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Integrating Progressive Web App Features with Headless Shopify

Progressive Web Apps integrate seamlessly with Headless Shopify to build app-like headless ecommerce platforms.

Shopify merchants can provide their users with offline capabilities, faster page load times, and enhanced user experience by integrating headless Progressive Web Apps (PWA) features into their platforms. 

Progressive Web Apps offer a more traditional app-like experience on the web by combining the best features of mobile applications and modern web capabilities. Integrating these capabilities into Shopify’s robust ecommerce platform creates a powerful recipe for success. 

In this article, we examine headless PWA and look at integrating its features with Shopify to build seamless app-like websites, elevate customer experiences, and achieve more conversions.

Let’s dive right in.

What are Headless Progressive Web Apps (PWA) for Shopify?

Headless PWA for Shopify is an approach to building ecommerce stores that utilizes the functionality of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Shopify’s headless architecture. The approach combines the robustness of the Shopify platform with the efficiency of headless PWA to deliver the best of both worlds.

Shopify Progressive Web Apps (SPWA) or PWA for Shopify are Shopify online stores with modern web capabilities and app-like features. Merchants turn to these Shopify apps to achieve the following perks:

  • Faster page loading

  • Immersive full-screen experience

  • Installable, live functionality on the home screen 

  • push notification, smooth animation, and seamless user interaction.

PWA users on the Shopify platform can enjoy fast page load speeds and reliable and immersive experiences on mobile directly from their web browsers without downloading an app from the Shopify app store. 

With this approach to ecommerce development, you can build high-performance, custom storefront experiences without the platform's built-in themes limiting you.

Characteristics of Shopify Headless PWA

By now, we know that you can build headless PWAs on top of the Shopify framework and create highly customizable, high-performing storefronts that boast the capabilities of PWAs.

But what are some of the characteristics that set apart the Shopify headless PWAs? 

Notice that Shopify headless PWAs combine the characteristics of Shopify and headless Progressive Web Apps. The entire architecture is headless.

An image highlighting the fundamental features of a PWA in a chart layout of 8 items.

Now, let's look at the main characteristics more closely. 

Shopify headless PWAs have a decoupled architecture.

The front end (customer presentation layer) and back end (data and logic) are separate. This separation gives you immense flexibility to build any shopping experience on the front end while Shopify seamlessly handles the commerce engine behind the scenes.

They are API-driven.

Since the ecommerce shop has two separate layers, it requires an Application Programming Interface (API) to connect the two layers. So, everything runs through Shopify's powerful APIs, allowing you to connect to any tool or service you need, like CRM, CMS, or marketing automation platforms.

They have an offline mode.

PWAs behave like native apps, with offline access as one of their main features. 

Once you integrate the headless PWA solution with your Shopify platform, it can cache crucial product data and other essential functionalities, making them accessible to customers even without an internet connection. 

Users can browse your shop’s inventory and add items to their cart offline. Such caching capabilities make the Shopify headless PWAs an excellent solution for users with problematic internet conditions. 

The offline mode lets users enjoy seamless and uninterrupted shopping experiences even in poor network conditions. 

They have progressive enhancement.

Not everyone accesses the internet using the latest iPhone or MacBook Pro with impeccable software capabilities. Some customers still use older devices to visit Shopify stores—but you want to ensure they’re all happy with their shopping experiences. How do you do that?

Welcome to progressive enhancement! What is it exactly? Progressive enhancement is a web design strategy that prioritizes delivering a website's core content and functionality to everyone, regardless of their device or browser capabilities.

It then progressively enhances the user experience for those with more advanced capabilities—think Apple's third-generation M3 processor owners and co. 

Better still, think of it as building a website on layers, with the essential foundation accessible to all, and then adding increasingly sophisticated features for those who can handle them. 

With this approach, Shopify headless PWA gracefully provides a basic but functional experience on older devices and keeps the user experience satisfactory regardless of their devices. Ultimately, the broad compatibility gives both businesses and developers a wider reach. 

They offer push notifications.

Here is another beautiful aspect of native app-like features on Shopify stores: keeping users engaged with tailored notifications about sales, new products, and abandoned carts. 

Headless Progressive Web Apps can also send push notifications to users like native mobile apps do. Why is this important? 

Sending push notifications through Shopify apps or the Shopify headless PWA enables your business to re-engage with customers in a personalized manner. The notifications can be delivered to the audience’s desktop or Android devices after leaving your site. 

This allows customers to receive timely updates, relevant information, and personalized messages that get them back through your ecommerce doors. Such notifications are highly effective in increasing user engagement and driving traffic to the business. 

How to Integrate Headless PWA Features with Shopify

Integrating headless Progressive Web Apps features with Shopify involves decoupling your store’s front end from the Shopify back end using APIs. 

Doing so gives you extensive control over the user experience while leveraging Shopify's robust ecommerce features. 

Here's an overview of the typical process.

Step 1. Choose a Headless PWA Framework

Many front-end technologies are available for use to build your headless PWA. Popular options include Vue Storefront, Next.js Commerce, and Gatsby. Each technology offers varying levels of flexibility and ease of use. 

To choose the most appropriate tech for your Shopify headless PWA, consider your technical expertise and desired customization level.

