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PWA vs Native App: Which Should Retail Brands Prioritize?

Posted by Julia Morrissey on May 16, 2022

Over the last decade, consumers have switched to using mobile as their primary device for browsing and shopping. As a result, many fashion brands are increasingly investing in their mobile strategy.

One of the main questions we hear is: progressive web app (PWA) or native app? Although this is often posed as an either/or choice, the reality is slightly different. A PWA and a native app provide different entry points for your customer journey; both are better than a standard website, and ideally, a brand would have both.

The question is, which should you invest in first?

Below, we take a detailed look at PWA vs native apps in order to answer that question.

What Is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

Progressive web apps are websites styled to look like apps. They are written using common web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Additionally, they run inside a browser or can be installed on a device. Once installed, you can access the app from the home screen of the mobile device and open it without a browser window, creating the look and feel of a native app. Many popular websites now offer this functionality, including Twitter, Pinterest, and Uber. 

The advantages of a PWA include:

Limitations of a PWA:

What Is a Native App?

A native app is created using a particular platform’s native coding languages. Therefore, it takes advantage of all the features of the device it runs on. The app is downloaded from the app store and then installed on the mobile device, where it can be accessed from the home screen.

The advantages of a native app include:

Limitations of a native app:

PWA vs Native App: Side by Side

Now you have a clear idea of the main advantages and disadvantages of each app type, take a look at this side by side comparison of PWA vs native apps.

PWANative App
User ExperienceLooks like a native app but less functionalVisually appealing, easy to use, highly functional
CustomizabilityLess customizableHighly customizable with unique features
InstallationNo installation required, runs on mobile device’s browserRequired (expect for mini apps like an App Clip)
Push NotificationsNot available for iOSAvailable for all devices
GeofencingNot available Available
ShareabilityCan be shared with a URLUsers need to visit the app store
Cost to DevelopLess expensive, only need one teamMore expensive, need separate teams for iOS and Android
Time to DevelopLimited time requiredMore time required to create and to get app store verification
Load TimeSlowerFaster
Battery ConsumptionUses more batteryDoesn’t consume much battery
SecurityHTTPS encryptionImproved privacy and security, two-factor authentication
Inter-app CommunicationCan’t communicate with other apps on deviceCan communicate with other apps on device
Offline ModeLimitedCan function offline
UpdatesDoes not require users to updateRequires users to update

Why Brands Should Prioritize a Native vs Progressive Web App

When it comes to native vs progressive web apps, for retail brands, a native app is a better initial investment. Below we highlight why native apps are superior to PWAs.

Push Notifications

Push notifications are an easy and seamless way to engage and communicate with customers. These real-time alerts appear on the user’s screen, enabling a brand to put vital marketing messages and updates front and center for the customer. Even if they don’t have the app open. 

These notifications can be in text or video format, and using them can increase engagement with your app, boost user retention, and increase conversion rates.

But, to use this marketing technique effectively, you need a native app. PWAs can serve push notifications to Android devices, but not to iOS devices, losing a vital share of the market. A native app is the only way to engage with your entire audience using push notifications.

Better User Experience

When marketing a fashion brand, visuals are absolutely key. Not only does a native app provide a significant performance increase for data-heavy visual content, but it also enables features that would be difficult or impossible on a mobile website or PWA.

For example, fully shoppable video lookbooks enable brands to showcase their products while offering customers the opportunity to make a purchase decision at any time. And because the content is preloaded, it’s available immediately. Providing similar functionality on a PWA would be technically challenging and time-consuming.

A native app also has geofencing capabilities which enable developers to set up virtual boundaries. When users step inside these boundaries, such as your physical store, the app can trigger phone actions. A location-based activated store mode allows you to make it even easier for customers to pick up orders, scan products, and interact with store associates.

Higher Conversion Rates

Providing customers with more communication and a better user experience leads to superior conversion rates for native apps when compared to mobile websites and PWAs. NewStore customer PME Legend experienced a 38% conversion rate lift when upgrading its old mobile website to a PWA. However, with a native app, it recorded a conversion rate 2.6x that of its PWA (a 160% increase) and 3.6x higher than its old mobile website (a 260% increase). 

Showcase Your Brand with a Native Consumer App

If, like many businesses, you already have a website, but don’t have an app, your mobile strategy is missing a vital source of traffic. Your next step is to invest in a native app. A native app will provide another entry point for new customers. Even more, it’ll give a faster and more complete experience to returning ones.

When building or deploying a native app, it is critical to have features and performance capabilities that showcase products effectively and create unique customer interactions. Some features to consider:

NewStore Consumer Apps help brands radically enrich their brand experience online, in-store, and on mobile. Reach out to one of our app experts to learn how you can launch a native app in 6-8 weeks.

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