22 companies that developed PWA and how you can benefit from it
01.10.2021 - Read in 19 min.
22 well-known brands that implemented PWAs in their web strategies and quite frankly — got some fascinating results out of that decision.
We’ve been living through the era of mobile interactions for years now. It’s no surprise that mobile device usage is growing across all the industries without showing any particular declining trend. From e-commerce to news, social media to banking, travel to healthcare — the ability to perform actions on the go from anywhere you happen to find yourself presents an unprecedented change to humanity’s life.
If we consider the growth of satellite internet constellations in the likes of Starlink from SpaceX, we’ll soon become connected to the World Wide Web not only in the vicinity of regular broadband towers, but also in the most distant places on our planet.
Which leads to this: businesses can’t ignore the mobile experience any further if they want to survive. And since I’m an overly-optimistic person, I want to believe that you, my dear reader, found yourself here because you want to make sure that your mobile experience, whether you’re a business owner or someone who’s responsible for the tech side of things, is up to par with the industry leaders.
So… Let’s indulge ourselves in the world of Progressive Web Apps. Okay, that didn’t sound as epic as I thought it will, but anyway…
What is PWA?
PWA is an abbreviation for ‘progressive web app’ and simply put is a website that is designed with mobile-first approach and can serve as a mobile app while also providing native-like performance in any regular mobile web browser.
The term was firstly introduced in 2015 by designer Frances Berriman and Google’ engineer Alex Russell. The same year, Google put a lot of emphasis on introducing PWA on Android and the rest is history. The technology very seamlessly integrated into the web and mobile development landscape. I’ll focus on the technology itself in the upcoming articles as this we’ll be a kick-off for a series of materials dedicated to progressive web applications.
Today, we’ll look at a list of 22 well-known brands that implemented PWAs in their web strategies and quite frankly — got some fascinating results out of that decision.
Facebook’s PWA case study
Facebook doesn’t need any special introduction — we’ve all used it at least once in our lifetime. According to Statista, as of July 2021, 81.8% of Facebook’s user base accesses Facebook only via a mobile phone, without ever seeing a desktop version of the platform. Which IS the case for the majority of social media companies.
Facebook has been playing with PWA for a while to finally re-launch their PWA web application in 2019, offering their users an undistinguishable experience across a variety of devices.
In the same year, they also finally released a Beta version of their previously discontinued desktop application. Albeit, this time it is a PWA-powered application that utilizes Microsoft Edge’s capabilities and in accordance with user reviews offers better performance than simply opening Facebook in a regular browser’s window.
All in all, although offering various experiences across mobile devices in a form of Facebook and Facebook Lite native applications, the company clearly continues to explore the possibilities offered by the PWA technology.
Tinder’s PWA case study
Tinder. An application with mixed reputation as to its main purpose, once mobile-only solution, now offers to its users an experience that goes beyond their native applications — PWA-powered web platform.
Interestingly, after launching their web application, which as it goes with PWA apps weights only a 10th fraction of the native app’s size, noticed that the new solution generates better results:
- Tinder users swipe more on their web-based app
- They also message more
- And edit their profiles more
- And the session times are longer
Which shows that one shouldn’t overestimate the importance of native apps while dismissing the potential of a web-based PWA applications. It took only 3 months for Tinder to build their React-powered MVP, which managed to outperform their native apps.
If you’d like to learn more about the technical details of how exactly they tackled the subject of developing their MVP, I’d like to send you to a very interesting piece by Addy Osmani here.
Flipkart’s PWA case study
Great results don’t stop at the Tinder’s example. Flipkart — one of the largest India’s ecommerce platform decided to take app-only approach back in 2015, effectively shutting down the mobile version of their website and redirecting everyone to their mobile applications. They found it more and more difficult to sustain a frictionless user experience on the mobile web version of their platform in comparison to what the native mobile application could offer.
The decision soon was reversed as their attention was grabbed by the new approach to build web applications — progressive web apps. Which eventually led to a Flipkart Lite app being introduced — offering native-like experience within users’ web browsers.
As a result, Flipkart’s newly-built PWA application easily outperformed their previous site’s mobile experience:
- 3x increase in time spent on the site
- 40% higher re-engagement rate
- 70% higher conversion rate amongst users arriving via ‘Add to homescreen’
- 3x lower data usage
‘We know that everyone needs to build mobile-first experiences. With Flipkart Lite, we’ve developed a powerful, technically-advanced web app that performs as well as our native app. We now feel we have the best of both worlds.’
