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February 23, 2021 – 12 minute read

Why PWA is the Future of Mobile Commerce

PWA, Thought Leadership

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been covering progressive web apps (PWA) and the many benefits it offers to both site owners and to your customers. If you’re new to the topic, PWA is a new approach to web development that delivers app-like shopping experiences to both mobile and desktop shoppers.

In this post, we want to concentrate on mobile for a very important reason: mobile commerce is the future of commerce, period. The rate of growth is astounding. Insider Intelligence predicts that mobile commerce in the US will top $488 billion, and account for 44% of eCommerce, in 2024.

To be sure, mobile commerce got an extra boost from the pandemic; according to a survey by App Annie, 59% of US adults said they preferred to shop via their mobile phone, a development that isn’t wholly surprising given that consumers sought out contactless shopping for safety reasons. That said, the lockdown orders have certainly forced consumers to change their shopping habits, and as new habits are formed, they’re really difficult to break.

The App Market is Difficult

When most people think about using their mobile devices, they think about engaging with a specific app. But the app market is rife with friction, both for the app developer and the app user.

Let’s say you have an eCommerce store and you want to capture those consumers who prefer to shop via their smartphone. Your first thought may be: let’s build an app. To capture a wide swath of shoppers you’ll actually need to build two apps, one for Androids, and one for iOS. In other words, double your workload.

Once you’ve completed those monumental tasks, you’ll need to submit your apps to the app stores and complete their testing and accepting processes. Next comes the hard part: getting consumers to discover your app, go to an app store, complete the installation process, and then begin to use it.

Every step of this process is hard. First, comScore has been reporting since at least 2016 that the number of people who are willing to install a new app is dwindling. Gone are the days when people installed any old app. In December 2019, the most recent data available, comScore reported that only 33% of mobile phone users said they’d downloaded a new app during the survey period.

So that’s your first hurdle, and it’s a tough one.

Discovery typically includes costly UA campaigns that span multiple channels and come with their own obstacles. For instance, app install abandonment can top 80%. That’s when a consumer clicks on an ad for an app, goes to the app store, begins the install process, and then decides to abandon it for whatever reason. Install abandonment is a shame, especially if you’ve paid an ad network or publisher a hefty price to get that user to an app store.

When you think about it, it’s not at all surprising that users abandon the app install process when they’re in the app store. With 1.96 million apps in The App Store, and 2.87 million in Google Play, distractions abound. And many of your competitors will have invested in app store optimization in order to refocus user attention to their brand.

Okay, let’s assume for a minute that you’ve managed to acquire 100 new users who have completed the install process and now have your app installed on their phones. Are you in the clear? Not according to data compiled by Singular, which show that 36% of consumers will uninstall apps without ever using it. Other data shows that 25% of new apps will be uninstalled within the first 30 days.

This may seem odd to you given that the app economy is booming. What’s driving all the app store downloads we read about? Research shows that new device purchases prompt people to install apps. New store owners install up to 10 new apps to trick out their phones. Online games are the other driver, and account for 700 million downloads.

Put another way, outside of games, consumers are content to stick with their same tried and true apps.

PWA: The Best of Both Worlds

If we know that consumers prefer to shop via their phones, and they’re reluctant to download new apps, how does your brand thrive in the important mobile commerce sector?

Here’s where PWA comes in. PWA lets you offer an app-like experience to all visitors to your mobile websites without the bother of installing an app. It makes use of aggressive caching, service workers that perform vital tasks in the background of the browser and other advances to provide an ultra-fast and seamless experience to mobile web visitors.

If users like your products and your brand, PWA allows them to add your mobile website to their home screen with a click of a button. From that point forward, they’ll have a physical reminder that they love your brand on their home screen, once again without the bother of visiting an app store and installing your app. And if those users go dormant for a spell, PWA lets you send push notifications to re-engage them.

And as we noted in the first post in this series, PWA lets you build your web app once and deploy it anywhere: desktop, mobile, iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and so on. It’s also highly responsive to all screen sizes, ensuring that all visitors can easily navigate your site.

In short, PWA answers all the challenges that have hindered mobile commerce — clunky mobile websites, the consumer’s hesitance to install new apps, the high cost of UA campaigns — and will ensure its continued growth in the years to come.

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