Building on Shopify: Getting Greater Flexibility with PWAs

August 27th 2021
12:53:06 am

Thanks to the natural trajectory of the eCommerce industry, in conjunction with developments like, the customer experience has become a focal point of success.

As a result, retailers need to go the extra mile to stand out in an increasingly cacophonous online retail space.

This is where.

However, for many Shopify users, the potentiality of implementing a progressive web app (PWA) has been impractical or outright impossible. While there are a variety of Shopify apps that have rushed in to fill this void, many have found these to be unsatisfactory.

That said, the reality of PWAs built on Shopify is rapidly becoming a reality for many retailers.

As a result, today, we will cover why PWAs built on Shopify are likely to surge in the coming year(s) and what is driving this transition, as well as the advantages retailers can reap from launching a Shopify-supported progressive web app.

On that note, let’s get started.

PWAs Built on Shopify: Introducing Hydrogen

At, the company made a variety of announcements surrounding investments that have been, or are being, made to the platform to make Shopify an all-around more high-performing eCommerce solution.

For those who don’t want to watch the entire event, Shopify put out a.

Among the myriad of developments, the one that pertains to those interested in the potential of PWAs built on Shopify was something called Hydrogen.

In essence, Hydrogen is a React framework that aims to streamline the process of building custom eCommerce storefronts. As the Shopify Hydrogen landing page states:

“Build custom storefronts faster and easier than ever powered by Shopify. Hydrogen is our recommended approach to building commerce experiences that are both dynamic and incredibly fast. Built on JavaScript and React, Hydrogen provides a quick-start toolkit and set of components, so you can focus on building the fun parts that make your store unique—not the boilerplate.”

This new toolset includes a variety of eCommerce elements that help to simplify the experience of building custom retail storefronts, such as cart, media gallery and variant picker.

Using Shopify Hydrogen, the PWAs built on Shopify become an actual reality, as merchants are enabled to produce fast, dynamic eCommerce websites that can be created from the ground up.

Hydrogen, a React framework tool, allows developers to build custom storefronts alongside Oxygen, a platform to host these sites directly on Shopify.

Oxygen, another part of Shopify’s investment scheme, is an implementation of over 100 regional servers across the world. As a result, sites built using Hydrogen and hosted on Oxygen are poised to load at lightning speeds.

The flexibility provided via the Hydrogen and Oxygen combination gives sellers the ability to store their data on a single platform, thereby making data retrieval simpler, which helps to facilitate better customization and flexibility.

The bottom line here is that Hydrogen simplifies the means of building and hosting custom storefronts and PWAs built on Shopify.

With that being said, let’s go ahead and take just a brief moment to define what a PWA is for those who are newer to the conversation.

What Is a Progressive Web Application?

For the uninitiated, progressive web apps are a type of web application that merges the best features of mobile websites and native apps, helping convert one-time browsers or customers into brand loyalists who will come back to the store more often.

Typically, this is achieved through, as well as the ability to add the store’s icon to a mobile device’s home screen without installing an application.

The fact is that PWAs tend to act much in the same way that native apps do, without the considerable downsides that come with app development and awareness, such as:

  • Cost
  • Time to market
  • Android or iOS exclusivity
  • App store competition
  • Lack of discoverability

It is for these and many other.

Why Build a PWA on Shopify?

A PWA built on Shopify comes with a multitude of advantages.

A Shopify PWA is capable of functioning for customers who do not have internet connectivity for a given period, thereby allowing them to continue shopping the retailer’s product offerings.

Moreover, by utilizing various caching techniques, PWAs achieve extremely fast load times with low data usage.

It is for these types of reasons that many postulate that.

The fact of the matter is that all store owners should be hyper-focused on producing the best possible shopping experience and optimizing store performance.

The introduction of Hydrogen and Oxygen (which ultimately facilitate PWAs built on Shopify) enables retailers to elevate their online performance to new heights.

However, it isn’t merely speed and offline access which enhances the online experience. PWAs allow retailers to interact with consumers via push notifications. This kind of functionality is likely to become increasingly vital in light of.

Because of these kinds of perks brought on by PWA development, merchants tend to generate higher mobile conversion rates. This fact has been shown in.

With that said, let’s go ahead and take a closer look at the perks associated with developing a progressive web application for Shopify stores.

Advantages of PWAs Built on Shopify

As was mentioned earlier, there are a panoply of perks that are attached to launching an eCommerce PWA.

