Progressive mobile can give your web visitors a premium app-quality experience and take your conversion rate to levels comparable to desktop. If that isn’t enough to get your attention, you also save time and money on your native app by powering it from the same progressive source code as your website. Sound impossible? It used to be, but it’s not any longer.
Progressive web apps combine the best of the web and the best of apps, offering smooth interactions, easy engagement, and seamless re-engagement. With progressive web, web experiences are enhanced to the full capabilities of the browser and the connection of the user. Progressive works great with older browsers or on slow connections, but it offers more features and functionality for visitors on newer browsers. Progressive web experiences even improve low-bandwidth or flaky networks — like conference Wi-Fi or elevator settings — and provide services, such as access to physical devices like beacons, even when the browser isn’t loaded.
When a progressive web experience installs on the home screen, it looks and feels exactly like a native app with an icon, splash loading, and a full-screen experience — no URL bar required.
There are three key milestones to developing a progressive mobile experience:
Faster Load Times
App-like web experiences are provided through an “application shell” running in the web browser using client-side templating and app design principles. Client-side templating means the progressive web experience can react instantly to visitor interactions; it doesn’t need to go back to the server to display the layout of a new page.
If the app is waiting for content from the server, it can use placeholders until it arrives, providing rapid transitions between pages so customers can move from a homepage to a product page instantaneously.
Webpage load time affects e-commerce conversion rates, time on site, and a customer’s likelihood of returning. It’s well-known that for every extra second a page takes to load, there can be a 7 percent reduction in conversions. This translates into $2.5 million in lost sales annually for e-commerce sites that generate revenues of $100,000 per day. Real user data from 33 top retailers showed that by decreasing load times from eight seconds to two seconds, conversion rates can be boosted 74%.
Web-Based Push Notifications
Using push notifications is a new method of real-time communication between customers and businesses. Companies can set up push notifications for targeted promotions like special offers, early access, free shipping, or inventory updates.
Take eXtra, Saudi Arabia’s fastest-growing consumer electronics and home appliance retailer — comparable to Best Buy in the United States — which recently implemented push notifications for visitors to its mobile website that resemble native app notifications and work even if the browser isn’t running.
After six weeks, customers who opted in to push notifications returned four times more often and spent double the amount of time on eXtra’s site. Plus, its push notifications provided a 12 percent click-through rate — making them the perfect vehicle to alert customers to current sales on relevant products and nearby promotions.
Web Presence Combined With Native Apps
By looking at how users behave on their sites, companies can invite frequent shoppers to install the app on their mobile devices’ home screens and boost sales by saving customers time and improving their experiences.
Multibillion-dollar India-based Flipkart is currently one of the only large retailers providing a fully progressive mobile experience, but more are on the horizon. Flipkart initially embraced an app-only approach, shuttered its mobile site for a time, and then changed strategy and created Flipkart Lite. By integrating the best features of both its mobile website and its native app into a single progressive app, the online retailer saw a 70% increase in conversions.
A Progressive Mobile Future
New payment technologies emerging in the progressive mobile space include Autofill (in which customer information automatically populates in previously used fields) and web interfaces similar to Apple Pay, where customers use their thumbprints to complete the checkout process.
Offline-first mode for sites is another important trend in progressive mobile because it makes fast connections even faster and ensures slow connections provide acceptable experiences. Thinking “offline-first” is not about targeting customers on a three-month trip to the Amazon rainforest with no internet access; it’s about the small moments throughout the day when connectivity is very low-quality or nonfunctioning.
As more companies embark on the progressive webjourney, the seamless, controlled customer experiences they create will yield big rewards. Not every feature can be made available on every device and browser — the key is to offer something valuable for anyone on any device.
Peter McLachlan is co-founder and chief product officer at mobile shopping platform Mobify.