Speed was the strong pull that sucked online retailer Sweetwater into developing a progressive web app.
The musical instruments retailer launched the progressive web app, which is a mobile site design and technology, mainly for the benefits of PWA’s service worker technology, says Greg Wardwell, Sweetwater’s user experience and front end manager.
A service worker is a script that web browsers continually run in the background separate from a web page. Running as a background process allows the service worker to take on roles such as caching website content, like images and the retailer’s logo, allowing the website to run faster.
Sweetwater built its PWA in house over the course of three to four months with about two people on the project. The PWA launched in February 2018. Sweetwater also worked with Google employees who advised the retailer on the development and implementation, Wardwell says. Google supports progressive web apps and has various educational content on how to develop them.
Sweetwater.com sped up its load time by up to 65%, as measured by the time it takes to load the first byte of meaningful content that a shopper can interact with on the site, Wardwell says. The site can load in as fast as two seconds on mobile devices, and that’s measuring it on a “crummy 3G connection,” he says. Plus, subsequent page loads after that first visit are as much as 25% faster, he adds.
The speed factor alone would have been enough to convince Sweetwater to move to a progressive web app. However, there are many other advantages to PWAs—such as web push notifications and the option for consumers to add a Sweetwater icon to their smartphone home screens to easily access the website. Additionally, with a PWA, Sweetwater.com can offer a stripped-down version of its site to smartphone shoppers who aren’t connected to the internet.
“A faster website is a better experience for our customer—that would have done it,” says Wardwell about investing in the PWA. “But all of the other benefits PWA opened the door for, like improved interactions with customers, all of these things were the icing on the cake and make it exciting to roll out the PWA.”
The retailer is working on turning on more of those added features, like smartphone alerts sent through the browser, but it hasn’t created a strategy around these new marketing avenues yet, he says.
About 35% of sales and 52% of traffic to Sweetwater.com stem from smartphones and tablets. Overall, with the PWA, Sweetwater has experienced an increase in transactions and a decrease in bounce rate from mobile shoppers, although Wardwell declined to offer any specific data points.
“The faster your content loads, the faster users can browse your site, the more engaged they will remain and the more likely they are to complete that transaction,” he says.