PWA Ecommerce Development: The Dos and Don'ts of Investing
Struggling to get your customers on mobile to convert? Or perhaps you wish your customers could use your website like an app? Ecommerce PWA might be the needed solution that will help you bridge that gap between web and mobile, drive sales, and improve CX dramatically.
Modern PWAs enable ecommerce companies to use contemporary development methodologies by amalgamating the most advantageous attributes of conventional web design with those inherent to platform-specific applications.
Ecommerce PWA: What makes it worth launching?
As more computing tasks are done through web browsers, the line between online apps and desktop programs is less clear. And PWAs aim to further blur this line.
Basically, PWAs are a specific type of web app that can be built to function as standalone desktop programs.
Launching a PWA doesn't mean having all the beautiful things like scalability and searchability by default, automatically, so you'll want to make sure your development team is doing this right. If you're ready to launch a PWA, you should align with the criteria described below.
So, what is it about PWA that developers have to work so hard to implement?
How to build a good ecommerce PWA?
Superior online performance, characterized by both speed and quality, effectively captivates and sustains user engagement to a greater extent than mediocre performance (fancy that). Prioritizing user-centric metrics should be of utmost importance due to the crucial role that speed plays in fostering user engagement. Why care? Naturally, the sluggish page load times trigger a 123% rise in bounce rates.
Work in any browser
Any screen size
Due to their ability to adapt to various viewport sizes, PWAs enable your customers to consume content seamlessly across different devices, irrespective of the specific device being utilized. The significance of this lies in the fact that your customers may utilize the identical application across devices with differing dimensions. The content should remain consistent regardless of the dimensions of the viewport, although its arrangement may require modification.
Can be installed
When a PWA is installed on a device, it exhibits comparable behavior to other installed applications, as it opens in a separate window and pops up in the device's task manager. The downloading of a company's application as such has been observed to increase the likelihood of their return, as compared to casual browsing. This encompasses an increase in conversion rates, average session durations, and repeat visits.
PWAs should be designed to function without an internet connection. Your customers must have access to various content, like travel itineraries, boarding tickets, media files, social media posts, and news articles. While offline authentication is crucial for security, content accessibility, and modifiability are essential for usability in offline environments. IndexedDB, a NoSQL database, can store and synchronize data in a browser-based manner, supporting asynchronous operations. Service workers can store media elements in a cache, enabling retrieval even with the internet off.
With the majority of visitors to a website, exceeding 50%, being derived from organic search, the discoverability of your PWA can be dramatically improved. The establishment of canonical URLs for content and the indexing of websites by search engines are crucial to enhance their discoverability.
PWA should support various input methods, like a mouse or stylus, ensuring frictionless transitions for users disregarding screen size. For instance, touch functionality should be supported on large viewports, while smaller viewports should prioritize keyboards and mouse input. The progressive web application should accommodate various input methods and enhance user interactions with input-specific functionalities like pull-to-refresh.
PWA for ecommerce: potential perils and pitfalls
What are the concerns when deciding to launch an ecommerce PWA? What are the downfalls and how can you avoid them?
Perception and trust
The perception and trust associated with PWAs continue to be marred by the prevailing notion that they are inferior applications or not even recognized as applications in the first place. Users have become used to the practice of seeking out applications on digital platforms such as Google Play or the App Store, and they may lack familiarity with the notion of directly installing applications from websites. Trust is a significant consideration since consumers have become used to relying on app stores to verify the security of downloaded applications.
The process of installing a PWA on iOS necessitates users accessing the Share panel and then choosing the "Add to Home Screen" option. The procedure is more complex than the installation of a native iOS application. The user experience may be enhanced if Safari were to include support for the beforeInstallPrompt event or modify the language of the prompt to "Install the app."
The essential elements of a PWA manifest, including the icon, name, and splash screens, are not readily modifiable after the PWA has been installed. Although there have been recent advancements in the desktop version of Chrome that enable the modification of application names, enhancing the flexibility in modifying manifest attributes will enhance the competitiveness of PWAs.
Scope management in PWAs may sometimes present challenges due to its counterintuitive nature. The issue of trailing slashes can lead to inconsistencies in the definition of scopes, hence introducing the possibility of mistakes. Furthermore, in the context of iOS, when attempting to access a hyperlink inside the confines of a PWA from an external application, the default behavior is to launch the Safari browser instead of the designated PWA.
Access to device
The issue at hand pertains to the question of whether PWAs should be granted access to native services, such as contacts, calendar, SMS/MMS, and alarms, despite their inherent security advantages stemming from their restricted scope. Enabling PWAs with access to these functionalities may potentially undermine security measures and blur the distinction between PWAs and native applications.
Push notifications on iOS
Push notifications on iOS were not accessible for PWAs until a recent period. As a consequence, developers were unable to depend on push notifications as a means of conveying crucial information to iOS users. Apple has recently declared its intention to provide support for push notifications on iOS devices starting in 2023. However, many consumers have expressed their dissatisfaction with push notification prompts as a result of their exploitation by websites. Consequently, web browsers have included automatic blocking mechanisms for these prompts.
PWAs provide a mobile native-like user experience despite being far lighter - e.g. the size of the BookMyShow PWA is 54x smaller than the Android app and 180x smaller than the iOS app - than native apps. These apps make use of responsive web design and progressive enhancement to adapt their visual style and functionality to the capabilities of the user's device and web browser.
Like native apps, PWAs may be installed via the web browser and shown on the mobile home screen. Push notifications, automatic content refresh, and app-like navigation and interaction are all available with PWAs.
For ecommerce, this means that PWAs allow the creation of seamless digital shopping experiences across different devices and browsers, providing the ease and performance of native mobile apps without the limitations of separate development and distribution.
