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Mainline Menswear implements PWA and sees a 55% conversion rate uplift

Mainline Menswear implements PWA and sees a 55% conversion rate uplift

Mainline is an online clothing retailer that offers the biggest designer brand names in fashion. The UK-based company entrusts its team of in-house experts, blended strategically with key partners, to provide a frictionless shopping experience for all. With market presence in over 100 countries via seven custom-built territorial websites and an app, Mainline will continue to ensure the ecommerce offering is rivalling the competition.

Challenge #

Mainline Menswear's goal was to complement the current mobile optimized website with progressive features that would adhere to their 'mobile first' vision, focusing on mobile-friendly design and functionality with a growing smartphone market in mind.

Solution #

The objective was to build and launch a PWA that complemented the original mobile friendly version of the Mainline Menswear website, and then compare the stats to their hybrid mobile app, which is currently available on Android and iOS.

Once the app launched and was being used by a small section of Mainline Menswear users, they were able to determine the difference in key stats between PWA, app, and Web.

The approach Mainline took when converting their website to a PWA was to make sure that the framework they selected for their website (Nuxt.js, utilizing Vue.js) would be future-proof and enable them to take advantage of fast moving web technology.

Results #

139%

More pages per session in PWA vs. web.

161%

Longer session durations in PWA vs. web.

10%

Lower bounce rate in PWA vs. web

12.5%

Higher average order value in PWA vs. web

55%

Higher conversion rate in PWA vs. web.

243%

Higher revenue per session in PWA vs. web.

Technical deep dive #

Mainline Menswear is using the Nuxt.js framework to bundle and render their site, which is a single page application (SPA).

Generating a service worker file #

For generating the service worker, Mainline Menswear added configuration through a custom implementation of the nuxt/pwa Workbox module.

The reason they forked the nuxt/pwa module was to allow the team to add more customizations to the service worker file that they weren't able to or had issues with when using the standard version. One such optimization was around the offline functionality of the site like, for example, serving a default offline page and gathering analytics while offline.

Anatomy of the web application manifest #

The team generated a manifest with icons for different mobile app icon sizes and other web app details like name, description and theme_color:

{
"name": "Mainline Menswear",
"short_name": "MMW",
"description": "Shop mens designer clothes with Mainline Menswear. Famous brands including Hugo Boss, Adidas, and Emporio Armani.",
"icons": [
{
"src": "/_nuxt/icons/icon_512.c2336e.png",
"sizes": "512x512",
"type": "image/png"
}
],
"theme_color": "#107cbb"
}

The web app, once installed, can be launched from the home screen without the browser getting in the way. This is achieved by adding the display parameter in the web application manifest file:

{
"display": "standalone"
}

Last but not the least, the company is now able to easily track how many users are visiting their web app from the home screen by simply appending a utm_source parameter in the start_url field of the manifest:

{
"start_url": "/?utm_source=pwa"
}

See Add a web app manifest for a more in-depth explanation of all the web application manifest fields.

Runtime caching for faster navigations #

Caching for web apps is a must for page speed optimization and for providing a better user experience for returning users.

For caching on the web, there are quite a few different approaches. The team is using a mix of the HTTP cache and the Cache API for caching assets on the client side.

The Cache API gives Mainline Menswear finer control over the cached assets, allowing them to apply complex strategies to each file type. While all this sounds complicated and hard to set up and maintain, Workbox provides them with an easy way of declaring such complex strategies and eases the pain of maintenance.

Caching CSS and JS #

For CSS and JS files, the team chose to cache them and serve them over the cache using the StaleWhileRevalidate Workbox strategy. This strategy allows them to serve all Nuxt CSS and JS files fast, which significantly increases their site's performance. At the same time, the files are being updated in the background to the latest version for the next visit:

/* sw.js */
workbox.routing.registerRoute(
/\/_nuxt\/.*(?:js|css)$/,
new workbox.strategies.StaleWhileRevalidate({
cacheName: 'css_js',
}),
'GET',
);

Caching Google fonts #

The strategy for caching Google Fonts depends on two file types:

  • The stylesheet that contains the @font-face declarations.
  • The underlying font files (requested within the stylesheet mentioned above).
// Cache the Google Fonts stylesheets with a stale-while-revalidate strategy.
workbox.routing.registerRoute(
/https:\/\/fonts\.googleapis\.com\/*/,
new workbox.strategies.StaleWhileRevalidate({
cacheName: 'google_fonts_stylesheets',
}),
'GET',
);

// Cache the underlying font files with a cache-first strategy for 1 year.
workbox.routing.registerRoute(
/https:\/\/fonts\.gstatic\.com\/*/,
new workbox.strategies.CacheFirst({
cacheName: 'google_fonts_webfonts',
plugins: [
new workbox.cacheableResponse.CacheableResponsePlugin({
statuses: [0, 200],
}),
new workbox.expiration.ExpirationPlugin({
maxAgeSeconds: 60 * 60 * 24 * 365, // 1 year
maxEntries: 30,
}),
],
}),
'GET',
);

A full example of the common Google Fonts strategy can be found in the Workbox Docs.

