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A recent report found that more than 80% of the time users spend on mobile devices are spent in mobile apps instead of on mobile sites. And smartphone users launch an average of nine or more apps per day. Metrics like these emphasize the importance of mobile app development for a healthy, sustainable business.

Once you decide to launch a mobile app, the big decision to make is whether to build a custom mobile app or to use a white-label app.

White-label applications (application frameworks with simple customization options, such your company name, logo, and information) are often the cheaper and faster way to get from Point A to Point B, but this cookie-cutter approach is not always the wisest choice or investment for your business.

In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when choosing between custom mobile application development and white-label. We will also discuss some of the benefits of a custom mobile app and look at some of the options on the market for both white-label and custom approaches.

These two questions must be answered before you can make the right choice:

  • What is it about your business that sets you apart from the competition and makes you special?
  • Is this unique aspect of your business adequately displayed in your mobile connection with your customers?

Further, if you currently have a mobile application built with one of the off-the-shelf white-label app products, does your uniqueness shine through?

There are occasions when a white-label approach will meet your business needs. The basic offerings of a white-label application will work for most restaurants, ranging from fast food to upscale gourmet, for example. What differentiates establishments in this industry is the quality of the food and the service—which can’t really be communicated in a mobile application. Most restaurants, then, can use an off-the-shelf solution with little to no risk. All you really need to do is list your menu, some high-quality images, contact and location information, hours of operation, and possibly some specials or coupons to give customers a reason to revisit the app.

On the other hand, your business offering may benefit from clear differentiation. Perhaps your hair salon offers custom consultations to assist clients with selecting the right cut and color. Maybe your mobile app should have a feature that can suggest the best style and cut using the client’s photo. Would this approach show your customers the extra level of service you offer, and can it attract new clientele?

You must look beyond how you sell to your customers and think about how you serve them as well. Some local cable companies are taking advantage of mobile apps to let customers to review their account, open and track customer service tickets, and remotely control their televisions from their mobile device.

Thinking outside the white-label box can have big returns. The bottom line is there are many doors into your business—your mobile presence is one of them.

You probably spent a good deal of money and time designing the physical entryway to your store. Why would you take a lighter approach to your mobile entryway when more customers will be entering it? Do you want your door to look like everyone else’s?

If you think your business has something special to offer, then you probably should not shortcut your mobile strategy. It is worth the time and money to create a custom mobile application in these cases.

Benefits of a custom mobile application

  • Better ROI—A white-label application may be cheaper, but a custom mobile app is often better-received in the market. This means users are more likely to keep using it and refer it to others, so you generate more revenue and recover the cost of your investment faster.
  • Greater customization—The custom route lets you add all of the features and functionality you require for your mobile application. You are not confined by the restrictions of a cookie-cutter white-label approach.
  • Better User Interface (UI) design and usability—White-label apps offer little control over design and layout. Your users will evaluate your mobile application within the first few seconds of use—appearance counts. Successful mobile apps are also usable. A cookie-cutter application does not always translate into a usable end product given the restrictions on features, layout, and design.
  • Enhanced security—Security is always an issue with white-label apps. You do not get to decide if the app distributor inserts additional third-party libraries when you use cookie-cutter apps, for example. It is entirely possible for security exploits to be introduced to your app without your knowledge. If data security is a concern, custom mobile application development ensures that your application has all of the necessary security requirements built in from day one, and you can maintain that level of security throughout the life of the app.
  • Compatibility—Mobile apps need to work on multiple devices. A custom approach allows you to make sure your application will work on all types of devices used by your target customer base.
  • Ownership resides with you—The source code of a white-label application is owned by the provider. You need to decide if this puts your business in a compromised position. With a custom application, you control updates and enhancements instead of waiting for white-label developers to deliver. And these white-label providers will always focus on updates that serve the majority of their users, not your specific needs. If a tailored experience is important for your business, then a custom mobile app will likely be your best option.
  • No usage fees or restrictions—You own your custom mobile app, but you don’t own the white-label one. That means you’ll be hit with a monthly usage fee (though some bill annually). There may also be a setup fee (even though you will be doing most of the work yourself), as well as licensing structures, bandwidth caps, and terms of service you must adhere to. Custom mobile apps don’t suffer any of these headaches; you pay for hosting, maintenance, and possibly some cloud services, which is usually much less expensive than paying for a software license.

White-label app options and custom mobile application development services

The two big names in the white-label space are BuildFire and Bisnessapps.

BuildFire allows users to add their branding information and choose from a few customization options. Biznessapps is the leading app builder for small businesses in this space. Supported features include mobile ordering, reviews, and third-party service integrations.

If you decide to build a custom app, you should work with a professional team skilled in custom mobile application development if you do not have the in-house expertise. This will ensure your app is:

  • Responsive—It needs to adjust to the device being used.
  • Intuitive—Buttons need to be in logical places, and navigation should be simple.
  • Fast—Users will not tolerate slow speeds. And since mobile devices are not always connected to the internet, you need to account for these moments of lost connectivity.
  • User-friendly—Your app needs to be designed with the user in mind. Why do they need it and what does it need to do?

Working with a team that has experience in designing and developing custom mobile applications ensures you reap all of the benefits of the custom approach. A team approach means you gain knowledge from all sides of the process—usability testing, design, quality control, security, and development.

Look for a development company with a proven track record of building mobile apps that earn revenue. Your application should not be an expense. It should be a net gain. The team you work with should focus on top-line revenue enhancement in addition to quality and usability.  

If you want to stand out and have something unique to offer, a custom mobile app is a prime opportunity to increase your customer reach and market share—and make money. Create a mobile doorway that makes your business stand out from the crowd.

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