Do you remember when you downloaded your first app on your mobile? They began appearing in 2008 (according to Wikipedia) and by June 2011, there were 425,000 apps available (downloaded by 200 million iOS users). In 2021, there are nearly 9 million apps available (Forbes).
During that initial period, app-builds weren’t readily available but businesses wanted to provide an app for their customers (at the lowest possible cost, of course). This is when the basic white-label apps first appeared - a quick solution for many businesses.
You’ve probably heard of a white-label product (or service) produced by a company (let's say a steel water bottle) and other companies (a personal trainer, for example) use that product (or service).
All the personal trainer does is, he/she put their own brand on that bottle (a sticker, perhaps) and sell it as their own. In other words, it means, this product is customised with your own design and brand.
It’s an easy and quick option for those looking to jump on a trend (or want to avoid manufacturing the product or service themselves).
the beauty is that you can also use that water bottle as a brand awareness tool and can sell it for additional revenue!
That’s basically the same with a white-label app. For example, a company developed an app to use for their own business, let’s say it’s a membership cooperation. Most membership cooperations require a similar set of features if they decide to launch their own delivery app. So, the new membership company doesn’t need to build an app from zero, they just use that app, customise it and rebrand it as their own app.
If you are a business that buys a white-label app, there are two quick advantages: you have a fully functional app in your own name/brand without getting into the complex app development process and it takes only days to adapt it.
Benefits of white label apps over custom apps (see also ‘Why modular apps make sense’ and ‘DIY or outsource when building an app?’)
No development processes
Cost-efficiency is already a great bonus if you use a white label platform, but what’s even better is that there is NO development process you need to be involved in if you get a white label. That means no tracking of processes, reporting issues, checking of processes, get to know the agency team, etc.
Quick to market
Your business decides to get an app – if you decide to build a custom app the day you actually launch the app could be months (or even a year!) apart…
App development is a complex task and has many processes. While you get your app built, your competitor may have already sold their products on the app.
With a white-label app all you need to do is: put your logo on it, brand the home screen, customise the colours and add your content.
It can be done within a few days, depending on your content. This reduces time to market manifolds.
As mentioned above, using a white label platform enables you to build a custom app five-times cheaper than the equivalent app built through a development agency.
If you work in a sector where companies have similar business models (like membership, publishing, accountancy, law, or HR), it’s likely there will be software houses who have ready-built platform solutions. These will offer out-of-the-box solutions in return for a licence fee.
All you need to do is: put your logo on it, brand the home screen, customise the colours and add your content.
On the other hand, if you want to build a custom app, it’s a capital investment and your business-plan will need to include not only the cost of the build, but also the development team to support, upgrade and maintain it.
Assuming a developer costs you £50,000 a year, with heat, light, power, desk space, recruitment, HR, licences, technical infrastructure, machines and ancilliaries the starter cost of your app is probably around £200,000 a year.
No maintenance complications
If you buy a white-label app, the seller usually hosts the app on their own servers. The buyer gets a fully functioning app and it includes hosting, support and maintenance, so you have no IT overheads or surprise bills. All iOS and Android upgrades are included.
So, no headache as to maintain the app is not yours to worry about :-) !
White label app sellers have a dedicated team of developers and app experts that keep the app up-to-date and check on the performance.
If there are technical problems, you just let the seller know and they will take care of the problem.
On the other hand, with a custom app it is yours to maintain … and you have to spend more money on maintaining it (and keeping it up to date).
Despite white-label apps have so many benefits, why are so many businesses continue to invest in building custom apps?
We need to differentiate between the apps with
Flexibility of build
As mentioned above, the app seller sells you a back- and front-end code (limited amount of flexibility for you to replace the branding with your own brand identity) or only the back-end code of the app and you as the buyer have more control over the design and User Experience (UX) of your app. But this cannot be considered a fully fletched white label app as you’ll have to invest time and resources into building the front-end of the app.
That means, that there is little customisation and flexibility to replace the branding and/or you need to invest in a team of UX/UI experts which will cost you more money.
Brand identity overlap
You might have seen it when you’ve been browsing the internet, looking to buy something and you notice that the products have the same kind of placements on the site? This is where the brand overlaps with other brands and the user interface fails to distinguish your brand from other brands.
Some of the companies selling white label apps will not give you access to the source code or the server which might be a problem for you to check how secure your users’ data is on the server. Ask your seller to provide that information.
With regards to the data, clarify it with the seller beforehand who is holding the data and on which server.
If you build (and host) your own app, there are no such risks, however, you need to make sure yourself that your data is secure. You have full ownership of the source code.
Difficult to scale
Your app needs to be developed in such a way that you can incorporate changes in it quite easily as trends in the industry and your business can change any time (COVID-19 has changed so much).
With white label apps, adding or removing functionalities can be a difficult task and the process can be a real headache.
That’s where custom-built apps are strong, you can make changes quickly because the source code is with you.
Back-end with an endless choice of modules: the app seller sells you the back-end code of the app and for the front-end supplies an endless choice of modules which can be used to customise the app.
The software platform Reptile developed a modular platform where you can assemble the app quickly from their existing component library.
It enables you to build a custom app five-times cheaper than the equivalent app built through a development agency.
That means, that you are able to customise and have the flexibility to replace the branding and your identity.
Brand identity overlap
With the library of modules available – the Reptile platform has built a set of robust modules to cover everything a typical enterprise app needs. No problems with a brand identity overlap.
Ask your seller to provide that information. In the case of Reptile, the data is hosted by the buyer, but all support is provided by the expert team.
Difficult to scale
Not at all with the Back-end with a library of modules for the front-end platform. It’s easy to replace widgets or move them to a different part of the app. No headache at all.
Is a white label app your solution for your business or is a custom-built app better? It depends on your requirements, your budget, how important your brand image is, do you want to grow your audience or just communicate with your current customers and other factors.
There is no arguing the fact that white label apps have several benefits compared to custom apps. With the option of having a library of robust modules at your hand when you need it, that’s an additional benefit which is important to consider.
The ultimate question is, will it generate higher revenues if you’re having a custom-built app?
We at Page Lizard are continuously looking for ways to improve things using technology. As such, we’ve built many apps that we’re proud of, and if you are interested, here is a link to a few of our recent achievements we’d like to share with you.
Photo by Helena Hertz on Unsplash
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