Are PWAs the future for Magento Customers?

This is an exciting time to be working in the web development space. The adoption of various new technologies over the past several years has led to improvements in how companies and organizations attract, engage and ultimately convert their customers online.  The seamless customer experience across all devices has set the stage for the status quo.  Appealing to mobile based customers is no longer an option but a necessity if the organization wants to stay competitive, however, the options for mobile-based solutions isn’t as clear.  Businesses have the choice to create a responsive site, develop a native app or create a PWA (progressive web app).  There are some drawbacks to the first two options which is why PWA’s have become a hot trend over the past two years.

Today about 90% of shopping sites are responsive design – meaning they use fluid layout techniques for use on a variety of devices including; desktop, mobile and phone and utilize one URL for SEO.  Although mobile websites are quick and easy to get to – they often fall short of the user experience.   On the flip side, native apps provide the finest in user experience but fall short as they may be limited to certain devices and overall adoption may be low.  Over the past few years, as web browser capabilities have increased so has the trend of PWA’s.  PWA’s aren’t new technology but rather an enhancement on existing technology with the benefit of combining the best elements of mobile sites and native apps while mitigating their disadvantages.

So you may be asking – are PWA’s right for my business?  I already have responsive design!  I’ll try to tackle this from a few different perspectives:  the developer, the end-user(customer) and the Marketing Strategist.

From a developer standpoint, PWA’s are easier to build and develop and cost less than a native app.  Native apps require a segmented market with a need to separate app structure for Apple and Android devices, PWA’s are combined to work on browsers that are common on all devices.   For Magento developers, the release of Magento 2.3.0 will include PWA studio which will bring a new PWA reference store theme.  This is a new front-end development toolchain based on research and collaboration with Google.  Modern technologies include React, Redus, Webpack, GraphQL and others.

From a consumer perspective – things just got a lot easier.  PWA’s work on demand and always accessible without taking up smartphone data or valuable memory.  No longer is there the decision to have to “buy in” to the native app.  For PWA’s – you simply click a link.  This requires no decisions, no data and no commitments.  Most notable, users can still save the PWA to their home screen (without the hassle of a real download).  Customers can expect a significant performance bump, including recent metrics where there has been nearly 50% faster pages and 50% increase in mobile conversion for several high profile Magento customers.

From the Marketing Strategist perspective who has likely done research on whether a native app would benefit their business – they likely realize that getting someone to download their app is difficult and time consuming.  The app must be sensational.   The Magento PWA studio will include several new experiences, including; offline support, push notifications and payments.

So, what does this all mean?  Well, ultimately it depends on where the business is with native apps and the web presence today, along with how your customers interact with your brand.  You likely already have a web presence and perhaps native apps – both of which should be in constant progression.   The need to understand your customer where, what and how they may search for your app is important to understand.   Since PWA’s aren’t in an App store (and if your customers are used to finding apps that way vs. going directly to a site) they may be confused.

Another important note is that although PWA’s have come a long way – there still may be a few things that make more sense for a native app, namely, if you require mobile payments, access to contact/calendar to your app or geofencing.   In the end, some of the largest technology companies including; Google, Apple and Microsoft have been migrating their native apps to PWA’s and have seen tremendous results.

Need help deciding whether a PWA or native app is right for your business?  Give Alpine a call!


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