COVID-19 has set in motion a transition from paper to digital business cards. Progressive web apps (PWAs) are savable websites that will speed the transition. They replace paper cards for nearby transfers and are perfect for online transfers, where paper business cards never worked.
Business communications has already seen great changes since the coronavirus became a pandemic a few short months ago. Digital is in; contact is out. In-person meets have been replaced with video conferencing at an extraordinarily high rate. Moving forward, we can anticipate not receiving a business card from our realtor or other business contacts.
Fortunately, paper business cards have a digital alternative. The alternative also significantly expands their utility. With a digital business card, saving, sharing, and updating contact information has never been easier and more effective. It further allows one to include an array of product, support, and promotional information along with the standard contact information.
Progressive web apps (PWAs) are the enabling technology. They offer the perks of both an app and a website and more than fill the 3.5 x 2 inch hole left by your old business card.
PWAs first became popular as low-costs, low-friction replacements for native apps after Safari joined other major browsers in 2018 to support their core functionality. We regularly experience robust PWAs from companies like Twitter, Instagram, and Spotify, but the technology works even better for simple, lightweight apps.
The biggest opportunity for PWAs is for quick, inexpensive, but higher-function replacements for paper business cards and brochures.
Being paperless originally meant being efficient, then it meant being green, now it means safety. Staying well is the biggest motivator of the three. Already we see signs at store registers that say "No paper money" and "No coupons." Similarly, paper business cards and social distancing don't mix because card exchanges require contact. You can wash after shaking hands, but if you get a contaminated card, you take a virus home with you.
Even after the crisis has passed, and likely from now on, offering a paper card or brochure puts someone with an underlying condition in the awkward position of either giving offense or taking something they fear to touch. Neither is an excellent start to a relationship. Offering a digital alternative will be appreciated, and it's a more useful medium.
Moreover, you can't transfer a paper business card over the chat channel of a video conference or in the signature line of an email. But you can seamlessly share a digital business card packaged as a PWA.
Being digital means being able to engage from across the room or across the globe.
In The Four Phases of COVID-19 and Marketing Communications: Lessons from China, Jeff Bradford says:
“Contactless business” will be trending, as people will still be wary of personal interaction. Companies that spent time during Phase 2 developing new ways to conduct business without physical interaction will have a distinct advantage during Phase 3”
Why PWAs are the new paper alternative for contact-less business
PWAs are websites you can save and take with you. They simplify saving and sharing with tools that are now standard across major browsers.
Previous digital business card solutions failed because the common tools did not yet exist. Native app solutions were proprietary and introduced too much friction. Earlier web-based solutions were limited. People that received these digital cards didn't have a convenient place to keep them or a familiar way to share them.
Today's PWAs overcome these issues with broad-based standardization. It doesn't matter whether a PWA is built as a DIY project, developed by an agency, made on a no-code platform, or created automatically via API, it will work across major browsers, on both mobile and desktop, and iOS and Android. Just as important, it can be saved or shared using familiar tools built into all major browsers.
What PWA users have to say
RxVentures uses PWAs to replace discount prescription drug cards such that a user taps an icon on their phone to access their card image (and its drug search capabilities) rather than using a paper card from their wallet.
"A progressive web app enhances the convenience, utility, and safety of our service as compared to a paper card. Because we can generate unique PWAs in real-time, it also greatly simplifies our card distribution."
--Mike Thompson, CEO
Asurion, an industry leader in mobile insurance, technology and support, was an early adopter of PWAs:
“At Asurion we have used PWAs and QR codes in our recruitment marketing campaigns since 2018. We love the versatility they offer, and how the customizable features help us tailor to our ever-changing needs.”
--Ashlee LeBlanc, Field Marketing Specialist, Asurion
Westgate Enterprises uses a PWA to bundle the content of a commercial real estate listing.
“It’s easier for me and more useful to my buyer to text a PWA that bundles a listing’s virtual tour, property details, offering memorandum and photos along with my contact info.
--Andrew Coulton, Vice-President
Paper and PWAs
Social-distancing is pushing PWA-based business cards to the mainstream. Once there, their many advantages over paper will make them a permanent part of business communications. They have a convenience that fits perfectly with our digital-first work lives.