of progressive web applications.
It takes a little more time to develop a PWA than a regular web application (remember that a web application is exactly what most modern websites are). This is due to the implementation and configuration of tools which make PWAs better than regular websites.
At the same time, the implementation of a PWA requires much less time than a native application. Also, PWAs are often developed by frontend specialists whose rates are often lower than those of iOS or Android developers.
This is one of the biggest advantages of PWAs: there is no need to go through verification of official application stores, which can last from several days up to 2-3 weeks. The rules for posting in different stores may differ from each other, forcing businesses to adapt to both Google Play and the AppStore.
Installation from the browser is an opportunity to quickly provide your users with a working alternative to native applications and be “in touch” with them even if the store’s policy changes.
PWA uses a local cache in its work to implement autonomy and increase response speed. This feature significantly improves the user’s experience of interacting with the service, especially if it is similar to the Forbes news site: once you open an article within the app, it remains in the device’s memory, re-downloading is much faster and does not require an Internet connection.
However, it is worth remembering that autonomy will only apply to viewing already downloaded “static” content. Without an online connection, the client will also not be able to fully use your service if this requires interactivity, like leaving a comment.
In short: the application makes the most of the data that users accessed the last time they used it, and this ensures its offline operation.
PWA takes up significantly less space on a smartphone than a native application. Your users won't be annoyed by low memory notifications during installation. And the chances of deleting your PWA in search of precious space in this case are noticeably reduced.
Changes made to the release version become available to users immediately after deployment. This way you can deliver new features to your customers instantly and without reminding them about the next update or relying on the “automatic update” checkbox. This is an advantage for those who plan to test various hypotheses and frequently make adjustments to the product.
Increase brand awareness: the company icon or a logo is always visible to the user,
Increase the average transaction bill by upselling products using push notifications,
Stay in touch with the client: send notifications to the customer that the goods have arrived at the pickup point or that the product will be delivered today,
Lower advertising costs: you don’t need to set up remarketing campaigns, all you need to do is send a notification that your customers will definitely notice,
Get rid of competition in search results: your customers contact you through an application that has no competitors, unlike search results.
Generally, PWAs are a great fit for brands whose services are used frequently by their clients. Below we’ve outlined what businesses can use PWAs in their operations and how.
PWAs, compared to websites, have a much shorter user path. Clients can order and reorder service in one click. PWAs also make it possible to analyze how frequently each user orders the services and send them push notifications to remind them in advance, increasing the frequency of purchases.
Using a PWA, customers can order products or book a table in one click. Push notifications with promo codes can encourage users to order more frequently, while discount cards in a form of QR codes within the app can increase customer loyalty.
PWAs make brands and stores easier to find, since customers don’;t have to use online search and instead can click on an app icon, thus shortening the user’s path to a purchase. Customers who add an item to their cart but don’t check out can be encouraged to make a purchase by using notifications with a discount or gift.
PWAs also make it possible for customers to shop for products without an online connection. All relevant data is saved to be sent later when an app is online again.
Using push notifications, you can notify the client about promotions or changes in order status.
PWas can increase how frequently the user visits an online media resource as it eliminates the need to search for it on the net as well as increase engagement due to other online media publications not being shown to the user.
Push notifications can be used to send new publications on topics of interest and advertisement, increasing the platform’s revenue.
Car service companies rely on customer loyalty. PWAs can help increase it by reminding customers what the next car checkup is due, notify them of their car status during repairs, and send promo codes to the regulars.
It’s difficult to call PWA a universal solution fit to solve all problems. A desktop version of your service, a native application – all remains relevant. But a PWA is a great option to complement and expand the way you deliver your services to customers.
PWA is right for you if:
you plan frequent updates to test hypotheses,
you want to get a cross-platform application, but are limited on budget,
you want to quickly create a temporary solution, and later start implementing a native application and conquering app stores.