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Off the shelf apps vs bespoke mobile apps - which is best for my business?

Ah, the age-old question of third party “off the shelf” apps vs. building bespoke mobile apps still continues to haunt enterprises to this day.

When it comes to mobile app development, there are a number of considerations to be made when assessing the market for what is the best fit for your business. This can include things like cost implications, functionality requirements, user experience, scalability, timescales for implementation and the ability to integrate with existing systems or processes.

What is the difference?

“Off-The-Shelf” mobile apps refers to pre-built mobile software that is ready to use once installed on the device. These apps are typically built for “mass usage” and most solutions come with an array of customisable templates that allow you to import your own data and and information.

Custom mobile app development on the other hand refers to building an application from scratch (either in house or outsourced) which is built to specifically match your requirements and goals.

Which option you decide to go for will ultimately depend on:

  • The particular business problem or challenge you’re looking to solve

  • The priority of this project to your business

  • Resources and infrastructure required to build and/ or maintain the solution

Key Considerations

1. Cost Implications

In general, buying applications “off the shelf” is quicker and cheaper than building custom mobile applications which can be advantageous if you are facing tight time or financial constraints.

Some organisations choose to buy/ licence off the shelf applications if:

  1. The business lacks the technical mobile and UX expertise and resources to build the app internally -or to manage the app build externally

  2. They are of the firm belief that there is an existing product on the market that suits their needs entirely.

Bespoke app development is certainly more expensive, however building an app that fits your exact business needs, allows for a flawless user experience means the potential ROI that will come off the back of this investment is substantial.

We’ve worked with many companies that have been using “off the shelf” mobile apps that either don’t do what they need it to do effectively or leaves users frustrated due to the inflexibility of the app and the difficulty of making changes or updates. Many of them end up having to pay extra fees for additional features.

It’s our firm belief that from a cost perspective, taking the bespoke mobile app development route is preferential if you want to achieve long term success and don’t regard app development as a “quick fix” to a problem.

2. App Customisation & Performance

Off the shelf apps means that you are at the mercy of another companies source code. This essentially means limited customisation and functionality as the solution is to designed to suit “mass needs” and not your individual business requirements. Many of these off the shelf apps are often rigid and difficult to modify which is problematic as your business continues to grow and adapt to changing market needs.

Bespoke mobile app development does exactly the opposite. As it is being built from scratch, the app is designed and built exactly to your requirements and to solve the challenge you’re looking to solve. It takes into account the user experience requirements of your end users and can be easily updated/ and or changed as business requirements change.

3. Integration Challenges

Off the shelf mobile software often faces an array of compatibility and integration issues. Yes, the apps may integrate with a handful of the “most popular” apps but will bomb when it comes to trying to connect it to any existing internal apps and specific business tools. Many organisations either have to create frustrating workarounds or end up paying through the nose for additional “custom features” contributing to that dreaded sunken cost fallacy.

Taking the bespoke route means that any system or app integrations can be considered and built in from the very beginning. You can make use of a wide range of API’s that will help you to achieve that. Having your systems and solutions talk to each other means a much better level of efficiency and productivity and doesn’t frustrate users with having to use multiple systems.

4. Competitive Advantage

A Bespoke mobile app should be an asset to any business and it should be used to create a competitive advantage. Whether thats improving the productivity and efficiency of workforce through workflows or automation processes, or providing the very best user experience for your end customers, the ROI should speak for itself.

Building a bespoke application can help you stand out from your competitors who may all be using the same (or similar) off the shelf mobile app solutions.

So, What’s The Verdict?

It will depend on your business and what you’re trying to achieve and what your priorities are. If you need a quick fix solution with potentially limited functionality then going with an off the shelf solution may be the right thing for you.

Bias aside, bespoke app development is always the better option in our opinion. Yes it can be more of an upfront cost but the longer term benefits far outweigh the cost. It means you can have full control over the app from the beginning and can change or adapt as your business continues to grow into the future.

Looking for a bespoke mobile app development partner? We’d love to chat! Drop us a line or first take a look at our services.