The Future Of Mobile Commerce Is Paved With Progressive Web Apps

Randy Kohl

It’s no secret that mobile devices are shaping the present and future of commerce. From showrooming to research, this technology plays a huge part in the wave of digital channels that are influencing 70% of all purchase decisions – and that number is expected to climb and plateau above 90% over the next few years.

While mobile commerce is changing the dynamic of consumer shopping habits, brands and retailers are still almost inclusively falling short. According to a recent Business Insider report, mobile shoppers can get so frustrated with the buying experience that they are far more likely to abandon their cart. For example, in the second quarter of 2015, U.S. adults spent 59% of their time on a mobile device and 41% on a desktop; however, only 15% of sales were generated on mobile devices, while 85% were realized through desktop transactions.

The app Catch-22

To drive mobile engagement, many brands and retailers have turned to native apps as a solution, even though they require significant and ongoing investment. However, only one retailer has managed to crack the Top 25 last year in top app downloads and use, and we all know who that is.

 (Source: Survey Monkey)

If we take a look at our own mobile devices, it’s not that hard to see why many retail apps are rarely downloaded and used. Approximately 94% of apps used are devoted to social engagement, entertainment, and information. And for most mobile users, only five apps account for 85% of overall app activities.

For the majority of retailers, driving initial and repeat use of branded native apps is a struggle. The majority of downloaded apps are accessed less than five times – and after 30 days, retention is on average below 10%. The problem is that most sellers cannot drive a high level of engagement and purchase frequency to justify investments in apps across multiple mobile platforms. Maybe there’s a better way to connect with prospects and customers on mobile.

The rise of progressive web apps

There’s a new approach to mobile engagement that blends the ubiquity of the mobile web with the intuitive form and function of native apps: progressive web apps. The progressive web is simply part of the overall evolution of digital commerce, enabled by faster wi-fi and cellular connections and the maturation of mobile development frameworks. For a number of retailing scenarios, the progressive web offers the opportunity to build from their existing e-commerce platform to present their customers with an elegant, app-like experience.

Some of the keystone benefits of progressive web apps include:

  • App-like user interface and fluid interactions

  • Push notifications that are similar to native apps

  • Creation of home-screen launch icons

  • Access to native phone functionality

  • Improved speed of the mobile site, which is a critical factor for customer engagement

  • Cross-platform (iOS and Android) and cross-browser functionality

  • Optimized content that leverages the same URL structure as the desktop site, eliminating the need for deep-linking into apps as endorsed by Google

  • Simplified user experience after the initial progressive build

All of these capabilities add up to a compelling case for leveraging progressive web apps for mobile commerce. Leading Asian merchants like Alibaba and Flipkart have already jumped on board, but adoption in North America is still in its infancy. Like any potential solution, however, each retailer needs to evaluate how this approach fits into their overall digital commerce and engagement strategies.

In my opinion, progressive web apps make the most sense for retailers with complex category structures and large portfolios of product offerings. For brands with a smaller product mix or brand-centric and content-driven experiences, responsive and adaptive design can still be a viable answer. Regardless of direction, currently available enterprise e-commerce platforms, such as SAP Hybris solutions, provide the flexibility needed to readily adapt to existing and emerging mobile engagement paradigms. So the sky’s the limit!

For more insight on what makes a great mobile app, see Engaging Digital Experiences: The Key To App Adoption.