Amar Nagaram — Engineering Director at Flipkart
Forbes’s PWA case study
Back in 2016, Forbes, a global media company and an international magazine, has been known for a rather clumsy user experience across the entirety of their web platform. They even were flagged by Google themselves and put on a list of sites with ‘failing’ ads.
This led to Forbes introducing their brand new PWA-powered website in January 2017, rolling out their new solution to a fraction of their global traffic.
According to Salah Zalatimo, Head of Product and Tech at Forbes, the switch to PWA brought the company an up to 40% increase in time per session, 15% increase in pages viewed per session as well as 20% decrease in the number of users who would read only a quarter of an article and leave. Impressions per session went up 10% and the loading speed dropped from 6.5 seconds to only 2.5, meaning an astounding 160% decrease.
Pinterest’s PWA case study
Pinterest, a widely-popular image sharing social media platform with over 478 million global monthly active users as of March 2021. As expected, over 80% of those people access it from their mobile devices. Which wouldn’t be the case should they ignore the potential presented by a PWA-powered application.
In the year 2017, after Pinterest’s team decided to analyse their unauthenticated mobile web users, they came to the shocking realization that their outdated mobile web experience managed to convert a measly 1% of their users into sign-ups, logins or native app installations.
The situation was bad. And by ‘bad’, I mean reaaaaaaly bad.
Pinterest’s visitors often had to wait 23 seconds before any UI was usable at all. That’s nearly half a minute…
Here’s an amazing comparison by Addy Osmani on the changes in the platform’s performance after the introduction of PWA.
For more technical information, check his in-depth case study.
AliExpress’s PWA case study
What started as a B2B e-commerce platform, became one of the most popular B2C online retail services in the world, and it was just a matter of time when the company decided to put a lot of effort into making their mobile experience as customer-friendly as possible. Considering m-commerce grows faster than regular desktop e-commerce, AliExpress had built both mobile applications and a mobile version of the website. The issue is, they struggled to make their mobile website experience as fast and engaging as that offered by their mobile apps
To tackle this, AliExpress decided to develop a cross-platform PWA application that would offer native-like performance of their mobile applications within their users’ browsers and would also be fully unified with their web platform.
As a result:
- 104% increase in conversion for new users across all browsers
- 82% increase in iOS conversion rate
- 2x more pages visited per session per user across all browsers
- 74% increase in time spent per session across all browser
‘One of the reasons we built a Progressive Web App was to be able to invest in the web experience across all browsers. Not only did we see huge benefits on browsers that support the latest features, but we also got to see a bump across the board. That is the sign of a great investment, and one that will keep paying for itself as browsers evolve.’
Lijun Chen, Director of Mobile at AliExpress
Google Maps PWA case study
Google Maps Go is Google’s attempt to adapt one of their key services to low-end devices that also were meant to get a lightweight version of Android OS — Android Go.
According to the statistics from the Play Store, Google Maps Go has been already downloaded over 500 million times and packs all the features that you would expect from Google Maps services. That sounds like a success to me.
I’m not going to cover more of Google’s PWAs as they seemingly developed Go version of nearly all of their products, including Gmail Go, YouTube Go, Assistant Go and pretty much everything else.
Uber’s PWA case study
Worldwide expansion is somewhat a business card of Uber. According to Angus Croll, an engineer from Uber Web Platform Team, they needed to build a mobile web version of their platform to provide decent user experience on both low-end devices and in places with a bad internet connection, such as 2G networks, for instance.
Their native apps wouldn’t cut it, for obvious reasons, so they developed m.uber, or as they apparently called it — Moo-ber.
In order to make it work on 2G networks, the app had to be super-lightweight. Which is exactly what PWA offers. As a result, when the team finished developing the PWA app, the size of its core ‘request a ride’ packages was only 50 kB, which meant only 3 seconds loading time on an average 2G network connectivity.
For a more in-depth technical description, check out the Moo-ber’s blog.
Trivago’s PWA case study
‘We want to be there for our users whenever they need to find a place to stay, whatever their reason for travelling. So it’s our priority to be on all the devices and platforms that matter.’
Tom Dwyer, Project Lead for PWA and Frontend Developer at Trivago
One of the world’s biggest hotel search engine, Trivago noticed in 2017 that they were already getting more traffic from mobile devices than from laptop or desktop computers. Amongst some of the more generic problems, like signal loses in elevators or subways, that resulted in broken sessions and searches, which in turn lead to increased user frustration, Trivago team also knew that it is rather unrealistic to expect new users to go straight to downloading their native applications, without having a chance to test their services beforehand. That’s when the decision to try PWA came along.
