Many are unaware, but there is currently a debate raging among eCommerce retailers and web developers.
The argument: Developing a PWA vs. a native app.
For those who are new to the idea of, it might come as a surprise to those folks that progressive web applications are all over the place. In fact, most people have likely used one, not knowing that they were interacting with a PWA.
For instance, those who have read a Washington Post article on their smartphone have used a PWA. For those who have sent a tweet on their mobile device, that was a PWA. Called an Uber? PWA.
The list goes on and on.
The reality is that there are tons of benefits to employing a PWA. As a result, many who are wrapped up in the PWA vs. native app conversion have come to wonder:
Is a PWA better than a native app?
That is what this piece seeks to answer.
However, before that question can be addressed in any sort of meaningful way, it is first necessary to take a look at native apps and PWAs and compare the two.
On that note, let’s get started.
What Is a Native Application?
At the risk of being overly simplistic, a native application is a mobile app that can be downloaded from an app store such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
That said, it is possible to download native apps from a variety of sources across the internet as well.
What makes a native application truly fall into this category is the programming language that is used to build the app. For iOS applications, the language utilized is Swift or Objective-C. For those within the Android ecosystem, Kotlin or Java is used.
However, it is important to note that there are also cross-platform frameworks such as. These frameworks enable developers to work with the same code base and ship mobile products to popular app stores.
What Is a Progressive Web Application (PWA)?
Those who have ever used or Twitter Lite have likely unknowingly downloaded a PWA from Google Play.
While progressive web application technology was developed over a decade ago, PWAs are still relatively new to the eCommerce arena, only seeing an uptick in adoption in recent years.
At first glance, PWAs appear to be indistinguishable from regular web applications. This is part of what gives PWAs their appeal.
However, despite the recent swell in popularity, progressive web apps have yet to dominate the mobile market or even just the eCommerce industry. Nonetheless, many still regard.
As far as what a PWA is, progressive web apps aim to appear and act exactly like their native counterparts. PWAs work in full-screen mode to enhance the user experience and can be installed on the home screen of devices and can even leverage device-specific features like notifications, location information, cameras and the like.
PWAs vs. Native Apps
The fact is that while native apps and PWAs seem indistinguishable in many ways, there are considerable differences between the two technologies.
For instance, while native applications can be found in app stores and in various locations across the web, the experience of native apps is inaccessible unless the app is downloaded. Alternatively, PWAs can be reached from Google.
This small example has many implications for eCommerce retailers and their business operations. For instance, would retailers be able to justify the development costs of a native application when?
On the flip side of that thought, would the brand benefit more from having an app-like experience that is capable of being accessed through Google and other search engines?
Alternatively, if merchants are looking to produce an experience that leverages the more advanced features of a smartphone, then a native app might be the way to go. However, this isn’t to say that PWAs are incapable of utilizing device-specific features. Therefore, it really depends on what a seller is aiming to achieve with their shopping experience.
These are the kinds of questions and considerations that merchants often ask themselves and ponder. Quite often, the type of conclusions that they come to is precisely what drives retailers to continue choosing PWAs over native applications.
On that note, let’s take a look at the advantages of developing a PWA.
12 Benefits of Implementing a Progressive Web Application
Without a doubt, there are a multitude of benefits to retailers developing and launching a PWA for their online operations.
This is true no matter if merchants are comparing PWAs to traditional websites or native applications.
Some of the many perks that come with wielding a PWA include:
1. Can Be Optimized for Search
While it is true that apps can be optimized for visibility in app stores (a process known as or ASO), the fact of the matter is that this is only applicable to app stores.
Ultimately, what this means is that this type of optimization is only applicable when a consumer is searching in a dedicated app store, an action that is much less frequent than utilizing ubiquitous search engines like Google.
However, just like a traditional website, progressive web applications can not only surface through conventional means of search, but they can also be optimized to rank higher within such engines.
This is critical given that. This is a massive audience that retailers don’t want to neglect by blocking off a large portion of their mobile experience behind the walled garden of an app store.
Since progressive web apps have URLs like a traditional website, their pages can be easily indexed and optimized for search engine visibility.
2. Reduced Development Costs
One of the best aspects of progressive web applications is that only a single one is needed for all devices.
Compare that to native applications, which require a dedicated app for Android and iOS, as well as a responsive website accessible via search engines, and it is clear which development route is the more costly of the two.
Therefore, PWAs provide retailers with a unique opportunity to serve all channels from a single platform, one that can be built, maintained and serviced by one team.
Additionally, on top of reduced development costs, the need for multiple apps and a website significantly increases the time to market. However, through, retailers can truncate that timeline and begin recouping their investment costs sooner.
3. App-Like Experiences
Part of the beauty of PWAs is that they are going to feel as if they were built for a given user’s device, no matter the device type they elect to utilize.
