development cost custom app

To really benefit from using tablets in sales, you need a sales and presentation app. One of the key questions is the price tag associated with a tablet app…

How much does it actually cost to build a custom sales app?

When you want to send your sales force on the road with an app that is completely focused on what they need, there are basically 3 options:

  • Have your IT-department develop a custom application.
  • Hire a 3rd party to develop a custom app.
  • Subscribe to a service like Showpad.

Nobody likes another monthly fee, no matter how small, so custom app development might seem like a better idea. You pay once, either in time spent by your IT-staff, or in cash to a 3rd party. When the price is paid for development, the app is yours to keep, for as many sales reps as you wish.

Actually, reality learns it is not that simple.

1. Custom app development is downright expensive.

It takes a big team and specific skills and knowledge to create a good business application: 

  • user interface specialists, 
  • designers, 
  • mobile developers, 
  • backend developers, 
  • testers, 
  • project managers, 
  • ...

Looking at the current rates of specialized mobile agencies, you are looking at a price tag of at least $150.000 to develop your own sales and presentation app with its own content management system. You want your app to work on Android tablets and iPads? Let’s add another $50.000If you want an app that is integrated with your existing enterprise software such as Salesforce, Sharepoint etc, be prepared to spend another + $200.000 on the integration. That money buys you many licences for a very long time!

2. Development needed after the first version

Development doesn’t stop when the first version of app is ready.

  • When the platform that your app operates on, goes through a major update, you will want your app to be updated too. Chances are that your app may not work the newest version of iOS or Android. So you need to update your app. At between $70 and $100 per hour, development cost to upgrade your app will be high. 

  • And what about new features? After a few months of working with the app, your employees will be screaming for new functionality. Again you need to pay your development partner or let your IT-department spend a lot of time on something that is not their core business. 

We have a team of 15 developers and designers constantly working on improving our platform and the application. We release updates approximately every month, and major updates every quarter. Small or major, every single update of the Showpad app is included in your monthly fee.

3. Developing a custom app takes a long time

Between deciding that you want to build your own custom app, and clicking the icon on your tablet, you have to count a minimum of 6 months. When you subscribe to a SaaS service, you can be up and running in less than a week, training included. 

4. Optimizing files so that they can be viewed on tablets is hard, and costly.

When you have your app custom built, it should include a possibility to add new material, or to update pricelists and presentations. But the technology available to process files so that they can be viewed on a tablet is constantly changing. When you subscribe to a SaaS service, you benefit from the latest technology to make sure the files you upload to your device display correctly. Whereas a custom built app will usually continue to work in the same way as it did when you paid for it.

5. The security cost that comes with custom app development

  • A business app needs a platform, a central place from where the material that is in the application can be managed.

  • You want to make sure that the files you keep on that platform are secure, and that sending files to the platform and downloading content on your tablet is done in a secure way.

We have all necessary precautions in place to keep your files safe and so secure safe file transfer. The investments we make for securing our platform are much larger than what is justifiable for a single, custom built app. Our customers include banks and other organizations who deal with sensitive material, and every single one of our customers benefits from the security needed for those customers.

6. Service comes at a price

Just like with any software or application, issues can arise or bugs can be discovered.

If you paid for a custom app, any additional service will be an additional cost. Which might make you think twice about calling to resolve a smaller issue. As we all know, once you know that there is a bug in an application, the desire to use the application greatly diminishes. 

In your case, you would just call our support desk and we will fix your problem instantly and free of charge – what we fix for you, we fix for all of our customers at the same time. It’s important for us that your sales reps enjoy working with the app. Our engagement doesn’t stop when your app is ready.

The same goes for the platform: we cannot afford any downtime, and make serious investments in servers and back-up procedures. So the risk of not being able to access your platform just before an important sales meeting is minimal. 

7. Maintenance is not optional. 

Every app needs maintenance. If you need to pay for this on a yearly or quarterly basis, you are looking at a recurrent cost, that in itself can be higher than your licence fee.

8. Vision versus requirements. 

Something that is often overlooked, and that is very difficult to put a price on, is vision.

When you go to a developer with a set of requirements, he will build the best possible app to meet those requirements. But rarely will you find an engineer who thinks about the bigger picture, about what tablets mean for the sales process as a whole.

Here at Showpad, we take your requirements into account, but we also have a vision about the future of sales. Tablets will play an ever more important role in selling, because they bring the focus back to the conversation with the customer. Mobile technology goes much further that what you can see on the tablet screen. It’s about enabling communication, collaboration and making people smarter and more efficient.  

9. What is the price of a high adoption rate for your app? 

With the consumerization of IT, employees want the same smooth experience from their business apps that they are used to from dealing with in their daily life.

Usability, intuitive interface and design should all serve one single purpose: make sure people love using the app.

Because an app can be really beautiful and jam-packed with features, the moment your sales reps have a sinking feeling in their stomach when they see the icon on their tablet screen, your investment has gone to waste. 


Download your free copy of our e-book “How Tablets and Mobile Sales Enablement Technology Make Your Life as a Sales Director Easier", and learn more about the benefits of tablets for a mobile sales force.



Last update: January 2, 2014

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