Feature Article

March 11, 2013

The Recipe to B2B App Success May Not Exist Yet

When you think of app stores, what springs to mind? Apple’s store, of course, where they sell everything from games to efficiency solutions, as well as similar destinations like the Windows Store, Google Play, and Amazon’s app store. But the app world is not just a playground for corporate giants – many smaller companies are looking to bring their business to the mobile mall, so to speak, and it seems like an obvious evolutionary step.

For B2Bs, however, going forward via app doesn't yet make the most sense. On his blog last month, the vice president of product management at Flexera Software, Mathieu Baissac, suggests that rather than focus on designing an app store that may or may not meet its needs, a company should invest in flexible, sensible e-commerce solutions.   

It’s worthwhile at the outset to define the notion of an app store. It’s any site, really, that allows a user to register and then receive access to a set of software tools that are designed primarily for use on mobile devices. App stores, then, require some basic infrastructure: a registration process so that users can create accounts, a way of listing products (usually through an array of icons, though it can also be a searchable text database), a transparent pricing structure and an easy way to purchase the app in question.

If this were an old-fashioned brick mail-order business, this would be the equivalent of a well-designed catalog and clearly-marked (and well-manned) phone lines. Even after a product isordered, there are two more duties to fulfill: delivery of the app (immediate download, primarily, although there is some variation for larger apps) and then maintenance of the product over time such as updates. That’s the traditional model, and it has served several of major companies quite well – but a smaller app store is likely to have several issues regarding predictable and efficient fulfillment, pricing and payment models.

Far better than a resident app store, and far less problematic, are the ready-to-use e-commerce systems designed by companies like Oracle, IBM, or Digital River, which offer a wide-range of order management, multilingual customer support, and fraud controls. E-commerce sites are still accessible via mobile devices, so even though they aren't as nifty and fun as apps, they get the on the go job done. It would be foolish to make one blanket recommendation for any app producer, but as a general rule, it makes more sense to purchase an existing e-commerce solution than to create an app store using technology that isn't tailored to a B2B's complex needs.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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