PWAs and beacons: A powerful retail mobile marketing strategy

The mobile app has seen a tremendous change in the way users interact with it. Since its inception in 1994, apps have gone through a massive overhaul. There are apps to book flights, measure distances and even help you get fit. Apps, when tied to BLE beacons, can also help retailers drive sales and increase ROI. Is it possible that progressive web apps and BLE beacons can take this a step further? We will explore that possibility later in this blog.


First, let’s answer the burning question.

What is the need for a progressive web app?

iTunes App Store hosts over 1.5 million apps and Google Play over 2 million but the number of apps that actually get installed and/or used is very small. According to a new study on mobile app usage, even if you have convinced a mobile user to download an app, one in four of them use the app only once. Additionally, iOS devices that have a scheduled clean up will remove the apps that have not been used to free up more space.

So, if your initial app development costs $100,000 then you can expect to shell out $200,000 for app maintenance. All this for an app that isn’t being used by 1 out of 4 people more than once in the case it is actually downloaded.

These dismal numbers coupled with the fact that every additional click required to install an app sees a drop-off rate of 25% is enough to make you question the viability of a native app(apps downloaded on the smartphone).

The alternative: A progressive web app

What is a progressive web app?

A progressive web app or PWA delivers a native app experience using the capabilities of the modern browser. PWAs require no download on the app store. That very well may be the USP of a progressive web app.

If the Gartner predictions for 2019 are to be believed, 20% of brands are going to abandon their native app. This may also have something to do with the fact that less than 1 in 10,000 apps are actually profitable.

Progressive web apps, on the other hand, combine the best of the web and apps to let users access it via the browser. PWAs also has added functionalities like push notifications and navigation similar to a native app.

Where do PWAs come into the retail landscape?

PWAs are at the center of every retail technology conference. Given the 1.66 billion people who shopped online in 2017, it is safe to assume that retail stores need to engage customers online if they don’t already.

By investing in a PWA as opposed to a native app, there are several benefits retailers can get


  1. Fast and reliable: The speed of a PWA can be attributed to not needing to download or install an app from the store. Since PWA runs on the web, there is also no need to update it.
  2. Notifications: Push Notifications can be sent via the PWA just like a native app.
  3. Reduced cost of development and maintenance: Native apps cost a lot more to develop and install. PWAs, on the other hand, are economically viable.


It is obvious that the retail landscape can stand to benefit from implementing PWAs but is there a possibility that BLE beacon can be factored in as well?

Related: 4 trends radically reshaping the retail industry

BLE beacon and PWA are a power couple

The notification sent to consumers from a nearby BLE beacon has a specific URL attached to it. That URL can send customers to a PWA. Win-win. Consumers do not need to download your specific app to enjoy a brilliant shopping experience. The beacons are a fantastic medium to lead them there.

PWA and BLE beacon: A combination for success

Since one single notification can redirect customers to your progressive web app, they do not need to spend time installing it. PWAs can also send push notifications increasing opportunities for more sales.

Don’t take our word for it.

Take a look at brands making the best use of PWAs


  1. Twitter Lite


Twitter Lite has been well-received since its launch in 2017 and continues to great features making its PWA even better. It also requires less than 3% of the storage space compared to the Android native Twitter app. As per a Google Developers study, 250,000 Twitter users engage with the PWA at an average frequency of 4 times a day.


  1. Starbucks


Starbucks went live with its PWA in 2017. It does an excellent job of engaging its loyal and new customers. The PWA has full offline functionality, smooth, native-like animations and is highly responsive. The PWA only occupies 233 Kb strengthening Starbuck’s reach and hold as a tech-driven company.


  1. Debenhams


This British retail chain understood the need of the hour and effectively turned its mobile-shopping website to a progressive web app. Their mobile website was riddled with problems such as requiring large quantities of data to be downloaded. Their PWA is raking in double-figure growth in conversions according to their digital product management team.

Related: Read why PWAs matter to your beacon project

The advantages of a PWA over a native mobile app can be gleaned from the content but to put in simpler terms, here is a comprehensive list –


Native mobile apps vs. Progressive web apps


Native Mobile Apps Progressive Web Apps
Download and regular updates are required No download or update required
Design needs to be modified across phones and Operating Systems Adapts to the browser being used on the device
Usually loads slower Loads faster than native mobile apps
Not impenetrable to hackers HTTPS security protocols protect users from hackers
Development and maintenance cost a lot Cost is small compared to native apps
Usually takes up a lot of space PWAs take up a fraction of the space


PWAs: The future of apps?


All the data from mobile app installs and usage points to one single fact: The native app model is broken.

All of Google Chrome apps are PWAs. Google is also shifting to mobile-first indexing by the end of 2018 which means all PWAs will be listed first. This is because PWAs are indexable which means non-app users will also stumble across the app on Google.

Given the success of PWAs, it is very likely that native-mobile apps will soon see a decline and mobile websites will be overhauled into PWAs.

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