South Africa's e-tailer, Superbalist.com, has adopted two new technologies which have accelerated the browsing experience for shoppers and translated into strong business results. One year in, and Accelerated Mobile Apps (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA) have increased mobile page conversation rates by up to 62 per cent and reduced bounce rates across all devices by 19 per cent.
Introduced in March and April 2018 respectively, AMP and PWA now deliver Superbalist’s site and app to users at arguably the fastest speeds in e-tail in South Africa. An additional advantage is that shoppers use up to 40 per cent less data to shop and browse.
Google has lauded the introductions. “Superbalist is innovating across a broad spectrum in retail, particularly leveraging technology to build better connections with consumers. They are setting the pace for best in class digital-first marketing in Africa,” says Linah Maigurira, industry manager of retail and e-commerce at Google.
Brad Whittington, chief technology officer at Superbalist, says the technologies have solved a number of the e-tailers issues, “Where we once struggled with high bounce rates due to slow download speeds, we are now able to meet our clients browsing expectations. South Africans expect results immediately, regardless of whether we are on wifi, 3g or LTE. If the browsing speed is slow, we’ll often abandon the search. Our goal, in introducing AMP and PWA, is to meet expectations by using the latest technologies, frameworks and patterns.”
Whittington says an added advantage is that the cost of being online in Africa is extremely high by global standards and continues to climb, despite efforts like #datamustfall to reduce prices. “Data prices in South Africa were in the news again in February as cellphone providers were forced to re-examine data roll-over policies to become more consumer-centric. To offset the high costs, we are always on the hunt for ways to offer prospective shoppers a more affordable experience – and the faster they search, the less data they use.”
He says that, in short, AMP is an open source technology aimed at bringing searched content to users faster. “It can reduce rendering a page (including download) to around 1-2 seconds, which means customers get a faster, more reliable browsing experience. The technology allows a number of pages to be hosted directly on Google’s content delivery network, giving far quicker access to these key pages. Clicks on search results pop onto screen nearly instantly.”
Sites using AMP technology can be recognised by the lightning-bolt sign when searching Google. The tech also offers a benefit to businesses by improving the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) experience and analytics within the Google platform.
PWA has multiple benefits, the primary one being the high speed at which users can browse. There are other benefits, like its ability to mimic an app by adding an icon to a mobile phone desktop and allowing instant access to a site. “We are still ramping up our PWA functionality to incorporate more features as well as limited offline capability.”
Whittington says the key benefit of PWA, in terms of speed of browsing is significant because users need not go to an app store. “While we work hard to minimise the size of our apps, downloading an app still uses a lot of data and nothing beats the immediacy and size of a website. Considering there are many South Africans without access to WiFi or fibre, PWA is a huge win for shoppers. It streamlines the non-app user’s experience with push notifications and an icon on the phone’s home page.”
Another bonus is that by-passing the app store makes fixing bugs and errors almost instantaneous.
“Our focus is to be at the forefront for tech development and leadership on an international scale. User development is an integral part of our growth strategy. We have had a mobile shopping app years before it was commonplace in South Africa. This is just another example of our continued mission,” Whittington says.