Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Progressive Web App Feature: Alibaba

In the third installment of our Progressive Web App feature series, we’re highlighting Alibaba.com, the world’s largest online, global wholesale trade platform serving millions of buyers and sellers around the world.

The Challenge
The mobile web is the primary way users discover Alibaba. So, creating and maintaining a well-designed and highly functional mobile web experience is a large part of Alibaba’s success. In addition to a strong mobile web presence, Alibaba also maintains a native mobile app. However, Zou Yu, Director of Alibaba’s Mobile Team, realizes just one of the many drawbacks associated with native mobile apps. “Users consider having to download an app to browse or complete a transaction an unnecessary barrier, compared to the quick, easy solution of browsing directly from their mobile browser,” he said.

So, how does the world’s leading trading platform maintain a competitive edge while delighting mobile web users? The answer…a PWA.  

The Results
The Alibaba team decided to build their mobile website as a PWA for one main reason: to impress first-time visitors and repeat users alike with a fast, engaging, and reliable mobile experience.

After implementing their PWA, Alibaba quickly saw some amazing results:

  • 76 percent higher conversions across all browsers
  • 14 percent more active users per month on iOS and 30 percent more on Android
  • 4 times higher interaction rate from Add to Homescreen prompt  

Yu had this to say about their PWA: “Delivering a mobile-first, user-centric mobile site that harnesses the best of the native app, with all the accessibility and versatility of the mobile web, is key to maintaining our competitive edge and the path to better conversions.”

What about their Google’s Lighthouse Audit?
These results are a testament to the power PWAs have in engaging and re-engaging users. But, not all PWAs are created equal. Here is how Alibaba.com scores on Google’s Lighthouse audit.

It is clear Alibaba’s PWA struggles in certain technical areas, namely in its accessibility. Under this PWA component, Alibaba’s issues center around problems with image elements and attributes not being named. This particularly matters to users who use assistive technology (think page readers!) when accessing the webpage. 

While there’s still some work to be done on the technical side of this PWA, without a doubt Alibaba’s PWA has done its job in engaging and re-engaging first-time visitors and loyal users with a fast, reliable mobile web experience. Try it yourself (on mobile!) and let us know what you think!