A progressive web app is what your fashion eCommerce needs

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Try to remember the last time you had a poor mobile shopping experience while looking for a new pair of shoes, clothing, or accessories. Did it take ages to load product pages? Did you keep losing your internet connection, which made it impossible to browse products? Or maybe the whole experience was so bad overall that you abandoned your cart even though you had a few items in it. If you run a fashion business that relies heavily on a native mobile app, you should know that your customers might have to deal with similar problems

Do you know the root cause of these problems? Globally, the traffic on mobile devices is continually growing, and it’s actually bigger than desktop traffic. That doesn’t change the fact that there’s a long way to go before mobile conversions catch up with their desktop counterpart. 

That’s because most online stores still haven’t taken the mobile-first approach and are geared primarily to desktop buyers. Even if a fashion business has its native mobile app, it poses a different set of challenges that keep conversion rates relatively low. 

If you feel like your fashion business is missing out on sales because your mobile website or app isn’t up to date with the most modern standards, you, or more importantly, your customers, will like the idea of a progressive web app (PWA)

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What’s a PWA?

A PWA is a web app that runs in a browser but behaves like a native app. Imagine if all native apps on your phone worked and looked in the same way in your mobile browser. PWAs are written in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, so technically, they function as websites in your browsers, but they look and feel like native mobile apps. 

Even though it was Steve Jobs who first presented the concept of PWAs during the introduction of the new iPhone in 2017, it wasn’t until 2015 that Google brought the idea to life. A web app that is progressive fulfills Google’s requirements that label a given PWA reliable, quick, and engaging. 

When is a PWA reliable?

Imagine a customer on their way home on a train browsing your store’s inventory on their phone. They’re already tired after work, so the last thing they want is to get frustrated while buying those trousers or shoes from your online shop. If they use your native app or a traditional mobile website and lose internet connection, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll abandon their shopping cart. 

Wouldn’t it be great if your customers could browse your fashion eCommerce website even with unstable or no internet at all? That’s what a reliable PWA means. A PWA is independent from an internet connection, so even if a customer loses their connection, the app works as if they were still online. A customer remains engaged, and the probability of making their way to check out increases significantly.

When is a PWA quick?

A wise man once told me that no internet is better than slow internet. We can all agree that pages taking more than a couple of seconds to load are infuriating. The customer I mentioned above that would abandon their shopping cart if they lost internet connection would bounce off your website even quicker if your native app was sluggish. In fact, every second of delay causes the loss of a client. A PWA solves this problem for your fashion business. It guarantees speed and efficiency because it only needs to be loaded once.

When is a PWA engaging?

If you run a fashion business and are up to speed with the latest trends, you’ve probably heard about virtual try-ons. If it’s the first time you’re reading about them, they involve augmented reality (AR) or, simply speaking, using your phone’s camera to show you how those designer glasses or a shirt look on you. 

You have to allow an app to use your camera, microphone, or any other of your device’s features before you begin this type of activity. A PWA will enable you to do that from your browser, so you don’t have to download a native app. 

However, the true meaning of an engaging PWA is that your customers can pin it to their home screens and come back to shop at your fashion store anytime, just as they would with a native app. The best part? You can send push notifications that’ll nudge your customers to check out your special offers, return to abandoned carts, and more. 

PWA benefits for your fashion eCommerce store

PWAs that are fast, engaging, and reliable benefit all involved parties: users, businesses, and developers. What’s the key benefit from a business owner's standpoint? PWAs help you reach a wider audience compared to native apps. Why is that? 

As mentioned above, even though they look like an app, they run inside a browser. This means that the barrier to using a PWA is significantly lower than using a mobile app. Users don’t have to visit an app marketplace like the Apple App Store or Google Play to download and install your app. 

Plus, keep in mind that, for many brands, only loyal, frequent customers will download the native app instead of just visiting a desktop or mobile version of a website. With a PWA, you increase your chances of attracting less dedicated users to your store, giving them a native app-like experience. 

There’s more. PWAs are easily shareable. They’re accessible through links like regular websites. Whenever one of your customers finds that beautiful purse that’s been trending on Instagram lately, they can share it with their friends, seamlessly attracting more visitors to your online store. 

Consistency across all platforms

The idea behind PWAs has been to improve conversion rates among mobile users. A secondary benefit is that your customers get the same experience regardless of the platform they use. This means that they get the same offer, look, and feel no matter if they visit your store using a web app for desktop or mobile. 

Since PWAs can work on any platform and device, you can reach a wider audience because of how easy it is to run a PWA on someone’s phone or computer. They’re responsive, too, so they adjust to different screen sizes. They’ll work just fine on the latest flagship models and devices from a few years ago. 

Mobile-first approach 

You already know that mobile traffic overtook desktop traffic. Currently, 60% of traffic is coming from mobile devices. You might be thinking, “That’s great, my target audience is mobile native, so it’s only a matter of time before my sales go through the roof.” 

The thing is, the growth of conversion rate isn’t equal to that of mobile traffic. It accounts for only 16% of total conversions. This creates a so-called “conversion gap” of 47% between mobile and desktop conversions. PWAs are meant to tackle that problem. They’re consistent in the way they work across all devices. Links make them easy to share with other people, and they offer native app-like experiences. With all those benefits working in your favor, your mobile conversion rates are bound to increase.

Reduced costs

Most businesses in the fashion industry build at least three different systems, including a responsive website, an Android app, and an iOS app. The development of all these separate entities is already expensive. I don’t only mean the money you have to spend but also the time invested. Then, once you launch your website and apps, you have to monitor, maintain, and update them all. Add the commissions that you have to pay to the app stores for listing your apps into the mix and it all sounds like burning money when you’re aware of all the benefits of PWAs.

All of this doesn’t mean that the cost of developing a PWA is peanuts. In fact, the average cost is similar to that of a native app. The thing is that with a PWA, you develop, maintain, and market a single app that runs on and adjusts to desktop as well as Android and iOS mobile devices, so you don’t triple the costs. You can spend the money you save on your next marketing campaign to get your fashion brand in front of your target audience.

A PWA is the way to go

Native mobile apps are still more common than PWAs, and they definitely have their own benefits. They have to go through verification processes on app marketplaces before they’re listed there. Because of that, they seem to be more secure and credible, adding more trust to your brand. 

Still, because PWAs are a standard introduced by Google, we can expect them to double down on the efforts to make PWAs more prevalent. The revenue generated from search is more significant than that from Google Play. It wouldn’t be surprising if Google eventually started promoting PWAs visible in search engine results pages (SERPs) rather than native apps available in their marketplace. 

Want to get ahead of the curve? We can give you a hand.

Published June 22, 2022