The future of retail will be determined by digital technologies. Even today, more than 90 percent of all purchases in bricks-and-mortar retail are influenced by a digital device, as a Deloitte study (PDF) found. The type of influence spans the entire customer journey, ranging from pre-purchase research into products and prices to post-purchase service concerns. This shows that the purchase decision is increasingly shifting outside of the shops. For retailers, this is a trend they mustn’t underestimate: if you fail to provide digital offers that meet your customers’ needs, you will certainly lose contact with consumers.
What’s the best way to reach the customer on a mobile platform?
The question of designing the mobile experience is certainly not new. For a long time, the question was whether a website should be optimized for mobile access, or whether it was better to design it from the ground up for visitors with mobile devices using the “mobile first” approach. The discussion has recently expanded to include a third option: mobile only. This is no longer about a compromise solution covering both mobile and desktop users; instead, it’s a dedicated mobile approach.
This set of topics is particularly important for retailers. As was pointed out a moment ago, nearly none of the purchases made today are free from digital influence. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are playing an increasingly important role as their use is increasing generally and in commerce particularly. It is these two trends in consumer behavior that make current discussions around progressive web apps (PWA) so interesting to retailers.
PWAs: The best of two approaches
Up until now, retailers have had to decide whether to give their customers a mobile-optimized website or an app. Now, they can use PWAs to capitalize on both approaches in a single solution. I have already explained the special benefits of PWAs in another post.
For retailers, they create avenues to more added value. With the capability to cache for offline use, for instance, users can access content such as product pages, shopping carts or wish lists, even with a slow or unstable connection. This also helps prevent cancellations during the check-out process. If purchase transactions are not completed, users can be sent push notifications reminding them of the shopping cart status. Notifications might also be sent if items on a user’s wish list are offered on sale. Or if certain items in which the customer was interested, but that were sold out at the last visit, become available again.
A very early example of mobile commerce via PWA comes from the online retail platform AliExpress, which is owned by the Alibaba Group. After failing to achieve satisfactory results with a native app, they switched to a PWA. Subsequently, the conversion rate increased by 104 percent (Chrome) and 82 percent (Safari). Users viewed more than twice as many pages and spent an average of 74 percent more time per session.
This example cannot be generalized, of course, but it does point to the great potential of PWAs.
First SME solution for mobile commerce
Just five months after Adobe acquired the Magento commerce platform, the Magento Progressive Web Applications Studio was presented at an event held recently in Barcelona. It is designed to help retailers and developers create dependable, fast and appealing mobile experiences for their customers that will increase conversion rates and boost engagement. This makes it significantly easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to enter mobile commerce. Any enterprise already familiar with Magento will have an easier time creating its PWA.
The bottom line: From use to revenue
The fact that retailers are increasingly being influenced by digitalization is neither new nor surprising. But a look to China makes it very clear that we in Germany still lag far behind, at least where revenue generation is concerned. To change that, retailers need to resolutely focus on meeting customers’ needs. This also includes a customer experience that goes far beyond merely displaying products. With PWAs, this step will be significantly simplified in the future. This applies not just to online retail but includes bricks-and-mortar retailers as well: A market player that is not digitally present will be ignored in the digital process of purchase preparation and lose its customers.