In this mobile-centric world, when app usage is at an all-time high, having only a mobile-optimized website is simply not enough. The new generations of shoppers want not only convenient experiences – they want them to be more immersive and tailored to their individual needs. And this is exactly what Mobile and Web Apps bring to the table.

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Both Mobile and Web apps facilitate a higher level of personalization compared to a mobile-optimized website. First of all, basic capabilities like push notifications and timely reminders work wonders for boosting both customer loyalty and sales figures. 

So, what are they, what are the main differences between them, and what businesses are native mobile apps and web apps suitable for?

The state of the mobile app ecosystem 

The latest report from sheds light on the increasing usage of mobile apps in today’s consumer habits.

Mobile apps for ecommerce

The report highlights that users in the top 10 global markets are now dedicating over five hours daily to mobile app usage, a 6% increase from the previous year.

The data also presents interesting insights into app popularity, with China, India, and the USA dominating app downloads. Shopping and eCommerce apps rank third with Shein and Temu holding the pole position, emerging as two of the standout apps in terms of downloads.

This comprehensive report not only reflects a shift in consumer behavior but also underscores the importance of mobile platforms for achieving business success. 

Digging a bit deeper, the report shows that four of the top five subgenres by time spent are concentrated within the Entertainment and Social Media categories.

This result explains why integrating social sharing capabilities into retail applications is essential for leveraging the natural user tendency for interaction and engagement within these popular platforms.

Additionally, seeing that YouTube and TikTok continue to gain consumer attention outlines the necessity to find ways to integrate video content – or, why not, user generated content – into retail apps. 

Integrating Apps with Your Online Shop

eCommerce platforms are the backbone of an entire online retail business and they come in all shapes and sizes, each distinct in its approach and offerings. Adobe Commerce appeals to big retailers with a robust framework that is highly customizable; Shopware brings a focus on complex functionalities and a modular architecture that appeals to mid to large-sized businesses aiming for a tailored eCommerce experience. Praised for its solid architecture, Magento OS can be enhanced with thousands of available extensions and appeals to those requiring complete control over their platform. 

What’s more important is that all these solutions are mobile future ready. No matter which type of mobile storefront retailers choose – Native Mobile Apps or Web Apps, achieving a seamless integration with the online shop’s eCommerce platform is possible. This ensures that the data exchange between the app and the eCommerce platform is consistent and users have access to the latest information, whether they’re viewing product details, checking inventory, or tracking orders.

Understanding Native Mobile Apps

Native mobile apps are applications specifically designed to operate on a device’s native platform – iOS or Android, using the platform’s software development kit.

Mobile apps for ecommerce

On the plus side, these apps have the advantage of accessing and utilizing a device’s hardware such as the camera, GPS, and accelerometer more effectively than web or hybrid apps. This allows for more robust and responsive app experiences that can include features like augmented reality, location-based services, and have the ability to integrate with the user’s contact list for social sharing purposes. 

All these bring in increased Personalization, immersive experiences, a richer, more engaging shopping experience and a frictionless checkout: in one sentence – mobile shopping apps bring in-shop and at-home shopping experiences closer. 

Because they are compiled into machine code, it allows them to perform faster and more efficiently on the platform they were developed for, allowing for a suite of top features that are greatly admired by users: creative galleries, which allows users to view high-quality images and videos of products; ‘App IQ’ which provides intelligent recommendations based on user behavior and preferences, or the integration of ‘Ratings & Reviews’.

At the same time, apps supply Usage & Engagement metrics that allow developers to monitor how users interact with the app, which is crucial for ongoing optimization and ensuring that the app remains user-centric. 

Native apps can offer offline accessibility and the fact that they are deeply integrated into a platform’s ecosystem help them offer enhanced security features, which is key for retail businesses. They can also employ push notifications effectively, a powerful tool for e-commerce businesses to boost customer engagement. These notifications can alert users about new products, promotions, and updates, thereby increasing interaction rates and driving sales.

Even more, once installed on a user’s device, these apps have immediate access to user data, which they leverage to customize everything from product suggestions to search functionalities and content, making each interaction more relevant to the user’s specific tastes and preferences. This is personalization at its highest level. 

On the down side, Native apps are developed using languages and tools specific to each platform, such as Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android. And this brings many shortcomings. First of all, because they are developed using two languages, they come with a higher cost and a longer time to market. Second, maintenance and updates will always cost more. Adding the fact that highly experienced developers are sought after and scarce, you can easily understand why the option to develop a native app is favorized by already established brands, with a strong presence and solid finances.

