The need for businesses to target customers on mobile devices is well-established at this point. The question is no longer if they should do it but how. A business that wants to appeal to mobile-based customers has three choices: build a responsive website, develop a native app or create a progressive web app (PWA).
What Are Progressive Web Apps?
In its simplest sense, a progressive web app is a mobile app delivered through the web. It functions like a native app, due to the use of an app shell that allows for app-style gestures and navigations. The main difference is that there is no need to download it from an app store. It runs, self-contained, right in a web browser. With the help of service workers, a progressive web app is able to load instantly, even in areas of low connectivity. With the help of pre-caching, the app stays up to date at all times, displaying the most recent version upon launching.
Progressive Web Apps Are Efficient And Economical
PWAs are more efficient than native apps. They work on-demand and are always accessible, without taking up a smartphone’s valuable memory or data. By choosing to use a PWA over a native version of the same application, users consume less data (as is the case for the Twitter PWA). However, this doesn’t mean users need to sacrifice the convenience of a native app. They are still able to save the PWA to their home screen — it’s installable without the hassle of a real download.
This not only highlights the improvement in user experience but also the earlier issue of consumer buy-in. Users must make a conscious decision and even a commitment to download and keep a native app. Uninstalling that app is an equally final decision. In contrast, clicking a simple link is an easy task that requires very little consideration, little data storage on your device, no lengthy download period and no installation.
From a developer perspective, progressive web apps are also more economical. They are faster to build and update. You can also create one version of the app, and it displays seamlessly and identically on all devices. Rather than the segmented market of native mobile apps — where businesses need a separate app structure for Apple and Android devices — PWAs are unified to work on browsers that are common to all devices. Better yet, they cost less to develop than a native mobile app.
Progressive Web Apps Are The Future
When native apps first came to market, people couldn’t get enough of them. It changed the way consumers interact with their mobile devices and with brands. The recent trend, however, shows that people are turning away from apps. According to comScore (via TechCrunch), the majority of consumers download zero apps per month. So in order for a native app to be successful, it needs to be exceptional, which is a tall demand for a business app.
While introduced in 2015, PWAs have gained popularity this year. Google, Apple and Microsoft — the three main standards in terms of native app distribution — are all driving the transition to PWAs. Because of their inherent flexibility, PWAs are the best way to stay ahead of the curve in the mobile industry.
From Twitter to Starbucks, PWAs are proving that any business can make significant gains with this technology. More specifically, Tinder saw load times cut in half compared to its native app. This led to longer session times, more messages sent and more swiping. And with a PWA, users could access Tinder from either mobile or desktop devices, expanding the targetable market.
Users of Pinterest’s PWA spend 40% more time on the site compared to the previous mobile website. Ad revenue rates also increased by 44%, and core engagements shot up 60%. Flipkart saw 60% of customers who had uninstalled their native app return to use the Flipkart PWA. Lancôme saw an 84% decrease in time until the page is interactive, leading to a 17% increase in conversions and a 53% increase in mobile sessions on iOS with their PWA.
Progressive Web Apps Are A Mobile-First Approach
If you’ve been holding off on developing a responsive website or a native mobile app, you are actually at a unique turning point. Many established businesses have already gone through the rigors of building out a (native) mobile experience for their customers. But a good PWA effectively replaces a company’s mobile site, its native app and maybe even it’s desktop site. In other words, it’s a mobile-first approach to connecting with your customers.
If you don’t have an established mobile presence yet, you can simply skip those steps entirely and go directly for a PWA. It will allow you to build out an experience with mobile as it’s starting point. Larger companies that have developed their mobile presence early on will eventually have to migrate their mobile presence to progressive technology.
Dozens of major brands are moving from native apps to PWAs, and it’s easy to see why. Both mobile sites and native apps offer advantages and disadvantages, and PWAs are proving to be the best of both worlds for businesses. Bigger and better things await as this technology continues to develop.