Does Your Ecommerce Store Need a Progressive Web App?

Mobile devices make up just over half of all e-commerce traffic … but they’re less than half as likely to convert.

Progressive web applications (PWAs) may change this trend. Notably, several e-commerce giants can thank PWAs for double-digit improvements in conversion rates. Trivago saw a 97% increase in clickouts to hotel offers, (part of ASDA Walmart) enjoyed a 31% increase in mobile conversions, and Alibaba saw a 76% increase in conversions after upgrading their site to a PWA — all improvements that would elicit massive cheers in any e-commerce company’s boardroom.

Wondering if your e-commerce store should get in on the action? In this blog you’ll find the answers to questions like:

  • What is a progressive web application?
  • What are the advantages of PWAs over native apps?
  • Where do PWAs fall short, compared to native apps?
  • Which option is best for your e-commerce business?

Let’s dive in!

What Is a Progressive Web App?

A PWA is a web application (or “app”) that looks and performs like a native app, using the latest and most powerful web capabilities.

First, let’s explore the difference between a web app and a native app:

  • Web apps are any computer program that uses a web browser as its client. Web apps are designed to allow the user to perform specific actions; Google Docs and Trello are two well-known examples. In a web app, the navigation and user experience act more like a native application than a website, but unlike a native app, a web app doesn’t need to be downloaded, installed, or updated – it’s accessed via the user’s web browser.
  • Native apps (or mobile apps) are developed solely for mobile devices, and they live and run on those devices. For this reason, they can take advantage of specific device features and resources, such as the GPS and camera function. In addition, many native apps do not require internet access, making them a great option for things like productivity services or gaming.

PWAs provide the best of both worlds, offering the one-size-fits-all ease of a web app alongside a true native app experience, including capabilities such as the option to appear on a device’s home screen or send push notifications.

The developers at Google have coined an acronym — “FIRE” — to sum up a PWA’s ideal attributes: Fast, Integrated, Reliable, and Engaging. The PWA should load instantly, respond quickly to user interactions, integrate smoothly into the mobile experience, and provide an immersive user experience.

The team at Mozilla has identified 8 ideal characteristics of a PWA:

  • Discoverable, so the contents can be found through search engines.
  • Installable, so it’s available on the device’s home screen.
  • Linkable, so you can share it by simply sending a URL.
  • Network independent, so it works offline or with a poor network connection.
  • Progressive, so it’s still usable on a basic level on older browsers, but fully-functional on the latest ones.
  • Re-engageable, so it’s able to send notifications whenever there’s new content available.
  • Responsive, so it’s usable on any device with a screen and a browser — mobile phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, fridges, etc.
  • Safe, so the connection between you and the app is secured against any third parties trying to get access to your sensitive data.

These characteristics have led to some noteworthy performance for e-commerce businesses. Google’s case studies on progressive web apps reveal a 52% average increase in conversions.

Advantages of Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps have an edge over native apps in several important categories:

  • Easy development: PWAs are cheaper, faster and easier to develop than native apps. Businesses balking at the cost and time to build and maintain a website, an Android app, and an iOS app may leap at the chance to only have to manage one PWA.
  • Indexable: They have indexable and shareable URLs, and because everything in the PWA is web-based, it’s all discoverable by search engines. Plus, the fast loading times and high engagement rates are catnip to Google’s search algorithm.
  • Engaging: PWAs offer a native app-like experience and is even accessed in the same way as native apps, making it much easier for consumers to browse and buy.
  • Performance: They load and respond instantly, which is a major advantage considering that 53% of online shoppers would leave a website that fails to load within three seconds. Even with poor network conditions, PWAs work reliably.
  • Better adoption rates: Users don’t need to download anything to use PWAs, greatly reducing friction and improving adoption.
  • Automatic updates: Updates for PWAs are done automatically, negating the need for the end-user to update an app.
  • Independent of app stores: You can launch PWAs on your own, without a third-party review from app stores.

Disadvantages of Progressive Web Apps

While PWAs carry a wide range of advantages, they do lack some important features found on native apps, particularly for iOS devices.

  • No iOS push notifications: Push notifications can be a powerful tool in the battle against cart abandonment. PWA push notifications are available only to Android users, which is unfortunate, as iPhone users spend almost three times as much as Android users when visiting an e-commerce site.
  • No easy iOS install: Installing a PWA for iOS users is one of the biggest challenges, according to There’s no invitation via a web app banner to the app store. So, the user has to manage to navigate to the PWA URL, then manually press the Share icon and then “Add to Home Screen.”
  • Limited data-storage: When iOS users do install a PWA on their home-screen, offline data is stored for just two weeks. After that, the cache is cleared.
  • Limited features: iOS users miss out on not only push notifications, but also important features for some e-commerce store owners rely on, like Siri integration and geo-fencing. Additionally, if your e-commerce store offers advanced technology like augmented reality, only native apps can truly showcase these features.
  • No consumer data: PWAs typically cannot access consumer data such as contacts and social profiles.

Native App Versus Progressive Web App: What’s Your Best Option?

When choosing between a native app and a progressive web app, the best option is the one that fits your business’s unique needs.

If budget allows, it’s hard to beat the sheer performance and user experience of a native app, especially if the lion’s share of your target market uses iOS.

On the other hand, a PWA can offer a lightning-fast and budget-friendly option that can also help a growing e-commerce business improve its search engine rankings.

In either case, e-commerce businesses can no longer afford to rely solely on a website, no matter how well it performs. To improve conversions and reduce friction, companies must offer consumers a convenient and top-of-mind option that makes it as easy and pleasant as possible for them to browse, add to cart, and buy – not just once, but every time.

Can’t decide? Get in touch with Mobomo today. We’re here to help!