ere’s a thought. If you own an online store, you don’t need an app. You actually never needed one. So don’t feel bad if you never came around to develop an app while everyone else in your market built something for themselves. 99% of the time it would be a waste of time, money, and developer skills.
Your Customers (Secretly) Hate Your App
Let’s face it. Users hate apps. They don’t want to use them. They want things to just work. Your app is a roadblock to them. A nuisance. Ideally, everything should just work from the browser, that’s what they think.
Let’s get into the head of an average user. They came from a web browser. This is what they used when they stumbled upon your store, right? They expect to enter your site, make a meaningful purchase or browse your inventory and move on. Instead, you force them to go to an AppStore or Google Play and download, customize, and use something completely different from what they are familiar with.
You essentially disrupt their continuous experience breaking the natural flow of browsing, buying, and leaving. It’s not what you want. You want your user to choose the best tool to interact with your store. The one that’s most convenient to them. Not you.
See, it doesn’t always work this way. You might think you need an app. Or you’ve already built one. It’s especially frustrating on Apple devices where PWAs have tons of limitations. Even in iOS 12.1.4, which is the latest stable version, PWAs have tons of ridiculous restrictions you might not be familiar with.
But remember, an average user will frequent 4 apps on a daily basis. Maybe 5 if they feel adventurous. Do you know how many new apps will a user install every month? Zero. Null. Not one. Not even your app. Especially not your app.
And why would they? Unless users have literally no other way to complete their task, they will not install and use your app. Think about it. You blow a huge budget on a product everyone hates. What’s the point? How do you even begin to justify the cost?
So why go against the flow when you can go with the flow? We are talking about mobile-friendly websites. We are talking about progressive web apps.
What’s so Progressive About Progressive Web Apps?
PWAs are the new kid on the block. Google introduced them to the public only 4 years ago, in 2015. This was also the time when their team started developing technology standards and growing the community around them.
Progressive web apps haven’t been developed at the same pace on Android and Apple devices. Even though iOS once pioneered the foundations of web app standards, Apple decided to focus on traditional apps to the detriment of web-based applications.
This neglect led to a huge imbalance in capabilities. Where native iOS apps offered stability of execution and a feature-rich environment, web apps struggled to deliver even the basic functionality that was expected of them.
At the same time, Android-based PWAs boasted nearly-identical functionality as the native apps. More importantly, they were easy to install and use, something that iOS apps couldn’t deliver to their users.
The stagnation of Apple-based progressive web apps created a precarious situation for their successful adoption as a whole. On the one hand, Android web apps offer awesome functionality that store owners can use right away. What’s even more awesome: there are at least 4 new toolsets in development for Magento store owners to build their PWAs on.
On the other hand, Apple devices created a sizeable gap between native apps and PWA functionality. Unless Apple decides to close the gap, this imbalance will haunt the developer community for a long time.
So for now just keep in mind that progressive web apps also have challenges. But right now we want to shift focus on the business part of their development.
Building Your Dream Store
Progressive web apps work as an enabler for stores that strive to offer a better user experience and at the same time don’t want to invest in mobile apps because of the huge challenges in adoption.
Stores become awesome when you work on them. In 2019, building a custom responsive design is not enough for a successful e-commerce store. You need to invest further in user experience in order to get meaningful interactions from your visitors.
1. Focus on What Users Want Within Your Own Agenda
Make your customers the sole center of attention at all times, no exceptions allowed. When you take to heart your users’ goals, challenges, and fears, you will create a store that works best for them, not for you.
Don’t be afraid to put your own users on the pedestal here. When they are happy, you are earning more money. In the competitive world of e-commerce, users will appreciate and remember the ease of use and acceptability that you offer.
Centering every bit of the UX on effectiveness and utility is a great way to convey and build trust. The kind of trust that will result in more business down the road. If your goal is to funnel customers to the Checkout, optimize for it. If the goal is to find the most suitable product faster, optimize for it. If you want users to sign up for a newsletter or a promotion, go for it.
Choose one goal and optimize for it exclusively. Don’t try to chase all rabbits at once.
2. Offer Seamless Experience to Avoid Breaking The Flow
It’s hard to tell how many products each user will view before making a purchase. But one thing we can state with certainty: they will look through a lot of stuff before they make a decision. And the snappier is your store, the better will be their shopping experience.
PWAs are fast. Really fast. Use this advantage in order to create and maintain the special state of flow in your visitors. From browsing new products to finishing their purchase your users will be captivated by the smoothness and seamlessness of their browsing experience.
The speed of PWAs is one of their key advantages. The difference is even more noticeable, especially when compared to traditional e-commerce stores. PWAs use service workers to prefetch data from the server and create a snappy user experience from this constant prefetch technique.
3. Capitalize on Better Conversion Rates
Take a critical look at your competition, namely, the mobile versions of their stores. E-commerce is notoriously bad when you take into consideration the speed, usability, and customer focus of the average mobile experience.
And the engagement and conversion rates reflect this situation extremely well. All you need to do to break the status quo is to build a mobile store that is fast and user-focused. In addition, PWAs will soon enjoy better search results within Google as well. So compared to the mobile version of your web store, PWAs will offer both better conversions and more traffic.
Additionally, thorough content and speed audits will reveal the main weak points and show you where to cut or add content, where to focus on performance improvements, and how to create a successful conversions funnel. Remember, your mobile store should be as effective and convenient as its desktop counterpart. In the grand scheme of things, you won’t be always able to segregate users by the platform.
You have to make sure that the number of customers who exclusively use mobile devices to shop online deserve the same high level of user experience as those who use desktops or mix both platforms on a regular basis.
4. Use Built-in Features to Personalize the Shopping Experience
Depending on the device (Android or iOS), PWAs have access to various built-in device features such as GPS, camera, mic, Bluetooth, altimeter, etc. The ability to leverage any of them in a productive way can literally be the difference between success and failure.
Most e-commerce stores don’t use device-built features in any way. The pinnacle of their efforts is GPS-location, something that has been around for more than a decade. It’s time to break the mold and use the full capabilities of your customers’ devices to drive new sales.
5. Skip the Mobile App Entirely
Resist the urge to go the well-known route of mobile apps. In addition to high development costs, the return on investment is often abysmal. From minimal installation counts to low conversion rates within the mobile app, you have to accept that mobile doesn’t cut it anymore.
PWAs are platform-agnostic. They work well both on Android and iOS devices. So instead of developing, testing, patching and promoting two separate apps for two very different platforms with different mindsets, you build one app to rule them all.
The process of submitting and promoting apps on Google and Apple stores is not as straightforward as you’d think. So where mobile apps offer challenges, PWAs promise opportunities for growth, conversion rate improvements, and user engagement.
Make the Small Store as Awesome as Your Big Store
Something awesome happens right now. The percentage of people who shop entirely on their phone has been growing since 2015. Even if their numbers didn’t reach the most optimistic estimates of some analysts, mobile shoppers have already become a large crowd worth catering to.
As a store, your goal is to provide these customers with an uncluttered, modern, fully-capable shopping environment that both works well on its own and integrates seamlessly with the bigger desktop store, complementing its features.