- Trivago PWA online app was released in 33 languages in 55 countries back in 2017
- Over 500 000 users added the PWA to their homescreens
- Engagement from those users that added the app to their homescreens increased by 150%, from an average of just 0.8 repeat visits for users of the old version of the mobile website to 2 repeat visits for the PWA
- 97% increase in clickouts to hotel offers
- Amongst only 3% of users, who at the time used the offline functionality, 67% of those who did — continued browsing the platform
The Washington Post’s PWA case study
Back in 2015, The Washington Post joined an initiative and together with other publishers and technology companies started working on the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, or as it is known nowadays, simply — AMP. The Washington Post was one of the first major news sites to turn their site into a Progressive Web Application.
It was a no-brainer for The Post that they needed to provide a flawless reading experience to their mobile users as nearly 55% of their traffic was already generated by mobile devices, not desktop.
Subsequently, putting their bets on PWA lead to results that speak for themselves:
- 23% increase in mobile search users who returned to The Washington Post within 7 days
- An average loading time of 400 milliseconds, which was 88% faster than their old mobile version of the website
Twitter’s PWA case study
Twitter. Probably the most fast-paced social media platform out there. Their decision to switch to PWA came in 2017, when the team was looking for ways to integrate web and native mobile app features into a much better mobile web experience, as over 80% of their users were using mobile devices to access the platform anyway.
That’s how the Twitter Lite app came around.
‘Twitter Lite is now the fastest, least expensive, and most reliable way to use Twitter. The web app rivals the performance of our native apps but requires less than 3% of the device storage space compared to Twitter for Android.’
Nicolas Gallagher, Engineering Lead for Twitter Lite
Inevitably, the results were not long in coming:
- 65% increase in pages per session
- 75% increase in Tweets sent
- 20% decrease in bounce rate
- 250,000 unique daily users launched Twitter Lite from their homescreens 4 times a day on average
- 70% decrease in data consumption
- 10 mln push notifications delivered daily
- The app required only 600 kB of downloaded data, instead of 23.5 MB needed to install Twitter’s native app
- Under 5 seconds loading time on 3G network connection
- Under 3 seconds, when a user returns to the PWA, even on slow mobile devices or networks.
- Twitter Lite users experienced a 50% reduction in 99th percentile time-to-interactive latency
- Logged-in users seen a 30% reduction in average page load time
Lancôme’s PWA case study
Here comes another great e-commerce example. Lancôme — a French luxury perfumes and cosmetics house saw mobile traffic overtake their desktop traffic in 2016, unfortunately for Lancôme, that also meant a significant drop in conversions.
As the team inspected the case, they found out that while 38% of desktop shopping carts led to a purchase, mobile conversion rates were only 15%. After they looked into the matter, it turned out their mobile user experience was filled with hurdles that the majority of potential customers simply didn’t want to deal with.
After some consideration and research on possible solutions, Lancôme decided against developing a native mobile application (with an assumption that only regulars would go as far as download yet another mobile app) and simply doing some cosmetic (no pun intended, or was it?) fixes to what they already had — was rather a cop-out solution. Hence, the decision to go PWA.
Here’s what they got out of that decision:
- 4% decrease in time until the page is interactive
- 17% increase in conversions
- 15% decrease in bounce rate
- 51% increase in mobile sessions
- 53% increase in mobile sessions on iOS
- 10% decrease in bounce rates on iOS
- 8% of consumers who tapped on a push notification make a purchase
- 18% open rate from push notifications
- 12% increase in conversion rates on recovered carts via push notifications
Starbucks’s PWA case study
Starbucks, obviously, needs no presentation. In 2015, they released their mobile ordering application for iOS and as the time went on, they were planning to expand the functionality of their website to serve the same purpose. That’s when they started to consider progressive web app technology to take over what they had until that moment.
One of the factors they were thinking upon was universal access to their services in both emerging markets, where internet connectivity might not be stable for regular website browsing and for those commuters, who would lose internet connection while in a subway, for instance.
They needed offline functionality. And PWA is offline’s best friend.
When it was built, Starbucks’s PWA application was:
- 99.84% smaller than their native iOS app (233 kB vs. 148 MB)
- Available on both Android and iOS platforms
BookMyShow’s PWA case study
BookMyShow — India’s largest ticketing firm, with 50+ mln monthly visitors as of 2017, saw their mobile audience steadily growing and eventually overtaking regular desktop traffic. And while that was happening, just like in Lancôme’s case, the bounce rates weren’t too pleasing as their mobile user experience and page loading time were far from mobile-friendly.
