PWA: Is It Worth To Invest In It If You Are An Online Store Owner?

27 August 2019 4040

What if someone tells you that it is possible to raise the amount of visitors across all browsers by more than 104%, double the session of visited pages on mobile browsers and increase the time spent per session by 74%? Is it really reachable? One of the biggest eCommerce projects with 666.50M visitors per month did it just by implementing the Progressive Web Application (PWA) and it was AliExpress. Another success story - Alibaba, which has 74% higher conversion rate across all browsers with PWA than it had before.

Progressive Web Application, or just simply PWA, is one of the trends in 2019, there are a lot of articles for business, tutorials for developers,  it is the most talked about theme in web developers teams. This article will make a short briefing about it, assuming that the majority of our readers are involved in web development industry, naimly in eCommerce & have already heard about it. But the main goal of this blog post is to understand when is the right time to move on with PWA or should the business better wait.

Web developers know how annoying it is to be unable to use all of the modern approaches which they have just learned say via Youtube tutorial, or how difficult it is sometimes to support old browsers, when they try to use the modern browsers' API. In 2015 two developers Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell introduced a definition of PWA in order to describe the applications which takes advantage of modern browsers. Some time later Google published the specifications of PWA. But why is this approach trending only now? The reason is hidden in mobile devices, only recently almost all of them have acquired an ability to run PWA with modern browsers and handle the PWA specifications.

Let's highlight these specifications in short, the main idea is to engage users on mobile devices by delivering them UI/UX which is super similar to app’s UI/UX. To sum up, PWA should:

  • work for all browsers
  • fit every device
  • work offline
  • be always up to date
  • be served via HTTPS
  • have an option to be installed on home screen
  • use push notifications
  • be easily shared by url

As a result application will bloom with a phenomenal user experience. 
To be honest, Progressive Web Application is not rocket science, it is a new generation of Single Page Application (SPA) which rings the bell and is in wide use around the web. Assuming that SPA can be written with any JavaScript frameworks or even Vanilla JavaScript, the same can be applied to PWA. If SPA meets the requirements of PWA, it can be called the Progressive Web Application. So basically PWA is just a SPA which uses the newest browsers’ API, browser can recognize it and make a suggestion to the user to install the application on the home screen. 

On the other hand, eCommerce has an opportunity to develop native apps for iOS and Android.

Well, what benefits will the business get using PWA rather than native app?

The usage of the internet is growing from to year, and Google Play Market as the App Store always prepares reports on the growth of app installations, but there is also statistics saying that more than 50% of mobile devices users in the USA install on average zero new apps during a month (Statista). Well, ask yourself a question about monetization of your native application under given conditions on the market. For some investments in the development of a native application for their businesses might never pay off. Also there is another interesting research, which says that "85 percent of smartphone app time is concentrated in top 5 apps", so will the eCommerce app be one these top five, how much will it cost for the business to reach out to its user?

Ecommerce businesses should better perform a reality check and think twice in order to understand how they want to engage the mobile device users. Should this method of reaching out to users be by means of native apps, which are expensive to develop or by making sure their web application correlate with PWA standards. PWA will help you solve two main problems. First of all, and it is a killer-feature, PWA is fast because of using the application shell as skeleton and service workers with its cache ability. Another advantage - you get a mobile app which can be installed simply from your web site, without a need to go to the market and it doesn't require any additional investment. As a bonus eCommerce business can make the maximum use of a mobile friendly website, even if it has not been installed by user as a mobile application.

As it was said earlier, web developers community is ready for PWA (since it is not something brand new, that just appeared) and there are a lot of specialists which are experts in JavaScript. Every strong IT team can develop the Progressive Web Application from scratch. Moreover, there are a lot of instruments which help developers to start working with PWA.
Almost all of the framework have their own startup toolkits or skeletons, some of them already implemented store's must have features, such as cart, checkout page, product page, etc.
Magento has introduced the PWA Studio, which is a pack of components to assist developers with PWA.React.js also has its PWA solutions. Google suggests Polymer PWA Startkit project and so on. Moreover there are many companies which also creating their solutions such as Vue Storefront. As a result eCommerce can rely on web developers community and their tools and approaches. 

Let’s imagine there is a stable and profitable eCommerce project, is it really necessary to invest money into the development of progressive web application and in development in general? The short answer would be no, but on the other hand our imaginary perfect profitable project can try PWA differently & save some budget. For example, one can create an alternative product catalog on PWA and redirect the mobile traffic to it or develop a promotional application, which will show a few categories of the store that are currently on sale. It is  quick and cheap way to find out if PWA is profitable for you.. 

It is strongly recommended to be open for the future for those who only start their projects. Who knows, maybe your project will beat the AliExpress analytics some day. 


This article was written by Dmitriy Ivanenko, Magento 2 developer & team lead at OpsWay, clean code evangelist, who likes to read an elegant code as much as to write it by himself.

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