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PWA vs Native app vs Responsive site: a quick comparison

There are about 3,8 billion smartphone users today — 48,46% of the world’s population.

Mobiles have become such an important part of our lives that they’ve spawned a new kind of anxiety: nomophobia, or the fear of not having a working mobile phone.

We need them, and we’re using them more and more. Predictions are that purchases made on mobile phones will beat desktop this year.

That’s changing the way we search, compare and shop, and it's raising expectations. The experience we expect on a mobile device is very different from what we look for on a PC.

Easy, instant, and on-the-go are the watchwords, and eCommerce brands need to tick every box.

Luckily, you have options. There are many ways to meet the demands of today's mobile-first shoppers — and they all have benefits: a mobile responsive website, a progressive web app (PWA), or a native mobile app.

Which option is best, and what’s the optimal use case for each? Here we’ve done a comparison and captured the pros and cons.

Snapshot: Three ways to satisfy demanding mobile shoppers

Native mobile apps

The comparison chart shows that native applications offer the best overall performance. The user experience is seamless, and native apps have access to all the features a smartphone has to offer, like GPS, facial recognition and camera. They can also work offline.

Native apps are built for a specific mobile operating system and written in a programming language designed for iOS or Android. You download native apps from an App Store. With 204 billion apps downloaded by consumers in 2019, it opens up a whole new channel for attracting potential customers.

Native apps are the premium, best-in-class option if you want to increase engagement, experience and loyalty. Big companies like Uber and Airbnb always go native. The app icon on each user’s home screen makes it less likely they’ll go to a competitor.

To keep pulling organic search traffic, a native app is best paired with either a mobile responsive website or PWA, which uses web browser technology.

Progressive web apps

There’s been a lot of buzz around progressive web apps recently and it's easy to understand why. PWA’s are a great solution for eCommerce brands that want to improve their mobile experience and conversion.

A progressive web app looks and feels like a native app, but works directly in mobile browsers. There is no need to download anything from an App Store. Customers get an app-like experience instantly in their browsers instead.

We say ‘app-like’, because it looks & feels like a native app but has most but not all the technical capabilities of a native app. That hasn't stopped big brands like AliExpress and Lancome using PWAs to boost sales and improve conversion. It's a big step-up compared to responsive websites alone, and they offer a great user experience.

If your customers are still moving up the engagement curve, having a PWA instead of a native app could be an option, because it eliminates the need to visit an app store and download it.

The ideal mix would be to have a native app for your most loyal customers and a PWA to widen the net for capturing new ones.

Ready to grasp the full potential of mobile?

Get your own native app using the JMango360 platform.

Mobile-responsive websites

A responsive website is simply a desktop website, but adjusted and resized for mobile use. It’s built to perform well on any sized screen and give mobile users a better mobile experience, regardless of the device they use.

There have been many advances in mobile responsive technology over the years, but when it comes to eCommerce, responsive sites have hit the end of the runway.

When buying products on a mobile-responsive website, users still need to login or type-in information in order to checkout. With a PWA or native app they can use touchless or onetouch checkouts.

Although mobile responsive sites are a great first step, basing your mobile strategy on a website alone will hurt your ability to convert. Offer users a good mobile website, but pair it with a PWA or native app to ensure you don’t lose sales.

Do the math

Want to know more about the ROI of an app? Check out this ROI calculator for ecommerce and retail apps.

ROI Calculator

More information

Start grasping the full potential of mobile. Today!