Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are the next big thing in the eCommerce world and for good reason. They provide a better mobile user experience and have proven to lower development & maintenance costs and increase conversions.

In this blog we’ll be exploring the current limitations of the mobile experience, both with sites that feature Responsive Web Design and Native Apps. And then, we’ll be analyzing the strengths of Progressive Web Apps and how they address the shortcomings of Responsive Web Design and Native Apps. 

To learn more about PWAs, check out our PWA Services page and read our most recent blogs Powering PWAs with the Payment Request API and What’s Next for Tech? PWAs, Headless eCommerce & Cryptocurrency

Check out our live PWA Demo Site too.

And, download this excellent Magento-produced piece, which dives deeper into a number of topics that we cover here.

Limitations of Responsive Web Design

RWD is a one-size-fits all grid system. A website with RWD scales itself to match each user’s screen, automatically resizing the website’s elements. While this does allow for a smoother, contextual browsing experience, there are a number of limitations that come with the RWD solution.

While RWD sites are functional, they are unable to take advantage of the unique features of a smartphone. Your camera, microphone and GPS services cannot be accessed by an RWD website. With an eCommerce webstore, this could prevent you from providing accurate shipping information or in-store local availability. Also, consider this impact on product reviews. The vast majority of people use their camera on their smartphone as their primary camera. With an RWD site lacking in camera access, you’re preventing users from uploading images of themselves and your product directly to their reviews. And, as we’ve covered in recent months, the importance of customer reviews and social confirmation are only growing. 

Mobile users also have different intents, interactions and expectations than desktop users. By using an RWD to ‘fold down’ your desktop into a condensed mobile version you’re unable to meet the unique needs of mobile shoppers.

RWD sites also drastically increase load times and, if the mobile user isn’t connected to a dedicated internet connection, this can quickly cause a data drain. This is due to the fact that RWD sites download the same code to display on mobile as it does on a desktop.

Limitations of Native Apps

Unlike RWD sites, Native Apps are built specifically for the features and functionality of smartphones and to meet the needs of mobile users. They feature simplified navigation and visual orientation tailored for mobile users. They also have access to the features of a smartphone like the camera and GPS. But while Native Apps do not suffer from the same problems as RWD sites, they come with their own unique set of disadvantages.

The biggest impediment to Native Apps is downloading the app itself. The act of downloading any app is a major (albeit one-time) commitment on the part of the mobile user. Users must go to their app store (Apple Store or Google Play Store), search for the app, find the app, select the app, download and install the app, register the app and login to the app all before being able to actually use the app.

In addition to the time commitment there is also the data commitment that comes with downloading an app. If the mobile user isn’t connected to an internet connection, then they are forced to dedicate a significant amount of cellular data to downloading an app. This is a commitment that many mobile users are either unwilling or unable to do. And even if a mobile user is connected to WIFI that doesn’t mean they’ll have the memory space available on their phone to complete the download. Smartphones all have a finite amount of space, much of which is taken up by a user’s personal photos, music and podcasts. They may not want to sacrifice their personal content for your app.

A fully functioning ecommerce app can be quite expensive to develop as well, especially if you’re building one for multiple platforms. Your Apple Store app and your Android app will each have unique requirements based on the platform. For smaller eCommerce stores the development of an app can run between $50k and $100k and some come run as high as $500k. And even if you get an app built, tested and uploaded to the App store, there is no guarantee that it will be embraced by your users or drive sales. In fact, a recent Forrester report showed that 4% of mobile commerce transactions in 2018 came from mobile apps and 49% of smartphone users download zero apps per month. In addition they only account for 5% of all online traffic and convert at 2.8%.

The Power and Potential of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

Customers are searching for an app-like experience that transcends the limitations of apps. That’s where Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) come into play. PWAs provide an engaging and smooth user experience that has been shown to increase conversion rates and accelerate growth. PWAs combine the best of both your ecommerce website and mobile app functionality. Here are a few of the benefits that PWAs add to your eCommerce capabilities.

Studies show that if your mobile pages are taking longer than 2 seconds to load then your customers are likely to take their business to a different site. That doesn’t give you a lot of time to get them connected to what they’re searching for. PWAs do not require a mobile web browser to re-render or shrink down the site, meaning that pages load faster and transitions are smoother.

PWAs are readily available to any smartphone user on any web browser. There is no need for any sort of additional download. Meaning that your customers no longer have multi-step installation and data roadblocks between them and a smooth, clean mobile shopping experience. PWAs are great for customers who have low bandwidth or limited data plans. This allows your customers to avoid heavy data usage associated with app downloads. And customers who use PWAs on their mobile browser don’t need to take up much space on the smartphones themselves. The data commitment for a PWA is a fraction of a native app.

PWAs make it easy on the development team too. A single codebase is used for both mobile and desktop. A PWA doesn’t require a seperate desktop solution, eliminating the time and resource investment that come with the development and maintenance of a native app. Your website will have a lower cost of ownership and a quicker time to market once your development standards have been established. The cost of a basic Magento PWA begins at $10,000 but can go as high as $35,000 with an average development time of two months. While, that commitment is nothing to scoff at, it is remarkably less than the time and money required to develop and maintain a Native App.

Your PWA is also able to be deployed, unrestricted, since there is no need to go through an app store. Meaning you are not bound by the terms and agreements or revenue share agreements demanded by these platforms. Additionally, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, nearly all web browsers on iOS and Android support PWAs.


Overall, PWAs simply make for a better customer experience. They minimize required touchpoints, allowing for a faster browsing and checkout experience. With a streamlined purchase process PWAs boost shopper engagement, leading to revenue growth and higher conversion rates. 

To learn more about PWAs and to implement one of your own, contact us today and let’s bring cutting edge technology and a more dynamic user experience to your site.

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