Progressive Web App (PWA) or mobile app - which to choose?

Anna Meller

obile commerce has been booming for years. PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) and mobile apps have emerged in response to consumer needs. Both proposals are competing for the budgets of investors interested in developing mobile services. Which solution to choose?

A window into the world

The smartphone is, for the majority of today's customers, a window into the world of social interaction, entertainment, and knowledge. Mobile shopping is a powerful and growing market. The boom in responsive websites was followed by a trend toward the intensive development of various types of applications. In 2021, more than 2 million new mobile apps and games will be created! There is a lot to fight for, because in 2022 the number of consumers in the mobile commerce market overtook other consumer groups in our country for the first time, shopping on computers, laptops, or tablets. 

Among those who shopped online in the past 12 months, 75% used a phone or smartphone to do so. In the younger age groups, 92% of those under 24 and 88% of those under 35 buy using a smartphone. In the older age groups, the percentage is also high and growing: in the age group up to 45, mobile commerce transactions are carried out by 74% of people, and in the 45+ group it is up to 57%! ("E-commerce Report", Gemius 2022). 

Mobile commerce - untapped potential

Despite the ubiquity of mobile commerce, the potential of this market is still not exploited. Approximately 80% of those surveyed shopping via mobile devices encountered difficulties when ordering. 28% complain about poor connectivity and slow page loading, and 20% indicate that the lack of mobile apps is a problem, which is most frequently cited by those under 24 years of age ("E-commerce Report", Gemius 2022). ¾ of customers think mobile shopping apps do not personalise the user experience (Merkle Report, 2021). 

Responding to the needs of smartphone users, modern web applications, or PWAs (Progressive Web App), and mobile apps available in Google Play or App Store, are used. The most popular apps are those related to health, business, and gaming (cMOS Magazine, 2022). 

PWAs and native apps - how are they similar?

PWAs provide a UX similar to mobile apps. In the case of the Progressive Web App, the user downloads a shortcut to the app on the home screen, which is deceptively similar to installing a mobile app and serves a similar function. Once the shortcut is added, the PWA also performs well offline. 

The PWA, like the mobile app, offers the possibility to display automatic notifications (push notifications) on the phone screen in the form of a text or multimedia message. Both applications aim to optimise performance and functionality, although the latter is limited to, for example, the camera or GPS when using hardware capabilities. 

PWA - what sets it apart?

PWA is a web application that is increasingly programmed in a secure HTTPS environment. With its help, data such as consumer and order information can be managed. With a complex website, the PWA may function less efficiently than a mobile app. The PWA doesn’t require a login to external app shops and is available to all who visit the website in any browser. As a result, it doesn’t need to be separately designed for different operating systems, as is the case with mobile apps. Most often, when launched in a browser, the app itself sends a message with the possibility to add a shortcut to it on the start screen. Once it‘s saved, users gain access to the app's functionality. 

PWA applications take up significantly less storage space on a mobile device than mobile apps, although they put more strain on the battery. Thanks to the headless technology in which they are designed, making changes and adding new functionality is time-efficient and cost-effective. Progressive Web App are also automatically updated. With PWAs, pages load 2 to 4 times faster than traditional websites (ThinkwithGoogle, 2018).

Mobile application - special characters

Mobile apps, also known as native apps, which offer a top-notch user experience, require the user to download them in the app shop, as well as any updates that are not self-installed. This lengthens the purchase path considerably, as the customer has to take more steps, such as installation, account registration, email address verification, etc. Mobile apps take up more storage space on the device than PWAs but they offer higher performance and the ability to use smartphone features such as the camera, NFC, or identification via fingerprint and other biometrics. 

In the case of mobile applications, budget, and the designer's imagination are the main constraints. Implementing new functionalities is more time-consuming and therefore more expensive than for PWAs. Their programming requires specialised skills due to the structure of the code and the need to adapt the application to two operating systems: IOS and Android. 

PWA vs mobile app

PWA or native application - which to choose?

The decision on the type of application depends on a number of different factors, such as budget, target group, project objectives, or the industry in which the company operates. The main variables to consider when deciding on a solution are shown in the table below.

PWA is not just about balancing quality and cost! 

PWAs are successfully used by major international companies and leaders in their industries. From an investor's point of view, the key to using a PWA is first and foremost functionality. 

When a project does not involve more complex features - such as the use of complex animation, augmented reality, Bluetooth or a fingerprint reader - the Progressive Web App becomes the optimal solution. It provides the user with a high app loading performance, no time spent downloading apps from the shop and the possibility of offline use. Above all, PWA is also lighter than mobile apps and does not burden the phone as much.

PWA technology is being used successfully by the biggest players:

  • International coffee chain Starbucks has doubled its active daily users thanks to the PWA. Almost as many shoppers order in the app as at the counter. 
  • The PWA for Uber is designed to take less than three seconds to charge when accessing the 2G network. 
  • The PWA of the dating platform Tinder is 90% lighter than the service's mobile app. 
  • Hotel search engine Trivago increased the number of people who added the PWA to their home screen by 150% thanks to the PWA, resulting in a 97% increase in click-through rates to hotel listings. 
  • Social networking site Pinterest redesigned its mobile site with PWA technology, resulting in a 60% increase in mobile user engagement and a 40% increase in time spent in the app.
  • Forbes business magazine's PWA loads in 2.5s compared to 6.5s with the previous mobile site. The PWA homepage loads in 0.8s. 
  • Beauty conglomerate Lancôme increased conversion by 17% thanks to the PWA, and 8% of people make a purchase in response to notifications sent by the PWA. 
  • Marketplace Alliexpress increased its conversion rate by 108% among new users and increased visit time by 74%.

Customers expect simplicity and speed

For the younger generations, virtual reality from the mobile window on the world is the main channel for obtaining information and communication. This group of users is increasingly entering the market as fully-fledged consumers and has specifically defined expectations of mobile solutions. It has to be fast, simple and attractive. The need for a high-quality user experience on mobile devices is growing, and it is still not fully met.

In the e-commerce survey, in response to the question "What would make you shop online more often?", 11% of respondents answer that they expect easier use of online shops and 9% indicate better accessibility of shop pages on mobile devices. This was the response of 11% of women, for whom good quality images are more important, and 7% of men, who prioritise the attractiveness of the guarantee conditions over the convenience of the shop and the product design. [e-commerce report 2022]. 

The application is a "must have"

The answer to the question of which application is better: native or PWA depends on many of the factors mentioned in the article. Regardless of the solution used, practice shows that both PWA and native apps increase user satisfaction, engagement and longer contact with the company, which ultimately translates into higher profits. 

Both mobile and web PWA (Progressive Web App, which we write more about here) applications are the solution to all the objections mentioned in the reports and the perfect answer to most of the pains of the modern internet user with a phone in hand. The prerequisite is a well-thought-out design and professional implementation. 

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