The Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, business model currently dominates the tech investment landscape. And there's no end in sight. Let's explore the evolution of SaaS technology, particularly the pivotal role of mobile apps and the emerging trends that savvy enterprise developers should keep a keen eye on.
The Progression of SaaS Technology
The SaaS business model gained traction for numerous reasons directly related to technological advances. Cloud-based solutions delivered to end-users via a web browser on their desktop or laptop meant enterprises could free themselves of costly upfront capital expenditure on server infrastructure. They no longer had to attract and retain sophisticated technological talent in-house or concern themselves with complex issues such as data security and redundancy. The SaaS provider was responsible for that—and for a predictable fee that could be scaled according to company needs and with minimal notice.
With the expansion of mobile technology in the early 2010s, enterprise SaaS providers were challenged to make their products available to users on mobile phones and tablets. Initially, the industry’s reaction was to optimize existing websites for these screens. However, the results were not user-friendly, and performance was clunky at best.
Providers then responded with "added-value apps" that offered improved interfaces and response times, but only for a subset of functionality. Mobile users could access the aspects of their SaaS solutions that the provider judged most useful when mobile—for example, performance dashboards and data entry screens for off-site services. Apps were still an obvious afterthought or add-on to the mainstream browser-delivered enterprise solutions.
The next step in SaaS mobile technology was when developers started designing mobile apps alongside browser-delivered solutions. This trend enabled end-users to perform many of their tasks via a mobile app with interfaces very similar to the browser versions.
However, the industry has shifted to "mobile-first" app development in SaaS in recent years. The rapid adoption of this approach was triggered by a combination of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which fast-tracked a move to remote working and the advancement of mobile technologies. Increasingly, users are resistant even to laptops—preferring to do everything on a mobile device they can take anywhere, anytime. And, for the first time, enterprise SaaS solutions are being delivered exclusively as apps.
When to Consider Developing a SaaS Mobile App
Mobile apps have all the advantages of traditional enterprise SaaS offerings and then some. Apps go with your enterprise clients wherever they go. This means your company’s offerings are top of mind and potentially indispensable to your clients. They permit instant, “in-app” communication, potentially reducing marketing and support costs. You can also collect data about user habits and preferences that weren't displayed when they were "chained" to their desks.
Investing in the development of a mobile app and the implementation of a mobile-first enterprise strategy may be beneficial if your customers are predominantly mobile device users. However, even if your current user base is mainly desktop-bound, trends are shifting to mobile devices. Not offering an acceptable mobile option might leave you stranded if your competitors are ready with one when your enterprise customers do make the switch.
When developing for mobility, consider technical difficulties. Mobile devices have smaller screens, which can limit functionality and display. The app needs to be compatible with all devices and operating systems. You must anticipate the different scenarios in which users may use a mobile app. Mobile apps must anticipate slow Internet speeds, limited battery life, and loss of connectivity.
These challenges require responsive, thoughtful design and scalability to prioritize the mobile user experience.
5 Mobile App Trends in 2024
Enterprise SaaS providers considering a mobile-first approach to future development must keep abreast of current mobile tech trends. Some of the trends expected in 2024 include:
1. Almost half of all smartphones are expected to be 5G-enabled by 2024. Developers have started incorporating 5G in app design.
2. Augmented and virtual reality incorporation into apps is expected to go mainstream.
3. Foldable phones will offer larger screens and may change how users engage with apps.
4. The pace of adoption of AI integration and machine learning will only increase in the future.
5. Mobile security will be receiving a great deal of attention after several recent high-profile cyberattacks.
For enterprise SaaS developers and investors, the past decade’s technological evolution towards mobile-first solutions is becoming inevitable. It's a strategic imperative driven by changing user preferences and the demands of a dynamic business environment. Investing in the enterprise SaaS sector offers a stake in leading-edge technology in a market poised for sustained growth. The key lies not only in understanding where we've been but in anticipating where SaaS enterprise technology is heading next.