When exploring ways to conserve data on one’s smartphone earlier on, I brought up something interesting: the native vs web apps debate. It’s been raging for a while and for all I care, native has either been losing or its backers have strongly conceded that native apps need some fixing.
At Google I/O 2017 this week, we have seen Google take some steps towards making some of its own native apps more well-suited for use in emerging markets where apps that occupy less space (ROM), consume less device memory (RAM), battery and data are in demand.
That is not all that Google is doing, though. The company just opened up the ability to turn any Android app into an “Instant application” to all developers on Google Play. Instant apps are basically parts or chunks of a native application that can be run through a web browser without the user having to download that specific application. The advantage is that instead of being presented with a stripped-down mobile website, they get to use the same feature-rich apps as users who have actually installed them without really installing them. Genius.
There is more, still. As previously noted, Google is the force behind the Progressive Web Apps movement that is currently sweeping across the world. Progressive Web Apps are a hybrid of native and web apps and work on any device and any browser.
E-commerce giant Jumia, the predominant online retailer in most of the African continent, has noted this and the apparent challenges most of its users either go through or have to go through in order to be able to access its online platform and buy items. As such, Jumia has embraced Progressive Web Apps and its success in deploying Progressive Web Apps was the subject of a discussion at one of the sessions at Google’s developer conference, I/O 2017.
In Jumia’s main market, sub-Saharan Africa, 75% of the mobile connections are on 2G networks. Many users only have intermittent connectivity and visit the site from low-end phones with data limitations. These two factors make it difficult to induce users to download a data-heavy native app, leading to steep drop-off rates and high customer-acquisition costs.
According to Jumia, embracing Progressive Web Apps has borne fruit for most of its services including Jumia Travel which saw a 33% increase in conversion rate.
Additionally, bounce rate (the number of people who leave a website after viewing only one web page) dropped by 50%, data usage was less by up to 5 times and it took 2 times less data for users to complete their first transaction. Less storage (25 times less) was thus required and 12 times more users were registered as compared to those accessing services through Jumia’s native apps on the main mobile platforms, Android and iOS.
Another global online sales player that has a presence in Kenya, OLX, saw its click-through rate increase by 146% and overall engagement shoot through the roof by 250% (report) by implementing Progressive Web Apps.
Twitter Lite, the latest high-profile entrant to the Progressive Web Apps bandwagon, boasts of data savings of up to 70% and faster page loads of under 5 seconds on 3G networks. According to Twitter, its use of a Progressive Web App sees users use only 0.6 megabytes of data instead of the more than 20 megabytes required to download the Twittter application from the Play Store, something that makes a huge difference for its 328 million active user base which mostly interacts with it from mobile devices (80%).