Progressive Web Apps have been gaining a lot of steam recently – and there are good reasons for that. They offer many business benefits over traditional native and hybrid apps. They are platform-agnostic, fast, easy to maintain, and really good at driving user engagement through native notifications. But still, from a purely business perspective, the most compelling allure of PWAs is the lower cost of development.
PWAs are cheaper to develop than native apps, especially if there is a need to create multiple versions for different mobile platforms like iOS or Android. In the case of each native app, you will have to learn the language and build a version for each platform independently. Since native apps are generally built in Java or Kotlin (Android) or Objective-C or Swift (iOS), this entails hiring more talent – people with different skill sets and specializing in those respective technologies.
Progressive web apps reduce the development process to a single application that works across platforms. They also don't need to worry about distributing binaries and maintaining backward compatibility in their service APIs as there is only one version of the application. In this way, the development process is not duplicated for each platform and takes much less money and time. How much exactly? Building a native app will generally cost $40-80 thousand when outsourced to an agency.
Because PWAs are faster to develop, they are also easier to update. This also means lower costs over time. Building and maintaining PWAs requires the management of one single codebase. This simplifies the whole process and reduces the cost associated with updates, which are done automatically – PWAs are connected to the eCommerce backend.
Native and hybrid applications need centralized app stores to install on users’ mobile phones and tablets. Selling native apps through the store entails a commission of up to 30% – a rather high markup, especially for small e-commerce startups. Marketplaces wield control over the publishing process, which makes it difficult to plan new releases or promotions in the store.
On top of that, the store itself is an intermediary step that, for many users, may be an unnecessary obstacle. With PWAs, users can install the application the moment they find it on the web – without the need to go to the store first. This makes sense especially for e-commerce websites, where you want to offer the user a frictionless journey towards conversion. Because PWAs offer easy installation – they install in no time, so the users can immediately start using your app after visiting your website.
Competing with other apps in the app store is almost impossible for new publishers, given that users either need to find your application among dozens (if not hundreds) of other similar apps which, on the face of it, differ only by the name and the icon. Reaching in the top 20 or so apps in a given app store category is no mean feat.
Apps developed using PWA technology are not only cheaper to produce – this is only the initial, most evident advantage. Additionally, long-time savings come in as a by-product: higher conversion rates, lower bounce rates, better click-through, etc. These benefits are not just pies in the sky – there is actual data from the big players to support it:
Google worked with AliExpress to develop its progressive web app strategy and boost its mobile web presence. With Progressive Web Apps, the Asian e-commerce giant reported a 104% conversion boost for new users against their traditional website and mobile apps.
Google found that users are generally more likely to install a Progressive Web App – they react to prompts to Install an app 500%-600% more often than in the case of native app install banners.
Twitter lite, which is a PWA version of the full, native app, loads in under 3 seconds for repeat visits (even on slow networks). As a result, Twitter reported a 65% increase in pages per session, 75% in Tweets, and a 20% decrease in bounce rate.
Forbes’ PWA version resulted in a 2× increase in average session length, 6× completion rate, 20% more impressions, and a 43% increase in sessions per user. On top of that, ad viewability increased by 20%, and there was 100% more engagement. Forbes’ PWA site loads in 2.5 seconds on mobile against 6.5 seconds for the regular version of the site.
For a comprehensive list of success stories with PWA development, go to this site.
PWAs may still come with some limitations but are by far the best solution for most e-commerce applications. As long as the apps cost a fraction of the development of a native application and offer users the speed and silky-smooth experience, they cannot be ignored as a viable development option.