Why and How Headless PWAs are Driving Greater Customer Retention

Retailers are realizing just how valuable combining a headless architecture with a progressive web app can be, says Thai Son Nguyen,

“Loyalty is dead, long live loyalty.”

It’s perhaps the cruelest of ironies that with retail eCommerce sales surging across the Asia Pacific, brands face the challenge of greater fickleness among customers than ever.

Countries across the region have seen eCommerce retail surge this year, with data from Insider Intelligence showing growth of 36% in Singapore, 34% in Indonesia, and 18% in Thailand, all well above the global average of 9.7%.


Yet while retailers tap into this momentous opportunity, they must also contend with the death of customer loyalty as they know it.

Data from McKinsey show just how fickle consumers have become since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 64% of survey respondents in Indonesia saying they had tried a new brand, to give but one example.

Clearly, the pandemic has shifted the customer retention equation and brands across APAC have to adapt or be left behind. Unsurprisingly, given the ubiquity of eCommerce today, technological means are a crucial part of a winning arsenal.

Shifting landscape of customer retention

Customer retention has been changed dramatically by COVID-19, as this Deloitte report summed up quite well: “Brands must recognize that many of the ‘orthodoxies’ that existed prior to the pandemic have been changed forever, requiring reexamination of the traditional approaches to building customer loyalty.”


Across Asia, retailers who want to hold onto their customers are realizing just how valuable combining a headless architecture with a progressive web app (PWA) can be, as it has advantages that make it uniquely equipped to boost retail loyalty by providing a superior customer experience. According to PwC, 86% of customers will pay more for a great customer experience, which should be music to retailers’ ears.

For the uninitiated in eCommerce vernacular, a headless architecture means a website where the front end (the part a consumer sees) is separated from the back end. Whereas a PWA is simply a technology that makes web pages load much more quickly and smoothly, while also enabling greater mobile functionality. When it comes to sales, page load times can have a huge impact, as research from Portent has found that a site that loads in one second has a conversion rate three times higher than a site that loads in five seconds.

“Investing in technology and calling it a day isn’t enough to create a breakthrough in customer retention. Instead, such an investment should be looked at as part of a larger strategy to become truly customer-centric.”

Combining the two technologies gives retailers the ability to offer dramatically improved user experiences. A headless architecture makes it much easier for brands to customize the front end of a website, while also enabling greater personalization. The PWA, meanwhile, optimizes for mobile and makes the whole site run a lot quicker.

Providing a great user experience has always been important for success in digital retail, but with the twin trends of surging eCommerce spending and customer loyalty eroding, it has become more crucial than ever. No wonder then that the APAC Customer Loyalty Report 2022 from Antavo found that 30.3% of Asia Pacific businesses said improving their marketing technology was their most important investment for the coming years and their key investment in their loyalty programs.

The same report also found that “57.6% of [APAC] respondents confirmed that they plan to offer personalized rewards and offers in the next three years”, indicating that top executives in the region see just how much personalization drives customer retention. It makes sense, then, that outfitting your website with headless PWA tech that can power personalization is a game changer.

An overhaul well worth the effort

Index Living Mall, the largest group in Thailand’s furniture industry and a household brand in the Southeast Asian country, is one example of a retailer that has benefited greatly from marrying a headless architecture with PWA.

Previously, the company’s online store ran on outdated Magento 1 technology, meaning the business lacked the flexibility to adapt its website whenever market or consumer demands shifted. Upgrading the website and running it on headless PWA completely overhauled the customer experience, making it much more accessible for customers and laying the groundwork for future improvements.

While this upgrade necessitated the onerous task of transporting the site to a new PWA structure and covering the previous PWA codes, Ekaridhi Patamasatayasonthi, Vice President of eCommerce at Index Living Mall, says it was well worth it for the furniture retailer.

“At Index Living Mall, the impact of digital transformation is critical for the business to survive. In the past few years, many things have been changing at an accelerated pace. Consumer behavior changed how they engage with brands, technology changed how we thought about new business models and new types of products, and data analytics changed how we discovered new useful insights. Those are things we have to adapt to or die,” he said.

Technology alone is never enough

Of course, investing in technology and calling it a day isn’t enough to create a breakthrough in customer retention. Instead, such an investment should be looked at as part of a larger strategy to become truly customer-centric, where you have your customers’ needs and wants in mind in every part of your business.

Customer-centricity matters when you consider that nearly one in three customers will leave a brand they love after just a single bad experience, according to PWC. Providing the stellar experience that headless PWA gives you the power to do is more important than ever, but without a customer-centric mindset at the center, you could just be adding bells and whistles to your website.

Loyalty has never been about having the best technology, but with headless PWA, you will have the foundations in place to earn customer retention.

Thai Son Nguyen

Thai Son Nguyen

Thai Son Nguyen is the CEO and Co-Founder of SmartOSC.

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