Distributing Custom B2B Apps for iOS
B2B businesses are unique.
Unlike B2C companies, you’re not necessarily trying to appeal to the masses. Your products and services aren’t for everyone, and neither is your mobile app.
As a B2B owner, you know all of this. That’s why it can be frustrating when it comes to mobile app development. With such a flooded marketplace full of other custom apps, how can your current and prospective B2B clients find your app?
Well, I’ve got a solution for you. You can develop and distribute custom apps through the iOS platform to target Apple business users.
Even though Android users control the global market share, Apple makes it easier for you to build and distribute your B2B mobile app. You’ll get to use tools like Apple Business Manager.
Some of these differences are extremely relevant to our discussion. For starters, just notice how the career choices are different between these user bases.
Obviously, these are generalizations. But for the most part, iOS users are more likely to work in engineering or technology industries. As a whole, Android users have jobs in labor, construction, or other blue-collar industries.
Apple users also make more money than Android users. So for your B2B company, you’ll probably be targeting iOS users anyways, since their demographic profile fits what you’re looking for.
Here’s something else to consider. Even though Android controls the global market, iPhone sales continue to stay on the rise.
Look at the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus sales compared to other devices on the market.
So developing an iOS B2B app is worth it. You’ll definitely be able to get it in the hands of your clients (Apple business users).
But for those of you that have never done this before, it can seem a little bit intimidating. That’s why I’m here to help you out.
As an industry expert, I’ll help you effectively build and distribute your custom B2B app to the right audience. Here’s what you need to know.
The most common way to distribute custom apps
One way that you can distribute your B2B app is through the Apple App Store. If you go through this development method, your app will be available to anyone with an iOS device, such as an iPhone or iPad.
If you’re an Apple user, I’m sure that you’re familiar with this method. That’s the way that you’ve found all of the apps that you use in your personal life.
This is also the way that you’ve deployed or probably planned to distribute your custom app right now. While I’m not saying the app development process is easy, this is certainly the most common way to distribute apps.
So most of the resources you’ll find online about building an app or getting downloads for your new app will be through the app store.
The Apple App Store is a great place for your custom apps. That’s because it’s user-friendly and it’s simple for people to navigate. Your B2B clients are already familiar with this app discovery method, so there’s no learning curve.
Distributing through the app store is a viable option because it’s available to a wide audience, which is fine because your target audience is already out there and active on this platform.
That’s why you’ll see companies such as B2B Soft have a presence on the app store.
This distribution method gives them an opportunity to market their POS software to as many clients as possible.
So when a prospective B2B customer browses the app store for a new POS system, this will be one of the results in the search listing.
While it’s definitely easy for your clients to find custom apps on the app store, it’s not always as easy for developers to get their apps approved. You’ve got to learn how to get your app submitted to the app store.
Once you get familiar with Apple’s rules and guidelines, it makes the app approval process much easier. But with that said, this is an imperfect system.
Sometimes there can be a delay be the initial submission of your app and approval. Your launch could be set back if you get rejected or you’re provided with some additional feedback.
This is obviously not ideal for your situation. If you’re releasing an app for just the Apple App Store, you probably went through a native development process. For those of you who have been through this process, you already know how timely and expensive this can be.
So further delays can be really crushing to your progress. That’s why I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to thoroughly review your app before it’s submitted.
Test your app and work out any bugs or glitches so you can catch these problems ahead of time instead of getting rejected.
Otherwise, you could end up with some back and forth communication with Apple and get delayed for months.
It’s absolutely necessary that you’re available on the app store if you want to reach a wide audience. However, you’ll see as we continue that some of your other options won’t have as difficult of an approval process.
Implement an ad-hoc deployment strategy
Ad-hoc deployment is typically used for temporary distribution or private beta testing. But this can definitely be a reasonable option for you to get your app into the hands of your B2B customers.
It’s an efficient system that won’t give you too much trouble. Here’s how it works.
Ad-hoc is written with a binary code. However, this code isn’t compatible with every single iOS device. So you’ll need to take some extra steps to get it to your clients.
