Progressive Web Apps — Key Technology in Digital Transformation for B2B
The web evolves daily, and businesses have to keep up with that pace. Regardless of size, every company faces the ongoing Digital Transformation (DX). In DX, the web plays a central role. The web is communication, marketing, point of sale, and many more important things for companies and brands. Unfortunately, there is still a gap between websites and native mobile apps, and for many companies, there’s a lot of potentials still unused.
While classic websites have a hard time to fulfill the role of a reliable persistent tool, the native mobile apps perform well there, but there are hurdles to discovering or sharing them. And here comes the Progressive Web App (short PWA) into play to fill this gap.
What is a Progressive Web App?
A PWA is a website with enhanced progressing features, and it’s powered by a Service Worker to provide its characteristics like the offline-first approach, which differs it from every classical website and makes it an actual application. A PWA is capable, reliable, and installable by definition. It provides rich features like WebRTC, Bluetooth, and NFC-API functionality to be adequate like a native app is. Because it’s developed offline-first, even with bad 3g connectivity, the user will still have a reliable user experience. The user can install the PWA to stay on top of the user’s mind while sticking to the smartphone’s home screen. All this is a foundation for anything naming itself an app.
There are many more features a PWA is capable of, and while it’s a website, it can easily be discovered on every browser with a shared URL or via Google Search. Easy access gives a significant bonus over traditional mobile apps, which are limited to installing apps within the app stores. On the other hand, a PWA can exist on the web and app stores simultaneously and fulfill both roles.
How can a PWA provide a benefit in B2B?
Progressive Web Apps became popular when companies like Instagram and Spotify migrated to PWAs and reported benefits in user engagements. So now, what can a PWA do for the small to medium-sized B2B focused companies?
Most businesses have touchpoints with clients, consumers, or service providers in their daily business. There might be a classical website or web portal to stay in touch. The company may already think about transforming manual processes into automated ones, providing an Android or iOS app for customers or partners. But supplying and maintaining the website and app cross-platform simultaneously is a time-consuming and costly effort.
The PWA can fill this gap, combining the best of two worlds. Let the website be an SEO lead magnet, while the PWA will be the tooling that hands-off processes to consumers and partners and adds a substantial benefit to the company’s Digital Transformation.
Supplying and maintaining the website and app cross-platform simultaneously is a time-consuming and costly effort
The perfect touchpoint for the client, consumers & partners
The PWA is comparable to the native app in a lot of aspects. Still, the most significant advantage for smaller companies is a single codebase for cross-platform development. The PWA can do what a native app could have done for the customers, but faster to develop and more accessible to acquire.
A Progressive Web App is best placed where recurring interaction between the company and its customers happens. Perfect fit for a fast storefront, a daily business tool for agents and clients to work with, or a digital product like a comparison platform app.
The app is locally installed, fast, and can communicate via push notifications to keep users engaged, informed, and motivated.
A Progressive Web App is best placed where recurring interaction between the company and its customers happens
A real-world DX example of PWA in B2B business
A partner had a customized legacy WordPress system as a small ERP solution for his real estate evaluation service. However, the agents still used pen, paper, and a camera to create a report. After the agent did the job, the agent sent the information and the photos via email to review. Any corrections resulted in a complex cycle of manual communication between employees and agents about missing or incorrect parts in the handwritten report.
A Progressive Web App replaced the complete analog process tailored precisely to digitalizing the whole process. Initially, the agents got a newsletter that included a download link to the PWA, installed it by the press of a button, and we’re good to go. Future evaluations were handled completely digital, even offline in the estate’s basement without any connectivity.
The complete process got faster, PWA reduced the review effort dramatically, and the throughput increased significantly. As a result, the company is now focusing on new opportunities instead of handling the core business day by day.
The complete process got faster, PWA reduced the review effort dramatically, and the throughput increased significantly
Add PWA to the existing solution landscape.
B2B apps will commonly need a backend system to communicate with. For example, synchronizing orders, getting product lists, or uploading files can be necessary actions a backend must handle. Of course, most companies already have backends in place. However, those can differ from Salesforce to a Magento shop down to a smaller WordPress site or a custom-developed monolithic application. The critical factor is communicating with a possible new app via an API.
Existing solutions can adapt this headless design pattern with API gateways, microservices, or cloud functions handling the communication between legacy backends and upcoming frontends.
With a backend in place, the company can consider starting with a PWA to solve a problem that wasn’t solvable beforehand.
There’s always the possibility of developing a complete solution from the ground up. Still, I recommend re-using existing backend infrastructure by speaking about smaller to medium-sized companies. Of course, you can always substitute backend parts later. Most ongoing business problems I’ve encountered by talking to small businesses are the part the customer or partner sees and uses: The frontend. And there are most touchpoints, so aligned the most pain points.
Conclusion: Why should a small to medium-sized business consider a PWA?
There might be problems that analog ways cannot solve in an analog form, and shifting towards native apps can be costly. Smaller companies have different limits in budget or fundings and need to determine the best solution for their future.
In my opinion, the PWA is a perfect solution and fits this specific set of problems. A PWA doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it makes it a significant step forward and connects two separated worlds. It provides the features of an iOS or Android App while having the accessibility of a website in the browser. A Progressive Web App does receive its updates from the service worker on the fly; Once installed, the app will stay up-to-date by itself. Its cost-effectiveness is very competitive, especially in monthly maintenance and updates.
Currently used Plattform solutions might be re-used as backend, so creating an app or PWA doesn’t necessarily mean rebuilding the whole infrastructure at once, where a considerable benefit is hidden. Instead, incrementally upgrade the solutions step-by-step without being overwhelmed by costs at once, but at the same time provide customers and partners a new valuable business environment, right at that point where real business happens.
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