More so, their existing native applications were both data- and memory-heavy.
‘People were using the native app and were happy with it, but their main concerns were the data usage and the memory it consumes, and if they uninstalled the app and tried using the mobile browser, it didn’t work the same way.’
Anish Tripathi, VP of Design at BookMyShow
Thankfully, PWA technology was ready to help. After the PWA app was introduced, BookMyShow:
- Saw an exponential increase in mobile conversation rates, hitting as high as 80% growth
- Took less than 3 seconds to load
- Made it possible to complete the checkout in just 30 seconds
- Was 54x smaller in comparison to their Android native app and mind-boggling 180x smaller than the iOS one
Debenhams’s PWA case study
Debenhams — a British online retail brand that just like the case from the above encountered a climbing mobile website traffic and a declining mobile conversion rates. It was rather obvious that transforming Debenhams mobile experience became of the highest priority. Interestingly, they already had native mobile apps, which weren’t gaining the same traction comparable to that of their mobile website.
A combination of those factors tipped the scales in favour of a progressive mobile app that would be able to both increase general mobile browsing experience and serve as an app to the most loyal clients.
In 4 months, the new app was ready to serve its purpose and the results didn’t make it wait for themselves:
- Mobile-generated revenue went up 40%
- Conversion rates went up 20%
- Commuter times saw a spike in purchases
- Browsing-to-purchase time got 2-4x faster
Such success proved to Debenhams C-level execs how good of a decision was investing in PWA, to the extent that they quickly extended PWA’s availability to tablets and moved onto building a unified frontend experience by making their desktop into a PWA-powered website.
Alibaba’s PWA case study
Alibaba — the world’s largest B2B trading platform was on a lookout for a way to improve their mobile website experience. Unfortunately for them, conventional methods were nothing but a waste of time and weren’t giving them the results they were hoping for.
Customers used Alibaba’s mobile web for product discovery and weren’t too keen on becoming a native app users. They simply stayed in their browsers and made purchases on the desktop, should they decided to finalize their searches on the platform.
To battle this status quo, Alibaba decided to build a PWA that would take the place of a regular mobile website and hopefully make it easier for their mobile users to re-engage with the platform, partially thanks ot the ‘Add to homescreen’ prompt.
As you should expect by now, the results were far from regretful.
- 76% increase in total conversions across browsers (here’s how the defined conversion: ‘a conversion corresponds to visits that result in direct contact with a supplier’)
- 14% higher number of monthly active users on iOS
- 30% higher number of monthly active users on Android
- 4x higher engagement rates from those, who added Alibaba’s shortcut via ‘Add to homescreen’
- Push notifications open rates on mobile PWA website was the same as in native mobile app
BMW’s PWA case study
In 2018, BMW decided to rebuild their mobile website, focusing on attracting new car enthusiast with a modern mobile experience, powered by high-performance technologies and offering a user experience worthy of that offered by BMW’s automobiles.
To reach set goals, that picked an interesting duo — AMP and PWA.
Let’s look at the AMP first. I’ve already mentioned the technology when writing about The Washington Post, but for those, who’d like to learn more about it, I’ll redirect you to their official website. Now, back to the matter at hand.
Because page loading time was of an essence to BMW team, AMP’s potential for loading in less than half a second was rather sweet-looking. The AMP was used to lure visitors (by serving useful and engaging content) into the depths of their website that was then seamlessly taken over by a PWA-powered platform with all the relevant benefits in the likes of ‘Add to homescreen’, push notifications etc.
The duo proved itself by simply providing BMW with beautiful results:
- Conversion of BMW.com visitors to a BMW sales site increased fourfold
- 4x faster page loading times
- 50% increase in mobile traffic
- Mobile-first approach lead to a 49% increase in SEO-powered traffic
MakeMyTrip’s PWA case study
MakeMyTrip — India’s leading travel company with more than 23 mln of native apps downloads in 2017, traffic from which drove half of the companies bookings.
There were a number of issues they had to deal with that would soon convince them to join the ranks of PWA-powered companies:
- Many Indian mobile users had only intermittent internet connectivity, used low-end phones and were tied by data transmission limitations.
- The cost of driving new customers to their mobile website was considerably lower than the cost of driving app downloads.
- MakeMyTrip team struggled to engage their mobile users and just like Alibaba’s team, they considered their mobile website as a gateway that would shift their non-app users to their native mobile applications.
