How will progressive web apps transform customer interactions?

Whether it’s brands applying AI to aid customer service or using advanced analytics in the decision-making process, we’re finally beginning to see digital transformation take fruition

Our research shows that the pandemic has put the spotlight on digital, and businesses are now making strategic investments to stay afloat in a turbulent landscape. Customer service will be a key beneficiary of these investments, with brands across every industry now taking steps to ensure their customer journeys are as seamless as possible.

In the quest to make customers interactions more meaningful and personalised, progressive web apps (PWAs) have emerged as a key technology set to bring transformative change. Those who make the move to utilise PWAs are sure to set themselves apart from the rest – but what are PWAs and how will they change the commerce landscape?

PWAs in a nutshell

The reality is app fatigue has well and truly set in. Consumers no longer want to download and install countless native applications on their mobiles – most downloads are now to new devices or involve restoring a user’s existing apps on a replacement device

PWAs act as a cure to this fatigue. Announced back in 2015 as ‘experiences that combine the best of the web and best of apps,’ PWAs are essentially high-functioning and extremely responsive websites.

They are able to reach anybody, anywhere, on any device with a single codebase and should be thought of as capable, reliable and installable – these are the three elements which make them feel more like native applications.

But PWAs are more than just up-to-date web apps. As a web-based application, they can be used across the multichannel landscape and compliment a world where omnichannel rules the roost – they will change how consumers interact with brands on the internet, their mobile devices, tablets, desktops and all other eCommerce channels that we use.

Why you should take notice

One of the most prominent benefits of PWAs is their lack of reliance on third-party arbitration. Rather than relying on the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft, developers are free to publish anything at any time, and it’s up to users to determine whether it’s worth the clicks. But beyond this, there are common characteristics and benefits which make them vastly superior to native applications.

For a start, PWAs can be built using universal web languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This means they can be built, launched and maintained by existing developer teams and, once launched, will run everywhere and anywhere, whether it’s on Android, iOS or desktop computers.

What’s more, the user experience of a PWA is second to none in many respects. The foundations of most are built using service workers, enabling them to enhance or augment traditional UX. They function without the need for an open web page or user interaction and allow for other services such as capturing user actions while offline, which can then be delivered when the user is back online. Their caching abilities also mean PWAs can achieve extremely fast loading times – useful in the eCommerce space given the link between page load times and customer conversion. But perhaps the largest UX enhancement of a PWA is its ability to engage customers with push notifications – while these have been available on native applications for some time, this means they can now be encompassed across all devices.

Where are we with demand?

For all the transformative change that PWAs stand to bring to business, that’s not to say they aren’t without their issues. There are various deployment challenges holding back widespread adoption of PWAs.

Part of this centres around an inertia from brands to move away from native applications, who instead take a ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it approach’. Brands typically invest a large amount of money into sophisticated and long-established native apps, and so there can be considerable pushback to make the move. Additionally, there are those in the industry who say that UX is still catching up with native apps – PWAs miss out on some key features such as file system access, and not all user experiences work well within a browser.

The reality is awareness is still nascent when it comes to PWAs. A large number of eCommerce players recognise they are a viable solution to slow page speeds and a poor UX for some native apps. However, the industry will need a critical number of developers working on them to get ahead. This means having a community base where developers can address problems, share best practices and leverage expertise.

Making the move

PWAs are still in their infancy, with the developer community seemingly hesitant to progress these technologies to the next step. While the technology exists, it will take a digital pioneer to make the first move and bring PWA architecture to the mainstream.

But moving towards this end involves brands realising the potential of PWAs and how they stand to transform their future mobile strategies. To reap the rewards, companies should have a firm idea of what they want to achieve with a PWA, where it fits into wider online and mobile commerce strategies as well as what problem the development of a PWA would solve. Making the move will require ambition and clear direction, but becoming a ‘not-so early adopter’ will likely see demand rise as the technology’s capabilities become clearer.


About the Author

Paul Bidder is Senior Director of EMEA at LiveArea. LiveArea is a full-service global customer experience and commerce agency for B2C and B2B brands. Our expertise lies in connecting brands and people through creative commerce experiences that transform and enliven the customer journey from start to finish. More: www.liveareacx.com

Featured image: ©Sergey

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