The much-talked-about – and often overhyped – ‘global app boom‘ is over. Growth in total time spent on mobile apps by the average user is going down on a YoY basis (11% in 2016; only 6% in 2017), there is a definite unwillingness to install apps that do not serve a particular purpose, a lot of applications are being integrated in the mobile wallets ecosystem, and even the biggest of mobile apps are being consolidated. IoT-enabled wearables, like smartwatches, smart glasses and more, are set to take over – with individuals remaining content with a limited number of apps on their handsets.
The gradual slowdown in the worldwide mobile apps market does not, however, mean that they can no longer serve key business purposes. For software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies in particular, mobile apps are still indispensable – as confirmed by a recent survey of a select group of software entrepreneurs. In the discussion that follows, we will highlight why mobile apps still matter for SaaS companies:
Mobile app should serve a purpose
If a SaaS business decides to build a mobile app just because everyone else is doing so, that’s a bit of a waste. Instead of creating an app only to keep up with the trend, a company needs to analyse and identify the precise needs for such custom mobile software – and the key purposes it can serve. The key lies in realising that, although a majority of end-users prefer mobile apps – unless these apps are ‘useful’ and deliver value, no one would be interested to install it (or at least, retain it on their devices). SaaS businesses require mobile apps that can be relied upon to resolve a series of requirements. Proper research and groundwork is imperative, before getting down to actually making an app.
Bringing down communication and marketing expenses
A mobile SaaS app can be used to perform several important manual tasks, and that too, in a more efficient manner. These tasks include regular software marketing/product marketing, and client communications. With the help of in-app marketing & sales platform integrations, mobile applications do away with the need for manual tasks in this regard. Push notifications, in particular, are particularly useful for driving up overall customer engagement levels. Reports have shown that marketing campaigns carried out through mobile apps have higher probabilities of bringing in more potential buyers than manual marketing efforts (which have limited reach, are more time-consuming, and involve higher costs). Push notifications have also been found to be more effective on the mobile platform than the web platform. This highlights the importance of mobile apps all the more.
The mobile app vs responsive website debate
The need for a fully responsive business website for a SaaS company can hardly be overemphasised. However, while responsive websites are NECESSARY, they are not SUFFICIENT for such companies. For starters, a mobile website cannot provide personalised UI/UX features to a user in the way a custom app can. Software entrepreneurs need to realise that responsive websites are not an alternative to mobile apps – and for best results, having both is essential. Through the mobile platform, buyers can enjoy round-the-clock availability. In comparison to mobile websites, apps are faster – and they play an important role in making customers feel ‘involved’ in the business. In a nutshell, a mobile app is way more immersive than a mobile website.
The convenience factor
Before making a mobile SaaS app, it is important to understand its benefits properly. Unlike traditional business operation tools and equipments, apps are not invasive in nature – and they offer a welcome break from the buggy, low-performance, and often outdated hardware systems in a company setup. The fact that mobile apps are easy to maintain and update, and do not require sizeable maintenance charges is yet another advantage. As more and more SaaS business owners across the globe are realising the need for prompt and reliable service delivery automation, the demand for mobile SaaS systems is going up. People look for convenience, and mobile apps deliver that in a big way!
Note: SaaS has already emerged as the biggest sub-sector in the cloud technologies market. In 2019, the worldwide SaaS industry is expected to grow by nearly 18% (a $86+ billion market).
Mobile apps bring greater flexibility to SaaS operations
For SaaS companies, dynamism is the name of the game. Tech entrepreneurs and software vendors simply cannot stick to old and outdated trends. The onus is on the marketers to stand out from rivals – and mobile apps are a great tool for that. If a SaaS company has a mobile app, it is likely to be able to provide much smoother, faster and more secure services to end-users – compared to a company that does not have an app in place. However, companies need to realise that making a mobile SaaS solution is not a one-shot game. Regular adaptations, upgrades and fresh content are required, in order to fulfill (and even surpass) customer expectations. Apps also serve as a powerful platform for SaaS companies to receive feedback, and act on them.