Obviously, now we know that PWA can easily deal with the problems that stood in front of the company. And so they did. Here’s the outcome:
- 3x higher conversion rates
- 38% faster page load time
- 160% more shopper sessions
- 30% more last-minute shoppers
- 24% higher number of cities with a user footprint
- 20% bounce rate decrease
- 3x higher conversion rate in comparison to native app amongst first-time shoppers
Housing.com’s PWA case study
Another Indian case comes from Housing.com — one of the top India’s startups. If you had a chance to read my previous article on the importance of mobile-first approach, you might remember Google’s study on the effects of slow page load times. Housing.com is another proof of the Google’s findings.
When Housing.com team measured users’ average page load times and compared it to the conversion rates, they found that even 1 second improvement in loading times led to a significant increase in conversion rates.
And just like in MakeMyTrip’s case, low-end devices, 2G connectivity or sporadic internet connectivity at all, data-related limitations and other cases of similar nature rendered impossible simple improvements to the regular mobile website. Thankfully, PWA technology was there to help and provide them with results that helped both future-proof their website for the mobile-first era and generate quick results. Speaking of which:
- 38% increase in conversion rates
- 40% decrease in bounce rates
- 10% longer average user session
- 30% faster page load time
Wego’s PWA case study
Wego, formerly known as Bezurk, is a Singaporean travel metasearch engine and is the largest travel marketplace in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
Mobile web was always a critical channel for Wego as their core markets had to deal with the same issues as MakeMyTrips, Housing.com or Alibaba. Using slow websites is frustrating even on desktops, but dealing with long page load times on mobile devices is a nightmare.
The solution for Webo was to turn their mobile website into an AMP-powered PWA. Did it go well?
What kind of question is that?!
- Average page load time went down from 11 seconds to under 1 second
- Partner conversion rates went up 95%
- Search-to-conversion rates went up 49%
- Click-through rates tripled
Jumia’s PWA case study
Time to move to Africa and have a glance at Jumia — Africa’s leading e-commerce website.
The company’s main market, sub-Saharan Africa, as of 2016, wasn’t the most connected to the internet region with 75% of mobile connections using 2G network. To give you a comparison scale, max 2G network speed is 5 kB/s… and best believe the data transmission ain’t cheap, thus delivering a light and data-friendly mobile solution like the one powered by PWA technology was very important. Chuck in offline-first specificity to the mix, and you’ve got the ideal solution.
- 33% increase in conversion rates
- 50% decrease bounce rates
- 12x more users in comparison to their native Android and iOS applications
- 5x decrease in data usage
- 80% less data consumed to complete the first transaction in comparison to their native apps
- 25x smaller app size
Airbnb’s PWA case study
Airbnb is one of the few tech companies that share their technological journeys on their Medium blog, and they have an in-depth case study on why and how they switched their mobile web experience to progress web application technology. You can find it here, while I’ll only summarize the most important out-takes for the scope of our list.
Let’s start with the problem.
After a number of in-app surveys and direst feedback analysis on why their users avoided downloading their native apps while still using their mobile website, here’s what they found:
- The majority of people travel on rare occasions, thus downloading an app that they are going to use only twice or thrice a year is rather pointless.
- In many markets, data usage and low-spec devices are still a valid concern.
- And even in more developed countries, people would rarely download a native app that weights at 200 MB on-the-go and would do it only via Wi-Fi. Which most likely meant they are at home anyway, so what’s the point?
- Airbnb’s mobile website was slow. Very slow. On 4G connection it took 12 second to load their homepage… On 4G.
- It was poorly designed and developed.
Considering that 65% of their first-time visitors were mobile-based — it was a disaster. So they decided to switch to PWA.
- 12 MB app in comparison to 200 MB of the native app
- In less than 12 months, the team managed to completely re-design and re-build their mobile experience
- 25% increase in conversion rates
- 5.5 seconds average loading time in comparison to 12 second from the old mobile website
- Unified mobile experience across every device, be it a low-spec or a high-end one
As you can see, PWA is a battle-proven technology that every industry can benefit from, from automotive to travel, to news, to social media, to dating, you name it.
All the above cases show that not only does it make for a better mobile experience, but in many cases it transforms the entire frontend strategy, leading to a unified user experience for everyone, with every type of device, internet connection and location, whether you’re offline due to sitting on a train or because you’re far from a stable network connectivity.
PWA also boasts a handful of technological benefits to the organization itself… which I’ll leave for one of my upcoming articles. 😉
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Till the next one!