A quick look into Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) provide an app-like experience directly within a browser, by merging the best attributes of web and mobile apps into a single platform. They are the middle way – offering way more than a mobile optimized website, but less than a native app.

One of the main benefits of PWAs include improved page speeds and user engagement. PWAs can load almost instantly, even on slower network connections, thanks to advanced caching techniques. This capability not only keeps users engaged but also encourages them to explore more products and make purchases.​

Another key advantage of PWAs in e-commerce is their ability to send push notifications. This feature enables businesses to maintain continuous engagement with their customers by sending timely updates about new products, sales, and other promotional activities directly to a user’s device. 

While PWAs are a huge step up compared to a mobile-optimized website, they don’t offer the same level of complex device-specific functionalities like native apps. But they still appeal to businesses aiming to reach a broad audience without the need for these functionalities.

Because they are developed using standard web technologies and do not require separate versions for different platforms, many argue that they are cost-effective and easier to maintain compared to native apps. 

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Developing a PWA requires specialist knowledge, and developers trained on them are even scarcer than iOS and Android developers. With a big learning curve, this means that someone has to bear the costs. That’s why at present, there aren’t many agencies rushing to offer these services.

However, PWAs represent a powerful tool for e-commerce platforms and that’s the reason why the major eCommerce platforms – Magento/Adobe Commerce and Shopware – offer their own set of tools and libraries to build PWAs. There is still massive development taking place, but this headless approach which provides a clear separation between the storefront and the server, plus the fact that once the community gets used to it, the learning curve will become less strenuous – all these are expected to generate a lot of interest in a future digital climate, with a great potential to replace native apps.

Overlooking the limited access to device-specific features (which will definitely be improved with time) PWAs do offer a significantly faster time-to-market because they overpass the conventional app store approval processes required for native apps. This also means that updates and improvements can be implemented directly and instantly appear to users without the delays associated with app store review and publication and also that all users always have access to the latest version of the app without needing to manually download updates.

Comparing Key Factors


As we explained earlier, because PWAs are built using standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which are familiar to most developers, PWAs are indeed cheaper to build. Updates to PWAs are deployed directly to the web server, similar to updating a website, which means that changes become effective immediately without the need for users to download updates from app stores. This contrasts with native apps, which require updates to be pushed through the app stores and installed by users.

User experiences

Both native apps and PWAs are renowned for their superior performance and speed for resource-intensive tasks. One of the standout features of PWAs is their capability to function offline or in low-connectivity environments, thanks to the caching mechanisms employed by service workers. Native apps can also offer robust offline capabilities, but they also do it more seamlessly, by storing substantial amounts of data locally and synchronizing it when the device is online. This allows for more complex tasks to be performed without an active internet connection due to deeper integration with the device’s hardware​.


This is where native apps excel and have an evident advantage over PWAs. They can use device-specific features such as GPS, cameras, accelerometers, and biometric sensors, enabling more sophisticated functionalities like augmented reality, precision location services, and enhanced security features including facial or fingerprint authentication​. Native apps also have the advantage of seamless integration with other apps installed on the device, providing a smoother user experience and higher performance for tasks that involve complex calculations or graphics processing, making them particularly suitable for gaming, detailed productivity tools, and multimedia applications​.

Making the Choice

When deciding between developing a Progressive Web App (PWA) and a native app, cost is one of the main factors, but not the only one. Of course, larger businesses with large resources to invest might prefer native apps. But if your company doesn’t have tons of cash floating around and your goal is broad accessibility and reaching users who may not engage through traditional app stores, a PWA could be more effective. 

It’s all about understanding the target audience. If it primarily uses specific types of devices or requires high-performance applications, native apps might be preferable. If it doesn’t require all these high-tech functions, what’s the point in investing in it?

If speed to market is a priority, PWAs can be suitable for businesses looking to quickly test new ideas or respond to market demands​.


Ultimately, the choice between a PWA and a native app is a decision to be taken following the business’s financial capacity, and the specific needs for functionalities of your target audience. If cost and speed of deployment are paramount, a PWA might be the most suitable choice. However, if you need to leverage advanced device capabilities or ensure the highest possible performance and user experience, native apps might be the better option.

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