Ever since Nokia released their first phones with the now iconic game Snake, people have been wanting more and more. These days we are spoiled for choice, and with more than 2 million apps submitted to both Apple’s App Store and Google Play, there is no shortage for games and other applications to download and use on your smartphone.
However, data has shown that more than 50% of all smartphone users download 0 apps per month on average, leaving a huge market segment open for new and improved options.
Whether it’s because the market is oversaturated because of the vast number of applications, or whether it’s because the interest is fading is up for debate and further analysis.
One thing is certain though, reaching those users who doesn’t download apps regularly could become one of the holy grails of marketers, app developers and businesses in the coming years.
Enter the Progressive Web App
Progressive web apps are a mix between a traditional website and a conventional mobile application. Leveraging the best aspects of both existing technologies, PWA’s offer businesses the opportunity to capitalize on their existing website traffic, by allowing users to install a progressive app on their smartphones.
This type of app does not need to be submitted through app stores however, meaning that the bar of entry is somewhat lower, as long as the basic requirements are met that is.
What can they do?
Progressive apps can do almost anything a traditional website can, and most of the things mobile applications offer. This includes indexing for search engines, it also allows for Push Notifications, Camera, Microphone and access to other common hardware functions, as well as both online and offline browsing.
So why are they potentially taking over mobile apps?
- Best performance
- Offline mode
- Add to Home Screen
- Push Notifications
- Better Retention Rates
- Looks like an app – functions like a website
- No App store waiting times
- Indexable by search engines
- Fast updates and bug fixes
Lets walk through these 10 key points one by one.
1. Best performance
Because of the way progressive apps are developed, they use the latest technologies such as Service Workers to serve webpages and content with unmatched speed and efficiency. Furthermore, the entire app is cached locally, allowing for fast access, regardless of internet speeds.
Progressive apps are required to be served via TLS connections, meaning that they are secure towards middle-man attacks, spoofing and other various ways of intercepting HTTP header data like traditional websites. While the average user might not care, many developers will, and they might very well prefer this over insecure solutions, thus pioneer this technology in the process.
3. Offline mode
One of the main selling points are the possibility of browsing the pages, content and screens in offline mode. By showing what the user has already loaded while online, the content will load fast and unhindered by a lack of internet, compare that to websites throwing error messages and blank screens, everytime your 3G connection has an issue.
4. Add to Home Screen
With the possibility of adding the progressive app to the home screen, like a mobile app, you increase the chances of users re-opening your app tremendously. Compare that to bookmarking your favorite websites – how often do you see those, and use those, compared to the icons on your smartphone’s home screen?
5. Push notifications
Marketers and conversion experts love push notifications, since they are being read and interacted with far more often than newsletters for instance. You are almost guaranteed screentime with users if they get push notifications from your app. Previously only mobile apps had this capability, now progressive apps do as well.
6. Better conversion and retention rates
While there isn’t too much data in big quantities on this emerging technology as of yet, Flipkart, a leading Indian e-commerce business, released their progressive app and saw up to 70% increases in conversions and retention rates, raising many eyebrows the world over from interested professionals.
7. Looks like an app – functions like a website
Having the user interface and experience we know and love from mobile applications, coupled with the features of websites, such as indexability and the freedom to update whenever, progressive apps are truly the best of both worlds.
8. No App Store waiting times
So you’ve just finished the long and grueling app development project. You’ve got your marketing campaign ready to roll, but you’re still 4-8 weeks away from having your app published on the app stores. Not any more! With progressive web apps you can push it live the very second you are done developing. Awesome, right?
9. Indexable by search engines
A major downside of mobile apps are the fact that all the internal content is just that, internal. Google, Bing and other search engines cannot access the data, and certainly not provide links to it. With progressive apps you get this benefit, meaning that you can optimize for keywords, rank on content just like normal websites.
10. Fast updates and bug fixes
With traditional websites, you can update at will. With mobile apps every little change requires a moderator to approve the changes, before the new version is pushed live into app stores. Progressive apps work like websites, allowing for fast iterations and fixes without waiting.
Okay, I don’t really think mobile apps will die, at least not in the foreseeable future, however I do believe that there’s potential for progressive apps to overtake market shares from mobile applications on the whole, and coupled with another new emerging technology, named Accelerated Mobile Pages, the future looks more diverse than it did just a year ago. Interesting times!