Q&A: How Debenhams Doubled Mobile Site Speed with Mobify PWA

Learn more about the Debenhams story with our upcoming webinar, Elevating the Mobile Customer Experience with Progressive Web Apps, with Jim Hingston, leader of the mobile transformation at Debenhams.

Leading British retailer Debenhams is delivering on its promise for growth and efficiency while making shopping effortless, reliable, and fun with the launch of one of the UK’s first retail Progressive Web Apps. Built on the Mobify Platform, the new mobile site has more than doubled the speed of Debenhams’ previous mobile site, with typical shopper journeys now requiring less than half the time. For press inquiries, click here.

These are important achievements because fast browsing and page load speed lead directly to revenue growth, now that mobile has become the fastest growing shopping channel around the world. Check out our Q&A with Debenhams below to learn more about Progressive Web Apps and the Debenhams-Mobify launch. 

1. What kind of site has Debenhams announced?

It’s a mobile website called a Progressive Web App. It replaces an earlier generation mobile site to provide much better performance and ease of use for shoppers using mobile devices. It’s one of the first Progressive Web Apps in the UK alongside BBC, Twitter, and the Guardian’s Smart Lock.

2. What is a Progressive Web App? Who is behind it?

Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, are technically not apps at all but websites that bring speed, interactivity, and many of the features commonly associated with a downloaded or native app to the web. Because it is a website, a PWA can be found by search engines, reaching millions of potential customers, without requiring any action other than opening a website. Google has championed PWAs with all of the browser providers including Chrome, Firefox, Opera & Android OS now fully supporting PWAs. Apple iOS users benefit from the speed and engagement features of PWAs and Apple recently indicated iOS Safari will support additional features.

3. Why is a Progressive Web App better than the previous Debenhams mobile site?

PWAs make online shopping a fundamentally better experience for the consumer and therefore more profitable for retailers looking to capitalize on the trend toward customer engagement on mobile devices. Faster speeds than previously possible mean that shoppers don’t leave a site before it loads, stay engaged, and can now buy a product with just a few taps. Progressive Web Apps can be added to the home screen for easier access and personalized engagement. Web push notifications, a feature of PWAs, are proving much more effective than email by giving shoppers fast, timely access to the special offers and discounts they seek.

Debenhams is the first UK-based retailer to implement a Progressive Web App. Global brands are delivering exceptional results; for example, speeds of four times faster than earlier web designs, 50% increase in online conversions, and 23% increases in online revenue.

4. Why is mobile so important to retail stores like Debenhams?

Debenhams is one of the most visited UK online retailers with 200 million+ visits last year. To unlock further growth, Debenhams is focusing on mobile connected shopping to build customer relationships and leverage data to further personalize the shopping experiences. Strong growth in mobile demand — up 64% in the first half of 2017 — means that shoppers are increasingly turning to mobile for shopping inspiration, fun, and to share with friends. Providing a better, more app-like experience for customers is essential to capturing this opportunity. Today, industry analysts confirm the best new technology for mobile customer engagement is a Progressive Web App.

5. Is there an industry analyst who covers PWAs?

Yes, Ted Schadler at Forrester is one analyst that believes the future of the web is progressive web technology as outlined here.

6. What technology does the Debenhams PWA use?

The Debenhams PWA is built entirely on the Mobify platform, a mobile shopping platform that helps retailers create shopping experiences across every mobile touchpoint. Mobify is the #1 provider of Progressive Web Apps among ecommerce retailers worldwide.

7. What does Debenhams say about Mobify?

Ross Clemmow, Managing Director Retail, Digital, Food & Events at Debenhams, said, “We have seen unprecedented growth in mobile in the last two years. Research shows that 50% of UK online retail sales are now made through mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). We know customers get frustrated by a slow site, even more so on mobile, with as many as 70% admitting they would leave a site if it loaded slowly.

“The new site will transform our customer’s experience of shopping with Debenhams on their mobiles. We now have technology that not only delivers a better, faster experience but allows us to keep pace with shoppers expectations whilst on the move.”

8. What is headless commerce and why is it important?

Headless commerce is about putting the shopper at the center of the online experience. Through open APIs, retailers can separate their front-end or user interface part of their software architecture in order to design for faster, more personalized customer experiences. It is “headless” because it is separate from order processing, content, etc., which makes it much easier to provide those innovations and updates that make shopping personal, context-sensitive, and fun.

9. What is SapientRazorfish’s role?

Mobify and SapientRazorfish have been partnering to deliver winning retail solutions based on Progressive Web Apps. For more, read this blog post from SapientRazorfish Director of Thought Leadership, Richard Fouts. 

10. What are the benefits to shoppers?

The main benefit is speed and convenience. With the Debenhams PWA, a shopper can go right to the Debenhams site and start browsing with his or her mobile phone. Shoppers can buy a product in just a few quick taps, without downloading an app or checking for updates. Studies show that the web shopping experience must be fast and app-like or the customer may move on to other things. Additionally, according to comScore, only about one-third of smartphone owners download any apps in an average month, with the bulk of those downloading one to three apps. Forrester predicted “app fatigue” would push enterprises to build better mobile experiences to serve their customers more effectively.

11. What are the results so far and what can expect going forward?

The new mobile site has more than doubled the speed of Debenhams’ previous mobile site, with typical shopper journeys now requiring less than half the time. This is important since fast browsing and page load speed lead directly to revenue growth.

12. Are you adding new features to the Debenhams PWA?

Yes, we will be continually adding new capabilities as the Debenhams PWA gets progressively better and better, so stay tuned!


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