SaaS businesses have been eluding the adoption of mobile apps for a long time now. Why spend time, energy and resources on a product that is only a value-add and not the primary revenue earner?

While the SaaS model is gaining ground across enterprises, professionals that use these products are dependent on their desks to get the full experience. The moment they step out of their office, the products fall short in delivery.

Understandably, you can't expect the mobile app to do all of the complex functions that the web-based product does, but identifying what's important to people while on the go can help them execute those crucial tasks without the frustration of finding a desktop or a laptop.

Here's how not to screw up your mobile app experience for your customers.

1. Responsive website isn't a replacement for an app

I use between 5-6 SaaS products daily and of those, only 2 have a native application (one launched very recently). The remaining ones force me to open a web browser on my mobile phone and navigate to the tasks I want to complete.

In their minds, they've given me a means to perform my tasks on the go. Is that efficient though for me? The answer is no.

And there are many customers just like me, who prefer a native app to a web-based experience. A mobile responsive website does not replace a native app. It's something you build in addition to a mobile app.

A native app provides a mobile centric experience for your existing and most loyal customers. It provides users with unique functionalities and speed of access that can't be achieved through a mobile responsive website.

2. Don't not build for the lack of skills

A SaaS business would primarily have skills across the web domain as the products are typically browser driven. Most SaaS companies don't venture building a mobile app because of lack of existing skill sets in their teams.

Sure, the mobile environment is vastly different from that of the web, but at no point would you want to compromise on user experience solely because of bandwidth issues.

Don't not build a mobile app just because you don't have skill sets internally. Outsource the mobile app or hire a team of developers to build the first version or a continuous iteration.

3. Don't build it for the sake of building one

Don't build a mobile app just because you must or because you want a footprint in the mobile ecosystem. You have to commit to the platform if you plan to go mobile, which means that you have to acknowledge the difference between the two platforms--web and mobile.

Adding a mobile app not just gives your customers a value add, but also opens up a channel for marketing for your company. You can choose to keep monetization outside of the scope of the app or have it as a part of the strategy.

Once you've rolled out an app to your customers, you've built an expectation of superior service and experience on the additional platform. Have a dedicated team or a product manager to look into the mobile strategy that will likely be different when compared to the web one.

4. Customize the experience for a mobility-driven use case

There are complex workflows that define the use of a SaaS product on the desktop. But when you're recreating an experience on the mobile, don't forget to adapt to the use case that is driven by mobility.

The feature set that will go into the app--for crucial task creation/execution or reporting, has to be simple enough for customers on the go. Mixpanel recently launched their mobile app with dashboards to help their customers track data on the go. A basic version to begin with, but it's a great beginning considering how crucial it is for their customers to be able to track important analytics and make decisions without time lag.

Ensure you make your users to feel comfortable enough to work on the go when using your mobile app instead of waiting until they're back at their desks.

For an app to really take over, your customers should be able to complete a task at least as efficiently as they would while experiencing it on a computer. And if they have fun while using the app, you've got yourself a power user!

Published on: Feb 2, 2016