Progressive Web Apps: the Future of Mobile Commerce

Q&A with Adam Brown, Executive Creative Director, Gorilla Group

1. How has the mobile commerce landscape changed in the last decade?

2011 was when Gorilla Group first started delivering responsive sites, but 2015 was really the tipping point at which mobile became a mandatory channel for reaching customers. Studies have shown that we spend 5.6 hours a day using digital devices, and over half of that is on mobile – that’s over 80 hours per month. Our mobile devices are how we connect with brands and businesses. Today, I’d estimate that 95% of the work we do has a mobile component to it.

In the past, mobile innovations were centered around social media, content, and messaging – not commerce. I think the main reason is that the majority of Western customers have a desktop computer. But that’s also changing: 20% of millennials are using solely mobile devices. Being able to engage customers with a “mobile-centric” approach is becoming critical for digital engagement.

2. What’s the mobile landscape like in 2017?

We’re seeing mobile usage continuing to increase. The old adage that people browse on mobile and buy on desktop is outdated, partly because many Millennials don’t have desktop computers, and partly because people are spending more of their digital time on smartphones.

Responsive was a good first step for mobile, but it can’t handle more complex interactions that customers traditionally performed on desktop, like filtering products on listing pages, or configuring products. Average order value and conversion rates are lagging on mobile, but we will see them to continue to improve as retailers get better at the mobile experience, and customers become accustomed to being able to perform more complex tasks on the mobile web.

3. Should retailers build a native app?

In short: no, probably not. In long: there may be a use case for a loyalty app for your company, but your initial focus should be on providing a compelling experience for the majority of customers on the mobile web.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm around apps, but I don’t think most retailers understand the huge barrier to entry – getting your customer to download (and keep) yours is extremely difficult. Only 4% of app usage is on retail apps, and Amazon is the only retailer in the top 100 apps (out of millions) in terms of usage and downloads. The reality is that most customers will never even see your app to begin with, so you’re better off investing in your web offering.

4. So customers are shopping on browsers, but we’ve already established that the mobile web doesn’t convert well. What are the options?

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a really exciting new way of approaching mobile commerce. They allow us to deliver the richness and responsiveness of an app but on the web, therefore avoiding the biggest barrier to entry – downloading.

This improvement in mobile experience is essential. Customer expectations are being set by tech giants. It’s not always rational, but think about it: when you order something online from somewhere other than Amazon, you still expect it to be delivered within a couple of days – even though other brands can’t do that. It’s the same with a mobile experience – once someone has had a good one, they expect the same standard across the board, whether they’re on the Facebook app or your company’s mobile website.

For more on how Progressive Web Apps work for retail, watch this 90-second video.

5. How will Progressive Web Apps affect visual designers or people who focus on user experience, like you?

Progressive Web Apps are going to have a huge impact on user experience/interface and visual designers. We now have to design websites keeping these new tools – geolocation, the accelerometer, etc. – and customer expectations in mind. We have to find new ways to approach and solve old problems.

The biggest change in design is going to be around context. If I know someone is viewing the experience after receiving a push notification, that’s a very different experience in terms of the customer’s journey. We have to think about how we can create interesting and smooth engagements using the new features and functions available at the device level.

With Progressive Web Apps, retailers will have not only the opportunity to seize millions in mobile revenue, but to acquire new customers, and keep old ones coming back for more.

Watch the webinar I co-hosted with James Zetlen, Frontend Architect at Magento, and Peter McLachlan, co-founder and CPO at Mobify, for more on how to close the gap between desktop and mobile conversions.

Watch the Webinar

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