Your developers need to have the UDID of each device that will be used to access the app. Then, you’ll need to register each one of these devices to the Apple Member Center.
You’ll use a binary code to deploy your custom B2B app. You can deliver the app to your B2B clients via email or with a shareable link for downloading it.
This strategy makes it easy for the app to be installed on any devices that have had their UDID previously registered with the member center.
If you’re going to go this route for your distribution strategy, you’ll need to export the app with Xcode and then select the Ad-hoc distribution option.
After you export the binary code, you’ll be able to distribute it with MDM. This is just like you would do with the enterprise binary.
It’s a simple concept and easy to understand. But this strategy requires you to properly and efficiently manage all of the UDIDs so that your app is compatible with the devices of your B2B clients.
Try enterprise deployment for your custom B2B app
In the past, enterprises have had trouble going through the app store approval process. Historically, they also didn’t love the ad-hoc option. So this is when enterprise deployment became relevant.
Enterprises didn’t want to wait weeks or potentially even months to get their app approved.
Registering all of the UDIDs to the member center through ad-hoc can be a time-consuming process.
With enterprise deployment, you still use Xcode to build your app, so you don’t need to worry about learning how to use a new development software. But you export it so that it can be installed on any iOS device, without the need to register any UDIDs.
This is much easier. You also don’t need your app to be live on the Apple App Store to get it in the hands of your clients.
Clients can also use Apple Business Manager to control all of the apps, devices, and accounts within their organization. IT administrators will benefit from the Apple Business Manager tools as well, as it helps with mobile device management (MDM).
Lots of businesses use this strategy for organizational purposes.
They offer apps to their employees for internal company use without it being available for mass downloads. This makes sense since the average person would have no reason to access an internal company app.
This method is easier to deploy than ad-hoc and the app store, but it’s completely up to you to distribute the app yourself without any help from Apple.
You’ve just got to go to the Apple Enterprise Program to enroll in this service.
Your distribution method will be similar to ad-hoc. You’ll send an email or a specific URL to people who you want to have access to your app.
It can also be accessed with a mobile development service or MDM. Developers have to upload the binary code and then send a request for installation to every MDM that’s enrolled.
All of this can be done from a web-based administrative dashboard. This makes it really easy to manage everything.
With that said, this deployment method is intended for organizations to use internally with their staff. So you’re technically not supposed to make them available to anyone outside of your organization.
Using a VPP (volume purchase program) private store for a B2B mobile app deployment is not as popular as the other methods that we’ve discussed. However, it’s still a viable option.
You can use this strategy to distribute your custom B2B app for iOS devices. But in order to deploy your app on a B2B app store, you’re going to need to do just that.
You’ll have to register an Apple VPP and upgrade to Apple Business Manager to create a private app store.
Select this option when you go through the custom app distribution process for Apple business users on the iOS platform.
Now you have the ability to create a custom app and also create an internal app binary.
Once this is complete, you’ll just need to share it with anyone who has access to the VPP.
Now, you just need to get through the app approval process. But surprisingly, it’s actually easier to get your app approved for your VPP than it is for the general Apple App Store.
That’s because this app is not made for general consumption. Apple knows this, so they are more lenient with these rules and guidelines.
You won’t need to to do any manual submissions either because everything is handled within the store itself. You’ll use an MDM service and send VPP push invitations to deploy the app.
These invitations get sent to devices on the private store from the admin dashboard, so it’s easy to manage and control all of your settings.
Most people are familiar with the most popular way to distribute an iOS mobile application. Obviously, this is from the Apple App Store.
But there are lesser-known methods for distribution. As a B2B company, you may want to take advantage of these solutions.
Consider distributing your app with ad-hoc deployment. You could also try an enterprise app for internal purposes. Target Apple business users (organizations already using iOS devices).
Another option is creating a VPP private store, which isn’t as popular of a choice, but it’s still viable.
You should weigh the pros and cons for each of these options to decide which method is best for your B2B company.
How will you leverage custom app distribution for B2B on iOS devices?