The biggest weakness of classic websites is the user experience on mobile devices. Compared to the experience on the desktop, it is lacking smoothness and speed. If B2B companies want to improve their customers' satisfaction, new approaches must be evaluated.
Why don't traditional websites work on mobile?
Responsive design can optimize the display on all devices, but the main weakness is the performance and fluidity of the user experience. Due to the technical approach alone, this can hardly be improved. It takes far too long for the user to start interacting with the application, resulting in an entire experience which does not feel as expected. Native apps on the other hand provide all this: Speed, and a UX that is specialized for smaller screens.
Should B2B companies develop e-commerce apps?
If the B2B company is a large brand with a well-accepted online store, then YES. If customers already trust the brand and regularly shop with it, it's worth for them to develop a native app, because that's where the user experience is best. Smaller (more specialized) brands have way more difficulties in acceptance. As a medium-sized company, how do you get users to download and use your own native app?
Mobile websites have one big advantage, because customers usually start their customer journey in the search engine - and those crawl websites, not native apps, leading to 50% of all traffic in e-commerce. The contents of a native app are not indexed and would not be found.
Is a PWA better than a native app in B2B e-commerce?
To understand this, we need to look more closely at the advantages and disadvantages of native apps.
Native apps have their big advantage in performance. In the end, you only get small amounts of data from the web server; all performance-dependent processes are executed on the mobile device. Hence, the speed is much better than if the processes run in a browser.
If the user is offline, the app starts anyway. A mobile website would simply not be accessible. Services and cached data are still available in an app. For example, the placing of an order would need to trigger a call to the server, while other functions still works smoothly when offline.
There is however the issue of customer reach. The first thing you have to do with an app is to get it downloaded at all. Fun fact: the average user downloads 0 apps per month. Most of them use the pre-installed set of applications on their mobile phones and nobody uses all of them. App-fatigue has a huge impact on user behavior.
PWAs enable initial contact via a search engine:
For B2B companies, a Progressive Web App (PWA) is a simple and effective way to provide high-performing (mobile) websites. No app development, no download, no installation is needed.
When opting for a PWA instead of a native app, B2B companies can still configure push notifications to their customers. This also ensures offline support, as the service worker can perform its basic functions even without contact to the server. Advantages of a native app such as having a quick-start icon on the home screen are also possible with a PWA.
In addition, cached information, such as an order history, can be displayed without problems. Thus, weak points can be bridged even with unstable Internet connections. The technology allows further interaction with the user in times without server contact by using important data coming from the local memory.
What is the user journey with a PWA?
Does Intershop provide a PWA for B2B customers?
Yes, the Intershop PWA is the standard storefront for our Commerce platform. And it's Open Source! It's a ready-to-use template which enables our customers to get started quickly. This makes projects faster, cheaper and eliminates the risk of application development failing, as we provide an already working solution.
Do Intershop customers have developed native apps yet?
Yes, we have a great example from the Netherlands:
Coop Netherlands had a successful chain of supermarkets as well as an online store, but they wanted to be able to offer more for their customers. They contacted Incentro with the idea of creating an app to be able to buy via mobile.
An idea evolved: “How about an app that helps you keep the fridge full at any time?” What started out modestly developed into an app with incredible functionalities. Together with Intershop, Incentro Spain created a sales app with artificial intelligence that learns from customers’ preferences and has a product scanner to optimize the search time.
First came the image scanner. Javier Sainz-Maza, consultant for Incentro Spain, says: “Based on Google Cloud image recognition software, we built an intelligent product scanner. Not the typical barcode reader, but a tool capable of recognizing vegetables, fruits, product packaging and even items from other supermarkets. So, just before you beat the last egg, you take a picture and a new package is added to your shopping list. It allows you to basically cook and buy at the same time!”
On top of that, they created automatic shopping lists, thanks to which you don't need to navigate the app “up and down”. A machine learning solution was also implemented: The more you use the app, the more efficient it becomes, as it learns from your preferences.
Once this app was launched, Coop online sales grew more than 25%. Today, 30% of sales are made via app.