Opinion: The art of perfecting business-to-business apps

Opinion: The art of perfecting business-to-business apps Alex is the CEO and co-founder of Atomic Robot, a digital app agency. He heads up company vision and growth, leading the development of digital solutions for Fortune 500 clients. He has architected and developed enterprise applications for clients like Kroger, Iams, and NCR.

Take a look at Apple’s iOS app ecosystem, and you’ll see three distinct markets: consumer, enterprise, and business to business. The App Store catering to the consumer market is easily the most developed, with almost two million apps to choose from and fully realized revenue streams supported through subscriptions and ads.

Enterprise apps are far less common. They’re distributed through mobile device management (MDM) platforms like Jamf or AirWatch, which means they involve a whole new set of IT requirements and user preferences.

That said, custom B2B applications are a great compromise between the two. They allow apps to be distributed privately to associates or partners through the App Store, relieving the burden on IT departments and making it possible for vendors to customize these apps to meet their specific needs — and the needs of customers.

Critical B2B App Development Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether to develop B2B apps. Solidifying a monetization strategy is critical, for one. These apps are often sold as part of a direct B2B sale, sometimes bundled with other services.

It’s also essential to understand the distribution model. The App Store doesn’t focus on the B2B model and B2B apps, so many companies don’t feel comfortable using it for that purpose. For that reason, educating customers on the B2B app model and approach can pose serious challenges.

Further, customization is an important consideration in the B2B app development space — even though it’s not as crucial when developing B2C apps. Creating new variants of the same code for every customer can create long-term maintenance challenges that make it difficult to scale a development business. To avoid this headache, you might consider working with white label partners and outside experts that can handle the heavy lifting.

The Advantages of B2B App Development

With these considerations in mind, know that B2B apps are a great alternative to enterprise applications — especially for small and midsize businesses. These apps allow companies to move beyond general-purpose offerings and instead build customized mobile solutions that meet specific client needs and integrate with their enterprise systems. Follow these four steps when building your B2B apps:

1. Prioritize distribution.

Even if your business is building applications solely for internal use, use a distribution system such as Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store to make it easy for employees to find and download the apps in the channels they already know. Use these known platforms to ensure your app is accessible.

2. Keep white labeling in mind.

By creating an app where features are more a matter of configuration than development, you can keep engineering efforts manageable for multiple clients as your business grows. If you’re struggling to create a sophisticated, user-friendly B2B app on your own, white label partners can guide your business through the process.

3. Don’t forget UX.

In most cases, B2B apps have a captive audience. When end users are required to use an app to do their jobs, it’s easy for developers to focus more on utility than UX — but that’s a mistake. Poor user interface and experience design increases the amount of training necessary, reduces buy-in, and ultimately makes the app much less likely to achieve the original goals. Invest the time in UX, communicating the importance of this investment to your clients to find success with your B2B app.

4. Make integration easy.

Most large and midsize businesses have existing login systems, file-sharing services, and general security requirements, and they expect a custom B2B app to integrate with these tools seamlessly. You have to be considerate of the existing systems supporting a business to build quality B2B apps.

To be sure, B2B app developers have to contend with a variety of app development challenges. Although these apps don’t necessarily have to attract an audience on their own merit, they’re often created with complex development and integration requirements in mind. To provide a strong foundation for B2B app development success, developers should focus on building apps with end-users in mind.

(Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash)

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