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eCommerce - App, Web or PWA?

Reach, engagement and conversions are the 3 main desired objectives for an eCommerce store. Should you have a mobile app, website, or PWA for this?

You invest in technology to accomplish the below eCommerce goals:

  1. You should be able to reach the maximum number of customers
  2. Those users should engage and convert with you

The right choice of technology is a key decision point in this journey. We are talking about the front-end(where customers interact) technology in this article. We will do a different article on the backend(behind the scenes for your backend team, cloud, inventory, etc).

You have the following touchpoint (front-end) options for your customers:

  1. Website for Desktop  - Customers use them on their computers/laptops
  2. Website for Mobiles  - Customers use this on the go
  3. Progressive Web App (PWA) - This is an enhanced version of your web with substantial advantages. PWA is installable and your brand logo stays on the user's phone.
  4. Mobile App - Customers install your app to access your brand

Let's look at various considerations.

Mobile vs Desktop

(1) is only for desktop users. This is very essential for B2B brands (eg: a procurement manager of your client will use this). This is also important in B2C, where some customers prefer to transact on larger screens.

(2), (3), and (4) are mobile focussed. Certain geographies (eg: India) are mobile-first where the first computing device of a person is a mobile phone and 90% of the web traffic comes from mobile devices. Brands that don't have a mobile presence will not cut here. In other markets, too mobile is very important, but desktop still has a good share. Consumer convenience to access brands on the go is the primary driver for mobile access in these markets.

Reach

Web (both desktop & mobile) and PWA have the maximum reach. They work on all possible devices and the separate step of the installation is not required from customers. The mobile app has a slightly lesser reach since the customers have to take an explicit action of installation and they can do it only on supported devices

Installable

The web is not installable, but apps are. The installation has an initial bump in convincing customers to install but gives more engagement (usage) if you cross this bump. PWA has the best of both worlds here. They have all the quick access benefits of the web but are also optionally installable by the customer. A true mobile app (beyond PWA) has other benefits to improve user engagement.

Conclusion

A general strategy: You should launch your brand with a web first. If you choose the right technology platform or vendor you can do desktop web, mobile web, and PWA together. This should be your first go-to-market strategy. Later you can launch the mobile app as an add-on, as your brand picks up.

Specific: If you really think your brand is something a customer should interact with on a near-daily basis (eg: subscription products, digital content consumption), then you should start with a mobile app itself in the first go.

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