A guide to progressive web applications (PWA apps)

August 15, 2022

In the evolution of ecommerce, key moments stand out: the birth of teleshopping in the 70s, a pensioner becoming the world’s first home shopper in the 80s, and the invention of the world wide web in the 90s. Recent years have given us the rise of mobile commerce, social buying, and Amazon.

All of these developments go hand in hand with the advancement of global tech, and more specifically the internet. As more people move online, buy smartphones, or access high-speed internet connections, ecommerce’s evolution accelerates.

And here we meet progressive web applications (PWAs).

Since Google coined the term in 2015, PWAs have started to redefine app development. Their use is also growing, with data revealing that desktop PWA installations increased by 270% in just one year and experts predicting that their market value will top €10bn by 2027.

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Despite this growth, data shows that around a quarter of ecommerce businesses are still unsure about progressive web applications and how to utilise them effectively. So, in this article we’ll take a deep dive into PWAs, exploring what they are, how firms are developing and using them, and the benefits they can provide to your business.

What are progressive web applications?

A progressive web app is a type of web application delivered using the internet. Think of them as websites that act similarly to native apps (which are developed for use on a particular platform or device). They use web technologies, or the tools and languages devices use to communicate with each other, to function. In doing so, PWAs can be optimised for any device, work on all major browsers, and even function offline. They can be accessed through a browser and don’t require users to visit an app store or download software to use them.

For an app to be recognised as a PWA, it should be:

  • Progressive: As they are built with progressive enhancement at their core, PWAs can work on any device and utilise features on the user’s device and browser.
  • Discoverable: You can find the app through search engines.
  • Installable: You can install it on a device’s home screen or app launcher.
  • Linkable: You can share it using only a URL.
  • Connectivity independent: It can work offline or with a poor-quality internet connection.
  • Re-engageable: It can be used to send push notifications.
  • Responsive: You can use it on any device with a screen and browser.

PWA benefits

Reliability

They load instantly, regardless of whether you have a strong internet connection. In doing so, PWAs can deliver a quick, reliable user experience. They also take up less storage space than native apps.

No installation required

Users don’t need to install a PWA via an app store. Instead, they can open a PWA directly via a URL or save it to their home screen for almost instant access. This decreases friction, makes them simple to launch, and increases retention rates.

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Fast load times

By using web technologies like data caches, PWAs can offer fast page load speeds. This helps to improve the user experience and retention rates. They also work offline or with a poor-quality internet connection.

Can work on any device

PWAs are designed to work for any user, regardless of their device. They can fit any screen size, and users get the same experience even if they use them across different devices.

Combines the best of web and app

By combining the best web and app features, PWAs deliver a better experience for users and businesses. They can use the features of the browser and the device on which they are used, including push notifications, cameras, and GPS. They are discoverable by search engines, which can also help with SEO.

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Less expensive and time-consuming to develop

To develop a native app, you often have to build one for both Android and Apple’s iOS. But PWAs allow businesses to only develop one app that works on all devices. This helps reduce costs and the time that’s taken to create an app for all platforms.

Automatic updates

Unlike native apps, PWAs can update automatically. Users don’t need to be notified or agree to an update before it is made. This ensures that they are always using the most up-to-date version.

Push notifications

PWAs allow the operator to send push notifications to users. This can help businesses market to app users or send important updates directly to their most-used devices.

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Enhanced security

PWAs use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to safely store data, eliminating the risk of security breaches and other illegal activities.

Progressive web application examples

Many global brands have seen significant results since launching PWAs, including Twitter, Clipchamp, Pinterest, and Forbes. Some other notable PWA examples include:

Roeckl

Mollie customer and German luxury accessories brand Roeckl was established in 1839. They traditionally used point-of-sale methods when selling but realised they needed to adapt to meet the changing needs of consumers moving online. By developing a Magento 2 PWA, they boosted orders by almost 200%, increased users by 150%, and lowered their bounce rate by 35%.

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Flipkart

India’s largest ecommerce site increased conversions by 70% after combining their web presence and native app into a PWA. It also helped more than triple the average time a user spent on their site and led to a 40% higher re-engagement rate.

Lancôme

To drive traffic and re-engagement, luxury cosmetics brand Lancôme used PWA technology to deliver a fast, app-like experience on mobile devices. In doing so, they increased conversions by 17%, saw a 53% increase in mobile sessions on iOS, and an 8% increase in conversion rates on recovered carts via push notifications.

PWA application development

PWA app development is done using a website toolkit, usually HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, or WebAssembly. These technologies are available on almost all platforms, which means that code can be written once and work across multiple devices and software environments.

This is a more straightforward process than developing native apps, which usually have to be written by developers in ecosystem-specific programming languages (such as Kotlin for Android or Objective-C for iOS).

PWAs in ecommerce

PWAs can be an excellent tool for any ecommerce business: they offer remarkable user experiences, high retention rates, and all the functionalities of a native app to anyone with an internet connection. They’re also generally cheaper, quicker, and easier to develop than native mobile apps and mean that you don’t have to use different tech stacks for your mobile and desktop sites – with PWAs, you have one single code base for all your channels.

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Using a PWA also makes it easier to engage users with your brand – especially if they have your app on their home screen, you can use push notifications for marketing and updates, and use them to deliver a seamless checkout flow. As ecommerce evolves, PWAs look likely to become a key component of how businesses offer remarkable customer experiences and drive growth.

Effortless PWA payments with Mollie

Want to offer customers a seamless checkout experience and all the payment methods they need? Or wondering about adding payments to your store’s PWA (or future app)? Here at Mollie, we offer an effortless payments solution that helps you accept multiple payment methods, offer customers a conversion-optimised checkout, and access a range of features and other benefits to simplify payments and drive growth.

Taking an API-first approach, we also make it easy to implement Mollie payments in PWAs. We offer a plugin for Magento 2 PWAs, regardless of the technology you use to develop your app. We’re also launching a plugin for Shopware 6, and already offer integrations with ScandiPWA (a frontend for Magento 2) and commercetools. Integrations for more frameworks, including Vue Storefront and Shopware PWA, are coming soon.

Interested in growing your business with effortless payments? Find out more about payments with Mollie, or sign up to start exploring our product with no lock-in contract or start-up fees.