Lancôme is a major player in the app-happy beauty industry, but that didn’t stop it from passing on an app in favor of an optimized web experience.

The L’Oreal-owned beauty brand has leveraged Progressive Web App (or PWA) technology to enhance its website to operate like an app to increase usability. Though several fashion retailers have dropped their apps in recent months — including Patagonia, Coach, Rebecca Minkoff, Dolce & Gabbana and Everlane — Lancôme is one of the first beauty brands to shift its focus from an app to a mobile site. In fact, there has been a rise of beauty apps focused on augmented reality and color matching in the past year — but experts say Lancôme made a savvy decision in shifting its priorities away from resource-draining apps.

The mobile site was designed in collaboration with Mobify and allows users to browse products by skin care, makeup and fragrance categories. It also features an online-only promotions section, a rewards program for members and an editorial component titled “Beauty Mag” that houses lifestyle content like holiday gift ideas.

PWAs have grown in popularity due to their ability to load webpages quickly and efficiently, while also maintaining functionality and seamlessly integrating into a multitude of browsers.

Thomas Rankin, co-founder and CEO at Dash Hudson, said brands are increasingly moving away from standalone apps due to the high expenses and resources needed to maintain them. “Consumer apps are tough. Creating a great experience is hard, discoverability on the app store is hard and maintenance is super-expensive,” he said.

Lancôme’s move comes amid an increasingly crowded beauty app market. In the past year, brands including Olay, Sephora and Wet N Wild have launched augmented reality apps designed to help shoppers identify shades and make purchases online. Despite the trend, Rankin said he foresees more beauty brands taking a cue from fashion retailers that have shied away from apps in order to stay cost-efficient.

“Beauty apps have some additional utility over fashion apps in that there are the AR and color-matching aspects, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re expensive propositions if nobody uses them,” he said. “I think Lancôme is ahead of the curve and will benefit from the move. If they can build a progressive web app experience that their customer wants to use, they will acquire users faster and be more nimble.”

Jason Goldberg, svp of commerce and content at Razorfish, said Lancôme’s decision was smart because many brands end up losing money from apps that are largely developed for vanity purposes. According to Razorfish data, mobile apps lose 77 percent of their audience within three days of installation and 95 percent of their audience in the first 90 days, which backs the claim that apps are money drainers.

While gimmicks like AR are helpful for beauty brands to push product, Goldberg said these technologies don’t necessarily need to be relegated to apps since many mobile sites are able to offer AR and VR capabilities. “In beauty, there has been a school of thought that things like AR require an app versus web, but the reality is that that’s no longer true because mobile browsers now have full access to the camera and AR libraries,” he said.

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