PWAs empower ecommerce businesses to build more engaging online stores that feel like true apps to customers on any device.
What a PWA is based on
- Service workers technology is critical for PWA rollout. With push notifications, caching, and offline functionality, the UI seems like that of a mobile app.
- The web app manifest is a JSON file that specifies the app's name, icons, and color scheme. With this feature, users can bookmark the PWA.
- For privacy and safety reasons, HTTPS is mandatory.
- It goes without saying that, because of their versatility in responding to various display sizes, responsive websites may be a perfect basis for PWAs.
PWA: how it differs from a native mobile app
Google Play and App Store provide access to native apps developed specifically for their platforms. These applications do not need any intermediary software to access the device's features and APIs.
This is why native applications perform more smoothly and have greater interaction with the operating system.
PWAs are lauded for their ability to be platform-agnostic, work across several platforms and web browsers, and get updates automatically.
Ecommerce PWA: how it differs from a responsive website
While the primary goal of both PWAs and responsive websites is to enhance the user experience, PWAs mimic the features of native mobile apps, such as UI and push notifications. And responsive websites aim to provide a seamless viewing experience across several devices without the need for any additional software.
PWA vs Native Apps vs Responsive Websites
Developing ecommerce PWA from scratch or converting from legacy?
If you currently have an ecommerce website or a native app and are considering launching an ecommerce PWA, you may be wondering if it is better to start from scratch or convert your legacy assets.
Generally speaking, converting a responsive website is the easiest approach. The code is already web-based and optimized for different screen sizes. Converting a native app requires updating existing code to work on the web. Developing ecommerce PWA from scratch provides the finest experience but requires the most work.
Converting from a responsive website
Pros: Reuse existing web content/design, familiar with web standards
Cons: Not optimized for PWA features, may need additional effort to implement
Converting from the native app
Pros: Reuse app logic, frontend
Cons: Needs updates to comply with PWA standards, extra work to support web
Developing PWA from scratch
Pros: Fully customized for PWA standards from the start
Cons: More time/cost involved
PWA: how it differs from other hybrid frameworks
PWA tends to offer a more seamless user experience compared to other hybrid frameworks. For instance, PWA allows offline functionality and can be accessed through a web browser, while some hybrid apps need to be downloaded and installed.
PWA vs Ionic
Ionic is a framework for building hybrid mobile apps. While PWA can run on any device with a compatible browser, Ionic provides a more native-like experience with access to device features.
PWA vs Flutter
Basically, Flutter is a framework for building native mobile apps. Flutter uses Dart programming language. And, while PWA is more suitable for content-focused apps, Flutter is better for complex and visually rich applications.
PWA vs React Native
React Native is an open-source framework for building mobile apps using React. React can also be used to develop the front end of a PWA, providing a responsive and interactive user interface.
Ecommerce platform-based PWA solutions
Magento PWA Studio
PWAs can be built with the help of Magento PWA Studio, which is a suite of tools and libraries created for this purpose. The platform takes advantage of cutting-edge tools like React, Redux, and GraphQL to build responsive and powerful online stores.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud PWA Kit
Salesforce Commerce Cloud Storefront Reference Architecture (SFRA)
Commerce Cloud's Storefront Reference Architecture (SFRA) is another helpful framework for creating PWAs. When building PWAs for the Commerce Cloud, the SFRA framework can provide a solid foundation. Increased adaptability and a wealth of personalization options are just two of the many advantages it offers.
SAP Commerce Spartacus
On the SAP Commerce Cloud, PWAs can be developed with the help of the robust SAP Commerce Spartacus framework. The application's frontend is built on top of Angular, and it communicates with SAP Commerce Cloud's backend services without any noticeable hiccups.
Vue Storefront is an advanced open-source framework made for building scalable and reliable online stores. The Vue.js framework is used to rapidly create PWAs that can adapt to their users' needs and provide a fluid and responsive experience. Push notifications and the ability to browse the web while disconnected are two notable features.
More ecommerce PWA tools to consider
- ScandiPWA: open-source PWA solution specifically designed for the Magento 2 platform.
- Gatsby: static site generator that can be used to create PWAs with React.
- GoPWA: PWA development framework for building scalable and performant PWAs.
Ecommerce PWA success stories
Many companies, including some of the largest in the ecommerce fields, have already found PWA to be rather effective.
The two most crucial metrics, conversion (multiple examples showed conversion rate increases from 27% to over 80%) and engagement (examples included 3x more time on site, higher page views, more products viewed) rates, stably show a remarkable improvement.
However, it isn't the end of PWA's benefits:
- Improved performance – Many reported much faster load times, lower data usage, and reduced bouncing.
- Increased traffic/new customers – Some saw 2x daily users, 50% new customers from PWA.
- Higher revenue – Cases with increased revenue per visit, revenue from traffic up 79%.
- Lower costs – Lower customer acquisition costs, much smaller app sizes than native.
- Offline access – Enabled continuing shopping without an internet connection.
- Push notifications – Push increased re-engagement, click rates, and recovered carts.
- Access across platforms – Unified experience on any device via web technologies.
- Native-like features – Leveraged hardware/OS capabilities normally only in native apps.
Ecommerce PWA development costs
Ecommerce PWA development has comparable development and maintenance expenses to ecommerce website development. Yet, PWAs can run on a wider variety of devices than native applications can, and there is no additional charge for access to hardware or placement in app stores.
PWA gives off the impression of being a very appealing option for ecommerce. However, the challenge of developing a PWA for your online business lies in the finer points. Being a PWA development company, Grinteq is here to help you with every single one of them.