Major Step Forward for Mobile Commerce as Apple Commits to Supporting Service Workers and Progressive Web Apps

This morning, Twitter was abuzz regarding a provocative discovery: Apple is beginning work on implementing service worker support in WebKit, the rendering engine used by Safari on both macOS and iOS. This means that future versions of iOS will likely enable support for app-like features, better performance, and higher conversions in the form of Progressive Web Apps for customers in Safari.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are basically websites that look, feel, and – if we’re talking ecommerce – convert like native apps. The “progressive” part refers to the ability of PWAs to enhance (i.e. become more app-like) according to the browser the user is in.

Mobify PWAs on Safari are still higher converting than typical websites, and have median load times of 2.08 seconds, which is dramatically lower than the industry average of 6.9 seconds. However, the lack of service workers means they can’t support features like offline mode or web push notifications the way Chrome does.  

Why is this exciting?

“Our customers are craving the ability to enjoy the full power of Progressive Web Apps on every platform, and this first step looks promising,” said Mobify CEO, Igor Faletski.

Until now, no one outside of Apple knew if it intended to ever support service workers for iOS. Chrome and Google offer full support for PWAs – Apple’s adoption means retailers will be able to deliver smooth, frictionless shopping journeys to an even wider audience.

Of course, Apple has a vested interest in keeping customers in the App Store – 2016 App Store revenue topped 28 billion dollars. But retail apps just don’t deliver when it comes to return on investment or reach. 

Never one to miss an opportunity to deliver a great user experience, Apple’s eventual interest in PWAs was perhaps inevitable. As people demand better mobile web experiences and get tired of the endless cycle of downloading, updating, and deleting apps on their devices, Apple appears to be evolving its strategy.

Why should you care about Progressive Web Apps?

Shoppers are using mobile more than ever, and they’re craving amazing experiences. However, they are also reluctant to download or keep new apps, especially for retail. “The cost of developing and maintaining two native apps (iOS and Android), as well as the cost of marketing them, is massive – to put it in context, the average user downloads zero apps per month,” said Faletski. Progressive Web Apps eliminate these adoption barriers, with the added benefit of delivering a high-converting shopping experience to anyone who visits your website.  

If you haven’t initiated the move to a Progressive Web App yet, you should consider it for these reasons:

  • PWAs have the wide reach of the mobile web, with the stellar experience of an app (and no installation required)
  • PWAs convert higher than an average mobile site
  • PWAs load faster than an average site
  • When combined with Accelerated Mobile Pages, mobile pages can load in <1 second
  • Improving your mobile experience is one way retailers can compete with Amazon
  • Digital experiences are at the crux of the “retail apocalypse” – and can be its salvation
  • Since adopting its PWA, this Google case study shows that Mobify customer Lancôme has experienced:
    • 17% increase in conversions
    • 53% increase in mobile sessions on iOS, even without service worker support
    • 8% increase in conversion rates on recovered carts via Push Notifications

This morning’s discovery shows that Apple is making the code changes necessary to start a new development effort, but exactly when it will launch is still to be determined – our guess is with iOS 12, likely in September 2018.

You can bet we’ll continue watching as this story unfolds. Stay tuned for updates!

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