Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs for short, offer the much-needed middle-ground between full-fledged native apps and mobile websites, and they come at a time when the majority of mobile users are no longer willing to download any new apps, making it difficult for smaller and new businesses to get noticed. The ROI of PWA is one of the best arguments for its use, and we explore it in detail in this article.
Solving two problems at once
Last year, the total number of mobile app downloads worldwide exceeded 200 billion for the first time. In 2022, the same figure is projected to grow to nearly 260 billion. But despite the popularity of mobile apps, most users are unwilling to download anything new, with 51 percent of smartphone users downloading zero new apps each month.
The unwillingness of mobile users to download new apps wouldn’t even be such a problem if page-load times (performance) weren’t such a huge factor in poor conversion metrics because businesses could simply maintain responsive websites capable of reformatting to fit smaller screens. Alas, responsive websites don’t match the performance of mobile apps, and their limited functionality often forces users to use the desktop version anyway.
Progressive Web Apps combine several web technologies to make powerful web applications whose user interface looks and feels native and whose features include push notifications, offline support, instant loading, an app-style shortcut icon, low data usage, and others.
“PWAs promise to solve two problems at once. They offer improved performance and usability (vs. a traditional responsive mobile site), thus promise to have a big impact on mobile web conversion rates while also alleviating the need for merchants to invest in developing expensive native apps.”
– Peter Sheldon, vice president of strategy at Magento Commerce.
The ROI of PWA
The term “progressive web apps” was coined by designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell in 2015, and many high-profile businesses have since then adopted the technology, so there are many real-world case studies we can look at to learn more about the ROI of PWA.
Perhaps the most shining example of the ROI-generating potential of PWAs is the Chinese e-commerce Alibaba, the world’s largest online business-to-business (B2B) trading platform. In the past, Alibaba saw their mobile website as a platform to shift non-app users to their native app. However, many users preferred to stay within the browser (for the same reasons 51 percent of smartphone users downloading zero new apps each month), so Alibaba recognized the need to improve its mobile presence.
Building a PWA was an easy choice, and the decision turned out to be fantastic because the new PWA delivered a 76 percent increase in total conversions across browsers. Monthly active user rates increased by 14 percent on iOS and by 30 percent on Android.
Housing.com, one of India’s top startups, has a similar success story to tell. Its PWA helped the leading online real estate platform increase its conversion rates by 38 percent, its bounce rate fell by over 40 percent, and visitors started to spend 10 percent longer per session and returning more often.
“Understanding the network limitations of our users and the importance of a great user experience led us to build a PWA,”
“User experience is something that defines state-of-the-art applications.”
– Vivek Jain, Housing.com CPTO.
One last example of the ROI-generating potential of PWAs that we want to mention comes from Twitter. The social media platform combined the best of the modern web and native features in its Twitter Lite Progressive Web App, whose performance rivals the performance of Twitter’s native apps but requires less than 3 percent of the device storage space. Thanks to Twitter Lite, pages per session increased by 65 percent, the number of sent Tweets grew by 75 percent, and the bounce rate decreased by 20 percent.
Based on her industry experience, Ali Hackett from Mobify estimates that businesses typically see a 20 percent boost in revenue from faster, more app-like experiences enabled by PWAs. “The 20 percent boost in revenue is a conservative estimate based on the success of this technology approach in both the market and with Mobify customers,” says Hackett.
Other benefits of PWAs
The fantastic ROI of PWA aside, there are many other ways how this new breed of web applications can help businesses. Because PWAs don’t require different versions for different platforms, they cost much less to develop and maintain, and skilled web app developers that understand everything that goes into making an excellent PWA are easy to find. Depending on the complexity of the app, its cost can be up to four times lower if it’s developed as a PWA rather than a native mobile app.
Unlike native mobile apps, PWAs don’t require installation, and they are indexable by search engines, leading to greater discoverability and fewer barriers to adoption. At the same time, however, PWAs can be published onto the Google Play Store, and it’s safe to say that the Apple App Store will follow suit in the future.
Finally, PWAs use a fraction of data usage compared to native apps, which is essential for succeeding in emerging markets such as Nigeria. The reason why we mention Nigeria is that one leading e-commerce website based in the country, Konga, was able to cut data usage by 92 percent with its new PWA.
Considering how fantastic the ROI of PWA is, it’s no wonder that businesses large and small are replacing their existing mobile websites with websites that offer functionality that used to be available only to native apps not too long ago, such as the ability to work offline, push notifications, and device hardware access.