Leyla Seka is VP AppExchange & Partner Operations at Salesforce.com.
In the enterprise app space, we’re no longer just selling to IT anymore. Cloud platform ecosystems are leveling the playing field and enterprise app stores have democratized access to new types of customers across the enterprise. Like the consumer app space, demand for new apps now comes from the end user, not an IT admin.
While differences will always exist between the two, there are many lessons and parallels enterprise developers can learn from their consumer colleagues in order to create a killer business app.
Create a unified user experience
There are plenty of enterprise apps out there, just like there’s no shortage of consumer apps. But what makes an app stand out from the crowd?
Perhaps Candy Crush developer Tommy Palms, in an interview with BuzzFeed, sums it up best: Candy Crush became a hit not just because of the game itself, but rather because users could “play a few minutes on the website” and then “play a few more on the bus on the way to work.” This is not just exclusive to games – enterprise app users want and need the same convenience that Candy Crush provides: the ability to access these apps anywhere and on any device, with a single sign-on. Remove the friction, and win the user.
From system of record to system of engagement
However, winning the user doesn’t end at just creating a unified experience. There is another lesson we can draw from consumer app development: engage the user in a way that feels fun.
Sure, your app might not be as entertaining as Candy Crush, but there are ways to make a much richer and fulfilling experience for the enterprise user. By providing a social and feed-first experience, information can be pushed directly to the end user as opposed to them having to grab it – making things as simple as possible. Using gamification, any standard procedure can be turned into a fun, engaging competition between co-workers that not only increases productivity but also strengthens a company’s culture and community. SuMo, an employee engagement app that helps drive sustainability initiatives within the workplace, is a great example of an enterprise app that uses game mechanics to engage people in solving serious problems – in this case, reducing carbon footprints and cutting costs.
The Internet of Things and the Internet of Customers
We’re currently living in the era of the Internet of Things. Our favorite consumer apps are now connected to everything: different apps, products, social media networks and other services, leveraging data and devices to provide the best possible service to the end user.
This has become increasingly common in the enterprise, too. The most successful apps will be the ones that make the customer the most successful, no matter what they’re using to connect. This requires serving and synthesizing data for the user, as opposed to simply providing access.
For example, General Electric developed an app that connects its jet engines to Salesforce Chatter, allowing the engines to “communicate” in real-time with mechanics and engineers to ensure the best maintenance possible. Hewlett Packard has developed an app so that sales people on the road can print documents from their mobile phone at more than 30,000 public locations. It all comes down to leveraging APIs. Get creative and take advantage of open APIs to build apps that will reinvent how companies connect with their customers, employees and partners to drive business success.
Win the user, win the deal
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos is famous for saying, “Your margin is my opportunity.” In the enterprise, the mantra is a little different – more like, “Your customer dissatisfaction is my opportunity.”
While these concepts diverge, there is still an important parallel to be drawn: Know your market, and incorporate customer feedback. It is crucial to understand your target market, so as to not overestimate demand or underestimate the resources needed to attract new customers.
Furthermore, listening to customer feedback is essential. End users have high expectations, which they bring from their personal lives and their personal apps. In fact, today, more than 50 percent of business application purchases start with online research and rating reviews. So, take a page out of the consumer playbook — offer free trials and read customer reviews — because that’s what your customers already expect.
Right now, we’re witnessing an age of incredible and limitless opportunities for enterprise apps. By leveraging distribution channels and app exchanges, you can take your app to market quickly and efficiently and start monetizing on these opportunities while they’re ripe. There is a fundamental need for better apps that are easy to understand, use and provide unique specialization.
And as the consumerization of the enterprise continues, it’s the app that drives the most value and engagement for end users that will win — not the biggest company.