[CASE STUDY] A Progressive Web App transforms Avatar Nutrition

This Avatar Nutrition case study explains why and wegb Startups should consider progressive web apps for mobile development

In early 2019, Victory CTO client Avatar Nutrition took a step toward the bleeding edge of mobile application delivery. Avatar Nutrition killed its native mobile applications on iOS and Android in favor of a Progressive Web Application (PWA).

Avatar Nutrition’s core assumption is that consumers want an intuitive mobile experience with frequent innovation. This leads to the conclusion that consumers do not care if that experience was written in Objective C, React Native or HTML5. The riskiest proposition is that consumers who’ve been brainwashed to believe native mobile apps are somehow superior by companies with a vest interest (Apple, Google).

Why PWA and Why Avatar Nutrition

Avatar Nutrition was in the unique position to take such a future forward step in delivering mobile functionality to its users because of its raving fans. From that starting point, and the following decision criteria the journey began.

Raving Fans

The substantial mitigating factor for Avatar Nutrition is its raving fans. The office is papered over in transformation stories, before and after pictures and thank you notes. Whether this is the world famous professional wrestler Sheamus Farrelly, a 50 year old desk jockey, or a 35 year old mother of 3 who is rocking her pre-kid wedding dress, Avatar’s consumers are dedicated to the service and reap life changing results. The leadership team was certain its consumers would give this cutting edge technology choice a chance.

Precedent

The technology we are talking about in this article is the progressive web application (PWA). It was the vision Steve Jobs had back in 2007 when the iPhone was released with "The full Safari engine is inside of iPhone.”

Today, some household names are using PWA technology for the mobile experience:

  • The Financial Times
  • Twitter
  • Starbucks
  • Uber
  • The Washington Post
  • The Weather Channel

Leadership at Avatar Nutrition felt this growing list of high profile brands, the backing of Google and Microsoft, and the adoption by Apple was indicative low risk in taking this chance.

All in One

Like many small companies, Avatar Nutrition’s existing web application did certain things for the user while the existing native mobile app did others. While common for startups, such fractured feature sets are a poor user experience. They had a strong desire to fix. The friction preventing addressing achieving web and mobile parity was the need to work in three platforms at the same time with a small tech team.

Expected Payoff

Risk is defined as the size of the consequence multiplied by the likelihood of the event. Given these mitigating factors:

  • Avatar Nutrition’s raving fans,
  • the short time to convert to a PWA
  • the unification of all consumer facing functions to a single platform,

negative consequences were seen as low probability.

This the risk of negative consequences low, the likelihood of gain for taking the PWA risk was considered high for Avatar Nutrition:

  • recover 30% of its mobile subscription revenue. The so-called “Apple Tax.”
  • improve the platform to do a better job of helping their users on their journey towards eating accurately.
  • lower their staff costs in terms of full time and contract help on the technical side so they could dedicate those resources to helping people on the nutrition side (a differentiating factor for the brand)
  • get platform improvements to their consumers to improve their lives faster.

Results

The above are the facts and conjectures that fed the decision by Avatar Nutrition leadership to migrate its mobile presence from native mobile to progressisve web app (PWA). The results have been largely in line with those expectations.

“We have been upgrading our service and releasing features faster than ever before, and we accomplish more at a higher quality with a team that's half the size as well! Our technology is much more stable, and we're proudly carrying the flag of PWA technology into the future!” – Mark Springer, CEO of Avatar Nutrition

Subscription Cost

The "Apple Tax" Avatar Nutrition paid for every mobile subscription has gone from $6.00 per month to $0.00 per month. This will make a tremendous impact on Avatar Nutrition and its users as the company takes those dollars and invests them into the development of new, life-changing technology that makes a difference in the lives of its users.

Innovation

Since the move to a PWA, the Avatar Nutrition technical team has been delivering 200% feature velocity with 40% of the staff. Innovation - the ability to execute projects that benefit consumers - is the lifeblood of any web based service. If you’ve read Good to Great, this means the company can focus on its Hedgehog Concept rather than the upkeep of technology for technology’s sake.

Freedom to Maneuver

Part of the 200% increase in feature velocity is the absence of the mobile development process. This is a time consuming technical process of compiling code, updating store marketing materials and gaining approval from the store owner. In some cases this can take days. If a small business gets its wires crossed with Apple’s testers their business can be ruined if they are removed from the store.

All of the time recaptured by the technical team can be put towards improving its craft and putting more features in front of the Avatar Nutrition consumer.

“Our rate of release for new features is faster than we ever could have imagined, and the features we're putting out have far fewer bugs and are in general of a much higher quality than the past when we had a much larger team.” – Mark Springer, CEO of Avatar Nutrition

More Control of the Business

By releasing only to a web application the hurdles put up by the store are removed and the risk of being summarily yanked from a store with little to no guidance is zero. Startups move fast. Startups break things. Startups disrupt. Risking a corporation - invested in stability and status quo - rejecting changes to your nimble mobile presence is ill advised when there are alternatives.

As a Business

We at Victory are here to serve the startup community. The billions of dollars siphoned by the App and Play Stores from companies like yours who are creating real consumer value are a drain on innovation. While nearly every tech based start up is somehow a fan of both Apple and Google, Victory and Avatar Nutrition recognize the “Apple Tax” aspect of their business is ripe for disruption.

The Progressive Web App is coming. It is a superior form of value delivery to your consumers. Some will say, “It’s just an optimized mobile web site.” They are right. Native mobile is dead, welcome to Mobile 2.0 - or maybe it’s Mobile 0.2 all over again.

“The genuine amount of care taken from Victory in seeing us succeed as a company - many outside shops just care about fulfilling minimum requirements to cash in on the relationship, but Victory went out of their way to ensure that we were doing the things we needed for long-term success.” – Mark Springer, CEO of Avatar Nutrition