PWA vs Native Mobile App: Which Is Better for Your Web To Print Store?

Abhishek Agarwal
5 min readDec 17, 2021

In this digital age, mobile has become an essential platform for eCommerce businesses to attract, engage and retain customers. The printing industry is no exception.

Do you know? 61 percent of the total internet traffic comes from mobile devices. The number shows the mobile consumers have been growing steadily.

According to Statista, Mobile retail commerce revenue via smartphones was expected to generate sales of 221.2 billion U.S .

This shows mobile outstripping the desktop as the primary device for online retail is not far from reality. However, one of the biggest challenges for an online printing business owner is to choose between having a native mobile app or a Progressive Web App (PWA).

On the one hand, customers spend three to four times longer on mobile apps than on desktop and mobile sites, and on the other, PWAs have proven to get 50% higher conversions for eCommerce brands and helped improve the overall customer experience.

It’s clear both are beneficial to an eCommerce business. But if you have to choose one, what would you go for eventually?

Let us take a practical look at four categories to find out:


Although used specifically for PWAs, let us first discuss what “app-like” is about:

a. Look and feel:

The UI and UX of the app are similar to how it should be on the device being used. The users can quickly browse through the app and search what they are looking for.

b. Offline support:

The app works, even if limited, when there is little or zero internet connection.

c. Speed and performance:

The app is responsive and loads quickly. It eliminates any lags or jerky transitions to ensure a smooth user interaction.

d. Functionality:

The app receives push notifications, has access to device hardware like camera and location and can do other things usually found in a native app.

e. Installation and updation:

The mobile app can be launched by clicking an icon on the home screen. It is easily discoverable on the internet and gets updated periodically.

PWA combats the constant problem of app fatigue and poor app discovery rates and gives an app-like experience to the customers.


As far as “app-like” qualities are concerned, most native and web apps look and work pretty much the same way. Alibaba, eXtra, Jumia, and Flipkart are some of the most popular global brands in the eCommerce sector to have launched their PWAs.

The decision to choose one depends on whether you want to develop an app-centric app or a user-centric app. What would you choose?

Device integration

As you know devices like desktop, smartphones, and tablets are equipped with various capabilities that native mobile apps naturally have access to. However, what matters is the device features that are most relevant to your app and the amount of control needed to work with these features.

A PWA, for example, has APIs to access device features like GPS, biometric sensors, cameras, location and more. But that doesn’t mean you will not find any trouble finding a particular function or won’t need specific access in all browsers if you use a web app.

That’s where having a native mobile app makes all the difference because it is built for the mobile platform and hence, functions like one.


Go for a native mobile app if you want greater device integration at the moment. But do keep an eye on APIs that are popping up as they could make using a web app a much better option with time.

Device preference

What do your customers prefer using to browse through your eCommerce store? Is it a desktop, mobile or tablet? Since consumers of today expect a business to offer a digital experience across platforms, you should prepare accordingly.

Therefore, if the majority of your customers use mobile, then you should ideally build three versions of a native app, each for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Alternatively, PWAs leverage technologies like Cache API, Service Workers, and Web App Manifests to provide a web experience similar to native mobile apps. Since the web has the farthest reach of any platform, PWAs can run just about everywhere.

The web app is built with one codebase that can be used across devices. The problem arises when a specific browser doesn’t support PWA, although that number is significantly less.


A PWA offers an app-like experience to customers across devices. However, if you want a specific device feature to be successful and all user browsers don’t support that, then building a native mobile app is the way to go.

App distribution

A comScore MobiLens study states 50% of mobile users in the US haven’t downloaded an app in a month! That could be because of many reasons such as lack of purpose, poor app experience, dull marketing and more.

The statistic may make you question the future of mobile apps, but the question you need to ask yourself is: how will you distribute and publish the app?

The thing is distribution is not a problem for PWAs because they are web-based and automatically gain visibility on the internet. Updates happen quickly, and they are not required to undergo an app store approval process for the same.

The content of each page on the web app is indexable which is why PWAs enjoy a high searchability rate.

However, a native mobile app has its benefits too:

● An app can be easily monetized when in the store.
● Lucky apps can be featured on the homepage of app stores, thus receiving a free promotion.
● Native apps get full hardware API access.
● The app stores share metric and error reporting for apps.


If you are looking to gain more exposure as an online printing business, then there’s no harm in investing in a mobile app. The maintenance plays a significant role here but if your market research tells you that having a native app can make a difference, then go for it.

Over to you

While a PWA sounds more viable from all aspects — usability, discoverability, financially; mobile wins in the printing industry. Let us explain to you how.

Generally speaking, the majority of the photos these days are on mobile. It is much easier for your customers to upload them on the storefront straight up rather than going via the desktop. Additionally, you can also share other features like social media sharing, personalization tool, ready-made design templates, and a secure checkout and payment process!

Think mobile is perfect for your business? Design’N’Buy can develop a bespoke mobile-to-print software keeping technology preferences, branding, budgets, and timeline in mind. Write to us at, and we’ll get reach out to you at the earliest

Originally published at on December 17, 2021.



Abhishek Agarwal

Abhishek Agarwal, CMO & Co-Founder of Design’N’Buy, Mobicommerce & OhoShop, comes with more than 14 years of experience in Web-to-Print & IT.