Is Mobile-First The Next Big Thing For SaaS?

Smart phones, devices that inhabit approximately 2 billion pockets, are at the heart of the ever-evolving technological space, and mobile-first initiatives have been a go-to slam dunk for many big tech companies since 2010. The likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon have enjoyed success from relying on mobile apps, though SaaS companies have been a bit slower on the uptake.

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In 2012, SaaStr writer Jason Lemkin noted that it would be at least three more years before we start to see “Mobile First” SaaS startups. But nine years later, many SaaS companies are still not up for the challenge.

It all comes down to one issue: apps can help with simple tasks, such as buying products or communicating with friends and family, and simple isn’t everything in SaaS. SaaS has to at least cover the minimum level of complexity necessary to meet its core business process roles.

In the case of consumer companies, the end user is the buyer. In SaaS, the end user is very infrequently the buyer. This is why mobile SaaS companies must employ a two-step value proposition, first convincing the end user to download and use the app, and second, using this data to initiate a sales process with the decision-maker within the enterprise. This second step, at least to date, has been the limiting factor in using mobile-app distribution to drive SaaS company growth.

That’s not to say that there aren’t SaaS companies employing the benefits of mobile. It’s not uncommon for many SaaS startups with mobile apps to see 30-50% of their usage on mobile, a figure now common in eCommerce and other consumer categories.

One such solution is using AWS, which offers essential infrastructure and service tools for SaaS products that can facilitate end-to-end mobile application development. AWS functions as a SaaS service provider with complete solutions that are run and managed by AWS. Businesses don't have to worry about issues like how to maintain the service or essential infrastructure and can instead focus on innovation and business logic.

There are companies like ServiceMax that are mobile-first, and they work well for people involved in fieldwork. But for most existing enterprise tools, mobile doesn’t make much sense as it currently stands. Things will of course change, and we may see more SaaS mobile-first companies come to the forefront, but it appears that surge is likely further down the road.