Some of the most notable benefits include:


This is one of the most significant advantages of PWAs built on Shopify.

While many brands opt to develop a native app for their business, doing this relegates the experience to app stores, far away from the throng of search engine users.

This is massively detrimental for eCommerce retailers as shows that:

“In 2019, almost 30 percent of global web traffic was generated via online search usage, showing the vital role these platforms play in directing and navigating user flows to different websites… In the United States, around 53 percent of organic search engine visits are generated via smartphones and tablets, with Google claiming the largest market share among mobile search providers.”

While this is undoubtedly significant, what’s more striking is that reveals that:

“During the measured period, search traffic generated 65 percent of total e-commerce sessions. Overall, 33 percent were generated through organic search traffic and 32 percent were generated through paid search.”

Understanding this, the ability to surface through the SERPs is vital to the success and sustained growth of an eCommerce business.

Fortunately, PWAs built on Shopify enable retailers the search visibility they need to succeed.

No Install Necessary

As touched upon earlier, PWAs enable users to install an icon on their device’s home screen that will take them directly to the merchant’s store, much like a native application. However, with PWAs, there is no need to install anything.

This is a massive benefit given that most people do not want to download yet another application, accepting all of the terms and conditions (which they likely do not read) that go along with the app.

By giving users the ability to quickly access the store without downloading an app, merchants significantly increase the likelihood of from that person.

Offline Mode

Also mentioned earlier is the ability to access a site’s contents via a PWA, even when offline.

The fact is that PWAs built on Shopify can work without an internet connection. The idea here is for consumers to be able to:

  • Revisit a site without a network connection
  • Browse content that has been previously visited at least once
  • Control what users see when there is no connectivity

PWAs achieve these aims through a variety of technologies such as, the Cache API and client-side data storage technologies to store app data offline.

Broad Browser Support

Progressive web apps are not reliant on a single API. Instead, they utilize various technologies to achieve a superior experience.

Service workers are a critical component of PWAs and their output. Fortunately, service workers are supported by all major desktop and mobile browsers.

However, even though PWAs can be developed to provide an outstanding, top-of-the-line user experience to fully capable browsers, they can also provide an acceptable (though lower-quality) experience to browsers that are less capable.

By using practices such as progressive enhancement, PWAs are effectively a cross-browser. For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, progressive enhancement is a design principle that establishes a minimum threshold of critical content and functionality to as broad of an audience as possible while also delivering the best experience attainable to those using the most capable browsers.

Through this practice, retailers can reach as many mobile customers as possible with the best experience possible for their given browser.

Increased Re-Engagement

A foundational component to is to establish ways to re-engage consumers.

As far as PWAs built on Shopify are concerned, retailers have an edge in this arena as progressive web apps can re-engage consumers via updates and new content, even when shoppers are not using the app or looking at their device.

Using technologies like service workers for controlling pages, the for sending updates from a server to a PWA via service workers and the for generating system notifications, retailers can successfully bring shoppers back to their store to check out new things on a continual basis.

Enhanced Safety

PWAs built on Shopify provide a secure delivery mechanism that mitigates spying while simultaneously ensuring that content is tamper-free. However, this assumes that sellers and develop their applications with security in mind.

Additionally, it is easy for consumers to mind their own safety by ensuring that they are adding the correct app to their home screen as they can see the brand’s URL.

This is an entirely different dynamic from apps in app stores, where shoppers could find a variety of similarly-named applications.

Progressive web apps eliminate this kind of confusion and security risk, providing consumers with a safer, more secure shopping experience.

Final Thoughts

Given all of the benefits for PWAs built on Shopify, it is reasonable to anticipate that Hydrogen and Oxygen will lead to a substantial uptick in Shopify-based progressive web apps and eCommerce PWAs overall.

While this development is undoubtedly a good thing for the eCommerce industry at large (as well as online consumers), PWAs built on Shopify will likely lead to a more competitive online retail environment as scores of merchants will suddenly present shoppers with superior mobile experiences.

This means that merchants must be on their toes and ready to push forward into this next iteration of eCommerce.

If your brand is ready to make that push and develop a progressive web app that stuns consumers and stunts the growth of the competition, reach out to.

Our team of award-winning developers and designers can help your company create a progressive web app that is faster, smoother, more flexible and generates a higher ROI than the brand’s current website.