The next best thing since e-Commerce!
The e-commerce revolution got a major boost with the launch of the Apple App Store in 2008. What was earlier limited to a responsive e-commerce website could now be built as an app, allowing for a more natural, native user interface instead of a browser-defined one. This revolution was called m-commerce, or mobile commerce—the evolutionary upgrade for e-commerce.
This is the reason why e-commerce sales have risen steadily since 2010 and are expected to breach the $7 billion barrier by 2024! Retail e-commerce sales worldwide have crossed $4.28 trillion US, and constitute more than a fifth or 21.5% of total global sales.
Is a mobile app important for e-commerce websites?
Absolutely! E-commerce websites cannot emulate mobile apps completely, making the experience on a mobile somewhat clunky. With over 90% of the world using a mobile device to access the internet, not having a mobile app for your e-commerce website is a major handicap for any business. Additionally, the on-demand economy has made people impatient and no one wants to type out an entire URL just to start shopping.
Why are mobile apps better than responsive websites?
There are many reasons why mobile apps are better than websites on mobile devices. The main reasons for this include:
- Apps are the way to go
Apps are the modern alternative to a website and offer a far better user experience. Most modern mobile phone users prefer to use an app instead of a browser. Apps also offer a fully integrated experience where finding, comparing and paying for products can be done through one seamless interface.
- Better user experience
Mobile apps follow the user experience guidelines laid down by the operating platform of the phone. Having a consistent look and feel allows users to quickly move from a website to an app without a steep learning curve. An app also provides a more natural experience compared to a website.
- Fewer taps to start shopping
Opening an e-commerce website on a mobile involves going to the browser, typing in the URL and waiting for the website to open. This involves three steps before you can begin to shop. All a mobile app needs is a tap—and you’re ready to shop with a very similar look and feel to the actual, full-fledged desktop app.
- Faster than responsive websites
Mobile apps are built for the platform they are running on, making them faster than a responsive website. As websites run as an instance of the browser, they rely on the shortcomings or advantages of the browser you use to open them.
Mobile apps are inherently more secure than websites. As there are no URLs to go to, no chances of mistyping them and reaching a totally different website, your shopping experience is more secure. The chances of someone hijacking an entire mobile app are astronomically low.
- Better branding
Mobile apps are made exclusively for your brand, making it easy for customers to identify with it immediately through your app icon. Additionally, the shopping experience can be tailored to your brand’s style guidelines—making it as unique as your brand.
- Infinite marketing channels
The ways to market your product through a mobile app are only limited by your imagination. You can use your mobile app to run targeted ads, marketing campaigns segregated by geographies and so much more!
Are all apps the same? Do I just have to create one mobile app?
Well, yes and no. If you are building a native mobile app, you must create a different app for each mobile platform. What this means is that if you are targeting both Android and Apple users, you will need to create individual native apps for both these platforms.
Isn’t creating multiple apps expensive?
Yes it is. If you are targeting both Android and iOS (Apple), you will have to spend twice as much for the development and maintenance of these apps.
Is there a way to create one app for both platforms?
Yes. There are two distinct ways to create a singular app for both platforms. You can either create a cross-platform app or a progressive web app.
What is the difference between a native app, a progressive web app (PWA) and a cross-platform or hybrid app?
- Native apps are created for a specific platform. If you are targeting both iOS and Android, you must create two apps with two different code-bases.
- Hybrid or cross-platform apps use frameworks such as Xamarin and React Native to create a near-native experience for multiple platforms. However, even the best cross-platform apps cannot match the speed, power, and capabilities of a native app.
- Progressive Web Apps are a type of web application that essentially runs in a browser, but is installed on your mobile phone as an app through the Add to home screen functionality.
Are progressive web apps as common as native apps?
Progressive Web Apps are a type of web application that essentially runs in a browser, but is installed on your mobile phone as an app through the Add to home screen functionality.
Why are progressive web apps so popular?
There are a host of reasons that make progressive web apps extremely popular today. The top reasons why a brand would choose a progressive web app instead of a native app include:
- Faster updates and faster MVPs (Minimum Viable Products)
Progressive web apps can be deployed to all platforms at the same time. As all users essentially open the same app through the browser, they see the latest and greatest version of the app each time they open it. This ensures that everyone gets an updated app experience—every time without having to download or update an app again. Startups can launch a PWA as their MVP to test the waters before they jump the native app bandwagon.
- Deployment speed across platforms
PWAs get distributed to all platforms at the same time as the codebase remains the same. This speeds up the deployment process.
- Better Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Nearly 50% of all organic e-commerce traffic comes from web searches. Customers will use Google or other popular search engines to look for products and then click on a link to buy them. With a progressive web app, you can use standard SEO techniques and offer a world-class shopping experience with just one click.
- No downloads needed
PWAs cannot use the in-built physical security mechanisms of your mobile such as face unlock and fingerprint sensors. This makes them a bit less secure than native apps in some cases.
When should I choose a PWA or native app?
Understand that both PWAs and native apps have their drawbacks and advantages. Review their advantages and disadvantages to make an informed decision about the path you choose.
Choose PWAs if:
- You just need to emulate your e-commerce website on a mobile
- You have time and budget constraints
- You need a simple app to interact with your users
- You want to improve both brand awareness and SEO
- You want an organic search-driven experience which is essential for e-commerce and m-commerce websites
Choose native apps if:
- Your app needs to access the phone’s hardware including sensors
- You need to use features such as geofencing
- You wish to build brand loyalty and credibility with a native app
Are progressive web apps good for m-commerce?
Absolutely! PWAs are seemingly purpose-built for m-commerce. As most e-commerce transactions occur on mobiles, providing a seamless search and purchase experience becomes important. However, niche e-commerce players and startups might find it difficult to reach their intended audience due to the cost and effort involved in creating multiple apps for every platform.
Additionally, it is difficult to keep up with constantly changing app development trends. PWAs allow e-commerce and m-commerce companies to keep up with the trends through one unified code-base-making the experience seamless and up-to-date.
If you are running an e-commerce website or any other website, it is much easier to draw users to your products through the browser than through an app. Your customers will have one less app to install and will benefit from a near-native experience across platforms. This makes PWAs the best option for most e-commerce and m-commerce websites. Coupled with the ease of product promotion, targeted marketing campaigns, unified SEO and a seamless buying experience, PWAs are the perfect alternative to a native app for m-commerce.