To app or not to app, that is the B2B question

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More than 200 million smartphone users are expected in the US by the end of 2016 , with the worldwide forecast exceeding two billion users. And two-thirds of Canadians own a smartphone. To reach your business customers, it’s time to seriously consider rolling out a mobile application for your service or product.

While developers have seen great success in building and selling mobile applications to consumers, the focus of a B2B mobile application should be on the value your app delivers to your business customer.

A B2B app shouldn’t be built just to state you have an app, but should be focused on delivering an enhanced experience for your customer. B2B apps themselves aren’t going to bring in millions of dollars, but if you can improve your B2B experience through a mobile app then that means your customer will be more likely to stick around.

One of the most successful B2B apps is Slack, with a valuation of more than $2.8 billion. Slack is a team communications service that has proved invaluable for over two million daily users with apps for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows computers. Customers report a 32 percent increase in productivity, 48.6 percent decrease in emails, and 25.1 percent reduction in meetings. As you can see, Slack provides serious value to its customers and is a good example for those looking to provide a valuable mobile app for its customers.

Pros of a B2B app:

  • Ability to conduct business at any time and in any location: People might leave something at the office or at home, but it’s rare that they will leave their smartphone behind. The ability to conduct business at any hour and wherever you may be is a compelling aspect of smartphone apps.
  • Customers spend more time with apps than on websites
  • You can customize the experience and provide the latest information to your clients through app updates
  • You can obtain valuable usage data from your customers through the app
  • Environmentally friendly compared to providing printed products to customers

Cons of a B2B app

  • Development and update costs: Don’t think the spending ends once an app is developed and launched. It’s important to continue to provide updates, service enhancements, and more to your mobile application. Such updating requires human resources and constant vigilance
  • Multiple platform support: The smartphone market has become more focused over the last couple of years so developing for iOS and Android will cover a majority of your customers.

The cost of B2B mobile apps can range from a $50,000 to $250,000 and is dependent on the extent of the services you are providing to your customers. B2B apps are often integrated into systems of the business, such as an ordering database, so the cost to develop and launch a mobile app are highly dependent on the industry you serve.

The latest Good Mobility Index report shows that the iPhone continues its dominance in the enterprise BYOD market with 66 percent of mobile activations. A few years ago, Apple recognized the need to support the B2B market and it launched the B2B App Store. Apple provides specific directions and assistance to companies interested in developing custom apps for business, including distribution through its volume purchasing program.

Given the number of iPhone users in business, the available tools, and control Apple has over timely operating system updates, starting with an iOS app is a smart strategy.

Your competitors are likely figuring out ways to provide value to their customers through mobile apps so it’s time to figure out your own mobile plan. Look around and search for apps already available in your industry to get an idea of how extensive your mobile app should be.

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Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller started using mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host, with ZDNet's Kevin Tofel, of the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned more than 200 different devices running Palm, Linux, Symbian, Newton, BlackBerry, iOS, Android, webOS, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone operating systems. He's a professional engineer by day and a mobile writer by night.