Caching images #

For images, Mainline Menswear decided to go with two strategies. The first strategy applies to all images coming from their CDN, which are usually product images. Their pages are image-heavy so they are conscious of not taking too much of their users' device storage. So through Workbox, they added a strategy that is caching images coming only from their CDN with a maximum of 60 images using the ExpirationPlugin.

The 61st (newest) image requested, replaces the 1st (oldest) image so that no more than 60 product images are cached at any point in time.

workbox.routing.registerRoute(
({ url, request }) =>
url.origin === 'https://mainline-menswear-res.cloudinary.com' &&
request.destination === 'image',
new workbox.strategies.StaleWhileRevalidate({
cacheName: 'product_images',
plugins: [
new workbox.expiration.ExpirationPlugin({
// Only cache 60 images.
maxEntries: 60,
purgeOnQuotaError: true,
}),
],
}),
);

The second image strategy handles the rest of the images being requested by the origin. These images tend to be very few and small across the whole origin, but to be on the safe side, the number of these cached images is also limited to 60.

workbox.routing.registerRoute(
/\.(?:png|gif|jpg|jpeg|svg|webp)$/,
new workbox.strategies.StaleWhileRevalidate({
cacheName: 'images',
plugins: [
new workbox.expiration.ExpirationPlugin({
// Only cache 60 images.
maxEntries: 60,
purgeOnQuotaError: true,
}),
],
}),
);

Objective: Even though the caching strategy is exactly the same as the previous one, by splitting images into two caches (product_images and images), it allows for more flexible updates to the strategies or caches.

Providing offline functionality #

The offline page is precached right after the service worker is installed and activated. They do this by creating a list of all offline dependencies: the offline HTML file and an offline SVG icon.

const OFFLINE_HTML = '/offline/offline.html';
const PRECACHE = [
{ url: OFFLINE_HTML, revision: '70f044fda3e9647a98f084763ae2c32a' },
{ url: '/offline/offline.svg', revision: 'efe016c546d7ba9f20aefc0afa9fc74a' },
];

The precache list is then fed into Workbox which takes care of all the heavy lifting of adding the URLs to the cache, checking for any revision mismatch, updating, and serving the precached files with a CacheFirst strategy.

workbox.precaching.precacheAndRoute(PRECACHE);

Handling offline navigations #

Once the service worker activates and the offline page is precached, it is then used to respond to offline navigation requests by the user. While Mainline Menswear's web app is an SPA, the offline page shows only after the page reloads, the user closes and reopens the browser tab, or when the web app is launched from the home screen while offline.

To achieve this, Mainline Menswear provided a fallback to failed NavigationRoute requests with the precached offline page:

const htmlHandler = new workbox.strategies.NetworkOnly();
const navigationRoute = new workbox.routing.NavigationRoute(({ event }) => {
const request = event.request;
// A NavigationRoute matches navigation requests in the browser, i.e. requests for HTML
return htmlHandler.handle({ event, request }).catch(() => caches.match(OFFLINE_HTML, {
ignoreSearch: true
}));
});
workbox.routing.registerRoute(navigationRoute);

Demo #

Offline page example as seen on www.mainlinemenswear.co.uk.

Reporting successful installs #

Apart from the home screen launch tracking (with "start_url": "/?utm_source=pwa" in the web application manifest), the web app also reports successful app installs by listening to the appinstalled event on window:

window.addEventListener('appinstalled', (evt) => {
ga('send', 'event', 'Install', 'Success');
});
Adding PWA capabilities to your website will further enhance your customers experience of shopping with you, and will be quicker to market than a [platform-specific] app. Andy Hoyle, Head of Development

Conclusion #

To learn more about progressive web apps and how to build them, head to the Progressive Web Apps section on web.dev.

To read more Progressive Web Apps case studies, browse to the case studies section.

Last updated: Improve article