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For The Mobile Web, PWAs Are The Next Big Thing

The next wave of the mobile web is arriving, and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have the power to give CMOs and their brands the edge.

PWAs combine the best of native apps and websites. They’re lightning quick, work on all devices, and don’t need to be installed or upgraded. Once added to a smartphone home screen, they download extra abilities silently in the background.

This fresh and exciting approach will fast become the new standard for customer engagement on the mobile web—in exactly the same way responsive design became best practice. The year 2017 looks set to be a tipping point for PWAs, as predicted by Gartner, and CMOs should change their mobile strategy now.

Holy Trinity Of Innovation
Successful innovation requires three elements:

  • Imagination—an inspiring creative concept
  • Science—the technology to bring it to life
  • Timing—a balance of unmet human needs and commercial opportunity

The creative concept behind these apps is simple—better mobile experiences. As the smartphone market matures, native apps will be deployed to engage the most loyal customers, while web-based apps, with their greater speed and discoverability, will be used for acquisition.

The main technologies behind PWAs are service workers and the web app manifest, enabling offline browsing and push notifications. Making them look and feel like native apps—as Paperplanes.world does so beautifully—has been helped by Apple’s ongoing investment in developing HTML. Google has also recently launched a PWA checklist.

The ultimate prize for these browser-first businesses is reaching the 4 billion humans currently without internet access. The expanding middle classes of India, Brazil, and South Africa are demographics with huge potential for Google due to its 93%+ share of search in those countries. Tapping into the Indian market was a key factor in the launch of the Twitter Lite PWA that takes up less than 1MB, has 30% faster launch time, and can save up to 70% on data.

The Tipping Point
While the financial gains have been clear for some time, there are five reasons indicating why CMOs should act now.

1. “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

The concept of responsive design took off in May 2010 when Ethan Marcotte famously coined the term in his “A List Apart” article, and five years later it became generally accepted as the default way to design web pages. But not before Google updated its SEO policies to favour responsive sites.

PWAs were first mentioned in 2013 by Wired, and three years later, in November 2016, Google began testing its mobile-first index that favours sites built using this approach. The year 2018 would be the five-year marker.

2. The industry’s most important players are behind it.

Google hosted a PWA dev summit in June 2016, which was attended by teams from Microsoft, Firefox, and Opera. While Apple wasn’t present—and could lose billions on PWAs—the technologies needed to make Safari fully compliant are “under consideration.

Life-long Apple developers are jumping ship and moving to web apps, based on principle and the limitless kinds of experiences that can be created.

3. The tech is ready.

The technology behind PWAs builds on the caching and instant-loading capabilities of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) and draws inspiration from Android Instant Apps. While the AMP framework is taking time to prove itself commercially, it has clear benefits in terms of speed and mobile customer experience.

Google also recently announced deeper integration of this technology into its Android mobile OS that will bring enhanced PWAs to its impressive 86% global market share of smartphone operating systems.

4. Apps have peaked.

Ten years on since the first iPhones arrived, 2016 has been called the “peak year” of app love, with the suggestion we’re now heading down the other side. That’s no surprise given it’s nearly impossible to break into the small group of five to eight core apps we use. Although Brits download an average of two apps a month, one in four deletes them on the same day.

5. Demonstrable commercial successes.

The first wave of web-based apps were created by content businesses including FT, Washington Post, and CNET. The latest wave of commercial successes includes Alibaba, who saw a 76% increase in conversions after upgrading its site in the summer of 2016.

As well as increasing revenue, saving costs is another major factor. Patagonia ditched all its native apps in June 2016 rather than build multiple apps for different handsets. And Housing.com saw a reduction in user acquisition costs from $3.75 through their Android app to just $0.07 on the mobile web.

The Future Is Bright
PWAs deliver next-level mobile customer experiences by combining existing technologies in a marketplace that is eager to invest, experiment, and reap the rewards. All the signals suggest that they have a bright future, and CMOs should act now to take advantage.

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