Step 2. Connect to Shopify APIs

Shopify has a powerful GraphQL Storefront API that you can use to access product data, cart details, orders, and more from the robust back-end infrastructure. 

Alternatively, you can use REST Admin API for the same function, including accessing product data, orders, customers, and more.

To kickstart your development, you will want to connect your selected APIs to fuel your custom PWA front-end, giving you full control over the front-end presentation and user experience. 

More importantly, ensure you integrate your CMS (Content Management System) with Shopify to sync data and keep product information, prices, and inventory levels consistent.

Step 3. Build your PWA Front-end

When approaching your headless PWA front end, you can proceed with one of two options: 

  1. Build a custom front end from scratch 

  2. Use the starter templates and components that your framework offers. 

The Shopify Hydrogen framework offers various starter templates that your development team can use to customize your new store's look and feel easily. 

If you opt to build your PWA front end from scratch, consider using any JavaScript framework. Popular options include Vue.js, React, and Angular. 

Building your own PWA front end means you can leverage advanced features like single-page application (SPA) architecture to achieve lightning-fast performance and offline capabilities. 

You can design the PWA interface and functionality to best reflect your brand and connect it to Shopify APIs to create a unified experience and a functioning web shop. 

Step 4. Customize the Checkout (Optional)

Whether you can customize the checkout will depend on the framework used or the plan chosen. Some frameworks or tiered plans allow customizing the checkout experience entirely, but others integrate with existing Shopify checkout options.

Customizing the checkout may be necessary if you want a set of features unavailable with the existing Shopify checkout. 

Step 5. Deploy and Maintain the Storefront 

Once everything is in place, choose a hosting platform for your PWA front-end and deploy it. You can use Host your PWA on a platform like Firebase Hosting, Netlify, or Vercel, which are known for performance and accessibility. 

The work does not end there. Be sure to monitor the performance and user experience to ensure ongoing success.

Benefits of Integrating Headless PWA Features with Shopify           

While the summary we have provided may make the work appear straightforward, the actual work is way more complex. So, what makes it worth your while? 

Integrating headless Progressive Web Apps into Shopify stores provides a range of notable benefits that make it a worthy investment. 

Let’s take a look. 

Enhanced User Experience

Many merchants would cite Shopify support as one of the platform’s greatest selling points. However, Shopify support is little compared to the value that headless PWA brings to the table. 

User experience can make or break your business. Don’t take our word for it. Here are some interesting statistics: 

These statistics underscore just how crucial a good customer experience is, and that is what you get from integrating headless progressive web apps with Shopify. Let’s break that down.

Push notifications associated with Shopify apps allow you to announce new product launches, increase customer engagement, and recover abandoned carts. They provide an efficient way of keeping your brand at the top of your customers’ minds. 

Many customers appreciate that timely, personalized information. And they will reward you with their money.

Offline functionality is another feature that guarantees a better user experience. By leveraging advanced caching mechanisms, you allow customers to enjoy an uninterrupted shopping experience even without an active internet connection.

Faster load times and improved performance

Progressive Web Apps are inherently designed to deliver exceptional performance, which can significantly benefit your business. 

But how do they achieve these speeds and performance? Headless PWAs leverage various optimization techniques and caching, effectively reducing the need for data transfers. The result is quicker user access to content and a more seamless browsing experience.

With customers enjoying faster load times and more responsive rendering, you can be assured of more conversions and sales.

Greater SEO performance and discoverability 

Thanks to their faster load times, headless Progressive Web Apps tend to outrank standard, less optimized web content in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Ranking high in search results exposes your brand to more searchers. Notice that visibility reduces drastically down the search engine results pages, with only 0.78% of Google searchers clicking on the second page, according to Backlinko.

So, the higher your brand can rank in search, the more visible it is to target customers. More visibility attracts more organic traffic, leading to more conversions.

However, none of these will come on a silver platter. You must implement the appropriate SEO strategies, including targeting relevant keywords. The SEO experts at Endertech can help you with this.

Cost-effective development and maintenance 

Integrating headless PWA features with your Shopify store allows you to enjoy native mobile app features without building a mobile app. We are talking about zero native app development costs yet reaping the benefits of such apps.

You also escape the hassle of maintaining a version of Shopify apps, which would drive up the costs. 

The API-first approach of PWAs means they can be accessible to users across different platforms. This is a far more cost-effective option compared to developing separate native apps for every platform targeted with your business. 

A single codebase is all you need with a headless PWA. That single codebase will make your storefront accessible across various devices and platforms, reducing development and maintenance costs.

Summary: Integrating Headless Progressive Web Apps Features with Shopify

Delivering a smooth and engaging user experience is crucial for success in the ecommerce world. In this write-up, we have learned that this is where headless Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) come into play for Shopify stores. 

To integrate headless PWA features with Shopify, follow the steps below: 

  • Connect Shopify's Storefront API and GraphQL to fetch data

  • Build your front end using your preferred PWA framework

  • Synchronize data for consistency across your headless CMS and Shopify back-end

  • Implement headless PWA features

Care for a Shopify alternative? We have just the right one in our next post, where we will explore GraphQL in Magento.

Meanwhile, talk to the Shopify experts in Los Angeles for a custom headless PWA integrated with your Shopify solution.