Note: Mobile apps are also instrumental in maintaining high overall performance levels, and ensuring robust data security.
Gaining competitive advantage through apps
There is very little room for doubting the usefulness of mobile apps for SaaS businesses. Even so, many companies stay away from using apps – and the many myths and underlying doubts are a big reason behind that. On the other hand, however, an ever-increasing section of the total number of final users are expressing their preference to interact with mobile apps. As such, there is a definite opening for a SaaS company to take the plunge, make a customised mobile app, reach out to a bigger-than-ever target audience, and build up customer loyalty. A well-thought-out mobile app strategy can hand a SaaS company serious competitive advantages over its competitors.
Mobile apps help SaaS businesses to do more…with less –
A SaaS company can easily follow a simple workflow for creating a mobile business app for itself. The actual deployment can be quick and straightforward, and a single version of the mobile application can be used to support the entire customer base. In general, native app development is the better option (rather than hybrid or cross-platform tools) for SaaS companies. A smart mobile app strategy can significantly reduce average customer acquisition costs – and pave the way for higher ROI figures.
Note: In order to reduce the average costs associated with mobile SaaS applications, several useful APIs can be used – for implementing authentication, analytics tracking, authorisation, and other key functionalities.
User acquisition and retention made easier than ever
One of the biggest reasons behind the popularity of mobile SaaS apps is their 24x7x365 availability. In a recent survey, it was found that close to 90% people prefer apps over a business website. If a SaaS company relies only on its website to do business, it is unlikely to be able to respond to queries and complaints generated at odd hours (outside office hours). A user-friendly mobile app does away with this problem. Business owners can, through the app, stay connected with customers round the clock, get more leads, and ensure a steady growth of business (the user-ratio also becomes more favourable). Competition levels are increasing all the time, and a tech entrepreneur cannot afford to be functional only during a few hours in a day.
Direct downloads and cloud technology advantages
With mobile apps, SaaS companies can do away with the problem of desktop downloads and related accessibility problems. Since these apps have powerful cloud storage options, all downloads happen directly inside the app. As a result, accessing the service never becomes an issue for final users (since there are no local downloads). SaaS companies should ideally look to build ‘offline cloud apps’ – which would not rely on network connectivity for performance, and will be available to everyone. Of course, the security parameters of the apps need to be carefully tested, along with the other important app features.
Note: For loyal users, an interactive app facilitates smooth mobile-centric engagement with the SaaS business.
10. A SaaS app or a standalone app?
This is something that SaaS startups need to consider very carefully. Both standalone mobile apps and integrated SaaS apps have their respective advantages – and the precise requirements of a company should dictate the type of app it finally opts for. If a business is looking for a software platform that offers secure cloud data storage and real-time communication, then SaaS apps are the way to go. However, the cost of these apps varies with the number of users (fixed for standalone apps), and downloads are mostly indirect (standalone mobile apps have direct downloads). SaaS professionals need to pick the solution that would be best suited for their requirements.
11. Multiple features for higher engagement
A mobile app can go a long way in helping a SaaS company build a huge customer base automatically. Some of the most essential features of such apps include reminders, GPS-powered location services, push notifications, and developer services. It’s vital to arrange all of these features (and others) in a way that would enhance usability and deliver optimal user-end experience (UX). Putting in another way, the two things that SaaS companies need to be very particular about in their apps are the NAVIGATION and PLACEMENT of the features. New features, of course, can be added later.
Note: The best mobile SaaS apps can, in fact, serve very well as virtual assistants to end-users.
By the end of 2020, the value of the global SaaS industry will soar to well over $131 billion. It is high time that businesses in this domain come up with innovative solutions and strategies – things that will keep them in the game and help them stay a step ahead of the competition. SaaS companies can use mobile app platforms to connect with their customers better, understand their requirements, and deliver customised solutions. One thing is for certain: mobile apps do matter a lot for SaaS businesses, and things will remain that way in the foreseeable future.
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