Keep track of this lingo ‘progressive web application’ because you will hear a lot about it in the near future. Especially if you deal in the competitive world of B2B e-commerce. Currently, the idea of an online platform is that it should work online. Yet, the reality is that, sometimes, we need this platform to work offline and to provide us with the capabilities that any native app – the ones you install on your PC or smartphone – can provide.
So, today we are going to explore what a progressive web application is, what it offers to e-commerce, and why it could be a key component of the online business future. Let’s begin!
What is a progressive web application?
It is intended to run on any platform that uses a standards-compliant browser, and among its key functionalities, it includes working offline, push notifications, and access to device hardware, allowing you to create user experiences similar to native apps on mobile and desktop devices.
Since a progressive web app is a type of web page or website known as a web app, there is no requirement for developers or users to install web apps through digital distribution systems such as the Apple App Store or Google Play.
While web apps have been available for mobile devices since the beginning, they have generally been slower, less feature-rich, and have been used to a lesser extent than native apps.
But with the ability to work offline, which was previously only available to native apps, PWAs running on mobile devices can run much faster and provide more features, closing the gap with native apps, as well as being portable on desktop and mobile platforms.
Keep in mind that, given the correct technical expertise, almost any kind of web service or online platform can be developed as a progressive web application. Although, we ain’t gonna lie, sometimes is not an easy feat.
What kind of e-commerce benefits from progressive web applications?
All kinds. Generally speaking, a progressive web application allows e-commerce to breach the gap between online and offline and this is a good thing.
It is true that perhaps not all kinds of e-commerce truly need this. In fact, traditional B2C e-commerce might find a progressive web application a little bit too much or just plainly not necessary for their daily operations.
But all in all, due to their massive compatibility improvement and extra functionality, we could say that a progressive web application is, generally speaking, a boost for any e-commerce.
Main benefits of a progressive web application for e-commerce
If we had to name the main benefits that any progressive web application can offer to an e-commerce – being generalistic because each application and each e-commerce are widely different – we could pin-point the following:
Reach a wider audience, because progressive web applications are designed to work for every user, regardless of what platforms or mobile devices they're on.
Reduced development costs and time. Allowing for an online/offline solution based on the same app.
Speed and accessibility.
And due to the fact that they usually have higher compatibility with mobile devices, a better conversion rate.
Why B2B e-commerce is a good fit for progressive web applications
Now here is the real goldilocks zone: using progressive web applications for B2B e-commerce. Why? Because of its own nature, B2B e-commerce is currently shifting into a more mobile environment.
The massive workforce generational change with the Millennials – more accustomed to the use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets – is creating a scenario where many companies have their ‘decision maker CEOs and managers’ doing B2B research and buying B2B with their phones and mobile devices.
If we take this into consideration, and we realize that a progressive web application can provide support even when the smartphone or mobile app is offline, then we can truly understand its potential for B2B e-commerce.
Besides that, B2B e-commerce has a particular problem: on-the-field purchases done by teams of employees.
This is not necessarily true for all sectors of B2B, but certainly is an absolute oddity for B2C. Let’s clarify this with a real-life case: Huisman Equipment.
Huisman is the world's leading company in the crane and heavy construction equipment fields, and many of their clients operate on vessels in the middle of the sea, where internet connection is interrupted for long periods of time.
That’s why Huisman is currently using the Intershop Commerce Platform, which provides progressive web application capabilities, to bypass the long off-line periods of its clients.
And this happens more than you would think: CEOs and managers – the people that make the calls regarding B2B – are many times on the move, flying from one place to another.
Or even if they don’t fly or travel that much, our current world – this post-Covid scenario that we live in – is a world where hybrid work is a reality. And having two workstations doubles – by simple math – the chances of losing internet connectivity ever once in a while.
So, progressive web apps are not only cheaper – allowing to kill two birds with the same app, and sorry for the pun – but they are also more compatible, mobile optimizes, and can fix any cumbersome offline situation.
For a B2B business – and for your B2B clients – this is a seal of quality and a source of trust. What they do in your e-commerce platform with progressive web application functionalities, most likely won't ever be lost, even if they are in the middle of the North Pole.
Check out the Intershop Digital Trends Report, if you want to learn more about OS-agnostic mobile technology and progressive web apps – and six other spectacular trends that will shape B2B e-commerce in 2023 and beyond.