Building a Custom Mobile App vs. Using An Off-The-Shelf Product
A robust mobile strategy is critical for any business to win, retain, and grow customers, and improve its overall cost efficiency. The mobile app market is expected to reach $61 billion by 2018. However, many companies are often uncertain about how to proceed with mobile app development. The first, and arguably the most important question to ask is whether to build a custom mobile app or use an off-the-shelf product.
Another report reveals 72% of companies plan to continue investing in custom mobile apps. This is because they’re personalized to suit business needs and address a specific set of users rather than providing a solution which caters to a larger group with varying requirements. This is a major reason why custom mobile app development is gaining traction and proving to be an attractive option for companies.
Choosing Between Custom vs. Off-The-Shelf Development
Mobile apps are no longer a requirement but rather a necessity for companies to engage their customers, which is why it’s crucial to choose the right mobile strategy in the first place. Off-the-shelf mobile apps have some key benefits such as:
- Quick deployment
- Lower upfront development costs
- Maintenance included in price or via maintenance contract
These products are a smart option for companies who don’t have the time or expertise to develop custom apps. You might be lucky and discover an off-the-shelf product that suits the needs of your company perfectly- but this isn’t usually the case.
White labeling a mobile app product allows businesses to sell directly to clients. Many of these businesses claim that the client maintains total control of their project but that’s not always true with the amount of limitations it presents. Below, we examine the key characteristics of a custom approach to help you understand the options available before jumping into development.
Many companies have specific requirements that off-the-shelf solutions can’t address, and need the flexibility to adapt and change as goals shift and new requirements arise. Some products allow customization, but it’s important to evaluate the degree of customization required to satisfy your company’s needs. You may find that the customization you need is difficult or impossible to implement with a product, or that the required effort is too great compared to developing a custom solution. Off-the-shelf solutions are developed to cover some needs of many companies, meaning that there may be features and functionalities you need that they cannot support.
2. Ownership of Intellectual Property
Custom app development also allows you to own the source code and retain ownership of the product – a benefit that isn’t available with off-the-shelf products. This allows your company to adapt quickly to changing market needs, which can be the difference between the success and failure of your app.
3. Personalized User Experience
The user interface (UI) is one of the most important factors affecting the user experience (UX) and usability. While most off-the-shelf apps offer a generic UI, some also allow companies and users to make adjustments to suit individual preferences. With a custom mobile app however, the UI can be entirely tailored, tested, and validated to ensure that it meets and surpasses user expectations.
Personalization helps provide a more unique, relevant experience to the user, which will ultimately increase user engagement and retention. The more aligned the experience is with a user’s needs and preferences, the more likely they are to continue using the app. In a space where the customer experience is vital and mobile users are increasingly demanding a more personalized, relevant experience, off-the-shelf solutions are at a clear disadvantage to custom apps.
Essentially, if you’re targeting a generic set of users with an off-the-shelf solution, the UX will suffer. You want to provide your customers with a consistent and seamless UX, adding a great deal of personalization.
4. Scalability for Future Development
A common challenge during development is creating an app that’s built with longevity in mind. It’s no secret that successful mobile apps are ones that adapt to changing user demands and behaviors. It takes a lot more work building onto an already made product, especially if the product’s API is poor to begin with.
Mobile app development is an investment that should address both your current and future business needs, which off-the-shelf solutions typically can’t deliver on. Because of this, purchasing a product is risky as it often lacks extensibility. This could mean you’ll be in the mobile app market again in just a few years, beginning the entire process over again. To avoid this, you can begin with a custom made minimum viable product, starting small and as external factors such as business objectives and user behaviors evolve, your mobile app can expand and adjust accordingly.
5. Device Compatibility
Finally, if your application is not compatible with other devices, you may lose out on large groups of users. With a custom mobile app, you can choose which devices your app is compatible with which is more important than ever as new devices are being released at an exponential rate.
There’s a lot more choice and control with custom development, as you’ll be able to choose exactly which platforms the app can run on and decide how best to maintain the app over time as operating systems, APIs, and technical capabilities advance.
Is The Custom Approach a Better Investment?
When assessing custom mobile app development versus off-the-shelf solutions, these 5 considerations should carry considerable weight in the process. Both options have advantages and disadvantages however, companies may find that off-the-shelf apps are not the best route based on their needs and objectives on both a short and long-term basis.
The mobile app market is growing steadily as companies seek ways to engage customers in new and innovative ways. Custom mobile apps provide numerous benefits which will help you meet and exceed business objectives. A custom solution should completely fulfill the needs of your business and even be built to support future demands. While off-the-shelf apps can be convenient and appealing at first glance, mobile apps that are designed specifically tailored to both your business and users’ needs are often the better solution.