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eCommerce Progressive Web Apps: What, Why, and How

Kaya Ismail • 14 June 2022

In order to build a high-converting eCommerce shop, you need to ensure that the shopping experience on multiple platforms is engaging, especially on channels where customers are shopping more and more, like mobile. 

For a long time, the mobile experience depended on customized apps to flourish, but in recent years that’s changed. If you want to give your eCommerce website a better chance to make an impact on mobile, then you need to consider a progressive web app.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

What Is a Progressive Web App? (PWA)

A progressive web application (PWA) is built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and provides a native mobile app experience when a user browses from a mobile device. Rather than forcing customers to download a mobile app to receive the best experience, PWAs can be used instead of these custom apps to provide a similarly engaging experience. In addition, customers can install a PWA on their home screen just as they would a native mobile app, without having to go to the app store to do it. 

According to Statista, mobile eCommerce retail sales, which refers to transactions completed using a smartphone or tablet, are expected to reach $434.1 billion by the end of 2022 and extend to over $710 billion by 2025. Even as eCommerce sales begin to return to normal levels following the spike caused by the pandemic, many of the customer behaviors that drove the accelerated growth of eCommerce continue to remain. 

As eCommerce brands contend with the increasing use of mobile devices for shopping, they need to ensure that the shopping experience remains a high-quality one. Using progressive web apps to create the best experience on mobile devices and combining them with headless commerce can enable brands to improve customer engagement and drive more sales. 

Building Blocks for a PWA

In order to convert a standard eCommerce site into a PWA, you need three things:

HTTPS: PWAs need to be served via secure and trusted connections using HTTPS. 

Service Worker: A script that runs in the background; service workers help handle network requests for the PWA and enable PWAs to be faster and operate offline, among other capabilities. 

Web App Manifest: PWAs rely on a web app manifest, a JSON file containing the information on how the PWA appears and operates, including details such as colors, icons, name, description, and more. 

Benefits of PWAs for eCommerce Stores

There are several benefits that have enticed eCommerce brands to opt for PWAs. 


PWAs are more reliable than native mobile apps and other web applications because they use caching to load almost instantaneously. In situations where network connectivity is limited, and other apps might not load as well, PWAs can provide increased reliability and an unaffected mobile experience. 

Speed and Accessibility

Slow loading times when a customer is browsing a mobile site can lead to them quickly moving on to another alternative. Luckily, a PWA not only loads fast, but maintains that speed when responding to user input and are even accessible offline in some cases due to caching. 

Reduce Development Costs 

Brands that want to build a custom mobile app typically need to hire an iOS or an Android developer, in most cases, both. In order to not alienate any potential customer base, this might mean needing to create a Windows app as well. However, with PWAs, there is no need to build two or three apps, reducing the drain on developer resources. 

Increased Store Visits

PWAs enable brands to reach a wider audience since they don’t restrict eCommerce stores to a specific mobile device or even screen size. This translates into a larger customer base and an influx in traffic. 

Increased Conversions

With more store visitors, eCommerce merchants have a greater opportunity to increase conversions. PWAs provide a more engaging shopping experience, resulting in increased conversions and a boost in sales. 

How to Use PWAs to Improve Shopping Experiences

PWAs provide several advantages for eCommerce stores, but there are a few ways that brands can use them to enhance the shopping experience for customers. 

Increase User Adoption

Since PWAs provide a native mobile app experience, users can receive many of the benefits of having easy access without the drawbacks or hassle of downloading an app. Most eCommerce customers don’t download native apps for their favorite brands. 

However, a PWA can also be installed on the home screen without going through an app store. This removes the middle man and improves the user experience meaning that PWAs can be adopted faster. 

Use Push Notifications

Progressive web apps allow brands to use push notifications to reach their customers on mobile devices. As one of the most popular channels, mobile devices offer a prime opportunity to share content and updates. With PWAs, eCommerce stores can provide updates on sales, share new campaigns, and more without forcing customers to share their email addresses for a newsletter or download an app. 

Create Offline Availability

A frustrating experience for customers is when they lose connectivity and can’t return to the page they were previously browsing. Even though this isn’t the fault of the eCommerce merchant, PWAs enable stores to not lose out on potential customers as a result. By caching content and making the store available offline, customers can keep track of products they were browsing and complete purchases when they have better connectivity. 

Improve SEO

One of the drawbacks of mobile apps is that search engines can’t index them. Since PWAs are web-based, they can be crawled by search engines, improving SEO rankings, increasing traffic and potentially leading to more conversions and sales. 

Reap the Benefits of PWAs With Instant Commerce 

Progressive web apps are game-changers for the mobile shopping experience. So, eCommerce stores that want to improve conversion rates on mobile devices can provide greater reliability, speed, and responsiveness, particularly when used as part of a headless commerce strategy. 

Shopify merchants and those with standard eCommerce stores can convert their eCommerce sites into PWAs with Instant Commerce.

Instant Commerce allows brands to build a headless webshop using a components-based system that empowers non-technical users. With Instant Commerce, brands can simplify previously complicated technical strategies like headless commerce and PWAs and create an engaging front-end experience. Instant Commerce also helps improve site performance, increase conversions and reduce developer dependency.


Still considering whether to dive headfirst into headless commerce with your Shopify store? Look no further than our guide to help you figure out the details: Headless commerce with Shopify: the complete guide

Author / Writer
Kaya Ismail
Content Marketer

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