A marketer's guide to progressive web apps

A marketer's guide to progressive web apps

If you’ve picked up on the buzz about progressive web apps but you’re not clear on how they could actually benefit your business, look no further. We’re joining the dots between the technical ‘wow’ factor of this new standard and the real-world pros and cons for marketing professionals.

What is a PWA, in layman’s terms?
A PWA (progressive web app) is an app that lives on a website, instead of in the storage of your smartphone or other device. It’s browser based, but unlike the average www, it can deliver push notifications and in some cases work offline like an app can. It’s speedier and less data-hungry than a ‘normal’ website.

Where did PWAs come from?
The PWA phenomenon began in 2015, according to Google, when it popped up as a solution for emerging markets with limited connectivity and slow network speeds. PWAs were faster and less signal-dependent than traditional websites. The standard was appealing to global marketers thanks to its speed, convenience and the richness of the experience it delivers.

Who is using them?
Twitter was an early adopter. Its Twitter Lite PWA launched in April 2017 in response to obstacles like slow connections, costly data and lack of on-device storage that the company felt were holding back the user experience.

Few services are as time - and location- dependent as Uber, so a PWA was a natural step for the company, freeing up users from signal black spots and slow connections that prevented ordering a cab wherever, whenever. Reportedly, the Uber PWA loads in 3 seconds on a 2G connection.

Tinder’s PWA does away with the awkwardness of having a dating app icon parked for all to see on your phone’s home screen. But it still gives you a push notification when you get a match or a message. It’s also a mere 2.8MB on first install, compared to the traditional app’s 30MB size.

Which business sectors need PWAs right now?
According to a 2018 report, ecommerce is one sector where a lot of PWA adoption is happening. Businesses are looking to smooth the mobile experience for shoppers out and about and make conversions as effortless as possible.

Speaking generally, a PWA is best suited to a business that has a lot of content that must be loaded and re-loaded on a regular basis (like some of those ecommerce platforms with their vast inventories), and that could be negatively impacted by limited data or poor signal – i.e. one where users are accessing content via a smartphone or mobile network.

Are traditional apps dead now?
Not at all. The PWA and the native app can work hand in hand, with the PWA providing a high-quality app-style experience to new customers or casual visitors, while the native app caters to established users. It can act as a stepping stone between the ease of web and the commitment of a native app. So in a way, it could actually be supporting, rather than cannibalising, its native cousin.

Does this make responsive web design obsolete?
In a word, no. The two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. Responsive design is about making a site work well and look good on any device. PWAs work on web browsers, which are device-agnostic, and although it’s making the most noise on mobile at the moment, the PWA standard can be (and is being) applied to desktop too.

Why should I invest in PWAs?
You’re essentially keeping up with the pace of change by investing in PWAs. A move in this direction will give you a leg up on the HTTPS exodus which has been simmering ever since Google announced it as a ranking signal in 2014. The big G has not been shy about nudging HTTP towards the chopping block, and where Google leads, others will follow.

You’ll be delivering faster, smoother experiences for your end-users and providing an appealing alternative to the inconvenience of downloading an app and using space on a mobile device to accommodate it.

It’s important to note here that deciding to invest in a PWA is only one part of the process. You’ll need a robust and powerful content management system in order to make the most of your newly built application. While many CMS’s will support PWA’s, finding one with suitable security – as well as flexibility – is paramount. We weren’t happy with the current CMS solutions out there, so we went and built our own one – the root. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Do customers expect PWAs?
They might not know it by name, but the features of the PWA dovetail with some known consumer drivers around cost and convenience.

Customers, particularly mobile customers, expect fast loading speeds. And that’s something PWAs can certainly deliver.

They’re also conscious of the limited availability of mobile data – so much so that many of us are hoarding it and paying for more than we use. The popularity of data-free deals like 3’s Go Binge illustrate the appeal of being free from the worry of a limited data allowance. Again, being a cheap data-date is one of PWA’s strong suits.

Finally, they benefit from convenience. No need to download a bulky app. No need to feel a moment’s angst over granting app permissions to unknown developers. And no need to deal with distracting updates and versioning issues that break functionality.

Looking for guidance on emerging technology for marketers?

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