Thanks to the app-like experiences put forth by PWAs, consumers are likely to find engaging with these apps smooth and enjoyable.
Like native applications, PWAs are:
- Responsive: Capable of fitting any screen size or shape
- Secure: Served over HTTPS to mitigate hacking
- Capable of being installed: Can be added to mobile home screens
- Easy to navigate: A shell and content application model help to generate app-like navigation and interactions
However, while consumers can install PWAs if they so choose, they are not required to download to use the app, which leads us to our next benefit.
4. No Installation Necessary
One of the big wins for PWAs in the PWA vs. native app discussion is that (as mentioned earlier) it is not necessary to install a progressive web app. Thus, consumers need not visit an app store either.
This is a massive benefit for progressive web app usage, particularly when one considers that.
5. Elevated Conversion Rates
It has been shown time and again through a multitude of case studies and whitepapers that PWAs when compared to the performance of traditional websites.
However, the same can be said for the PWA vs. native app dichotomy. As was just mentioned, the vast majority of shoppers do not want to download an app to complete a transaction.
Therefore, brands that push their mobile app in this manner are losing out on sales. Alternatively, PWAs can be accessed through the web or downloaded to a phone but do not require installation, thereby removing potential barriers to purchase.
6. No Manual Maintenance
When an app rolls out an update that implements new features, fixes bugs and the like, consumers must update the version of the app on their phone to receive these upgrades.
However, with progressive web applications, no such manual action is required as everything is handled automatically and seamlessly.
That said, consumers are not the only ones who benefit from this type of uninterrupted experience. On the merchant’s end of things, company reps are likely to receive fewer customer support requests from users who are using an outdated version of a native app.
7. Offline Mode
Unlike native apps, progressive web applications can be accessed when networks are unreliable or completely inaccessible.
This is achieved by employing a combination of technologies such as service workers to control page requests and the Cache API for storing responses to network requests offline, as well as client-side data storage technologies to store app data offline.
This is a massive perk for merchants as offline mode enables consumers to browse product catalogs even when they are not connected to the internet, thereby boosting engagement rates and creating a.
8. Low on Data
In emerging markets around the world, such as India, mobile data is much more expensive than it is in developed countries like the United States.
PWAs can be useful in catering to these audiences as they are much smaller than native applications, thereby requiring significantly less bandwidth as they leverage caching technologies.
For example, Tinder’s progressive web app is a mere 2.8 MB. Compare that to its Android application, which is 30 MB in size, and the benefit of a PWA implementation becomes clear.
9. App Store Independent
There is an untold number of applications available through app stores. Most of them never see the light of day.
The fact is that it takes a supreme marketing strategy to generate awareness and get people to download an app.
Fortunately, PWAs are app store independent, meaning that they are not relegated to such locations and can be accessed via traditional means of search.
This is excellent news for small retailers and independent app developers who are not interested in paying fees to Apple or Google just to get their app published. Moreover, this also means that merchants can create any kind of experience they wish without being shackled by app store policies and restrictions.
10. Higher Reengagement Rates
Much like improved conversion rates, PWAs have shown numerous times to produce higher levels of re-engagement. There are a few reasons as to why PWAs are so effective at.
First, since PWAs can be added to a consumer’s home screen, this helps to keep the business top of mind and aids in bringing users back to the site more frequently.
Second, since progressive web apps can be updated in a seamless fashion using service workers and technologies like the Web Push API, merchants can update shopping experiences, web pages, content and the like quickly and easily, thereby giving consumers new blogs, products and other things to browse with each subsequent visit.
11. Excellent Safety
PWAs provide a secure delivery mechanism for content as all pages.
Additionally, it is also easier for users to verify that they are installing the correct app on their home screen as a PWA’s URL will match the site’s domain.
This is quite different from applications in app stores, which can have a variety of similarly-named apps, thereby potentially creating a confusing and unsafe experience.
12. Enhanced Customer Experiences
Finally, as a culmination of all of the previously mentioned benefits to progressive web apps, PWAs go a long way in.
In fact, this is even true by Google’s standards as mentioned that for PWAs to improve customer experiences, they must be reliable, fast, and engaging.
When one takes all of the benefits listed here into account, progressive web apps live up to those standards, thereby giving shoppers access to a premier mobile shopping experience.
In many ways, the PWA vs. native app debate is over.
The reality of the situation is that PWAs are rapidly becoming an industry standard and thereby helping to usher in.
Thanks to the many benefits provided by progressive web applications, retailers can significantly enhance their shopping experience for consumers, which will ultimately serve to elevate awareness, traffic, sales, and overall customer satisfaction.
If your brand is ready to throw its hat into the PWA arena, reach out to.
Our award-winning team of web developers can help your company map out an engaging PWA experience that is sure to wow shoppers and produce a significant return on investment.