Salesforce.com Says Build Your Own App Store - InformationWeek

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12/11/2014
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Salesforce.com Says Build Your Own App Store

Salesforce AppExchange Store Builder lets companies create their own app stores for business-to-business or business-to-consumer use.

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Businesses pursuing mobile-first strategies might be proud of their shiny new apps, but won't those apps get lost in the digital bazaars otherwise known as consumer app stores? It's a source of frustration for many companies, according to Salesforce.com, so on Thursday it announced a way for users to build custom, e-commerce-capable app stores.

The new service, AppExchange Store Builder, takes advantage of the technology platform and best-practices of the nine-year-old Salesforce.com AppExchange, where partners now transact more than $1 billion in app sales annually.

The custom apps store idea isn't entirely new. Last year Salesforce introduced Private AppExchange, but that service is geared to distributing apps inside an organization to employees. AppExchange Store Builder is geared to creating customizable online stores for business-to-business or business-to-consumer apps. What's more, you can add e-commerce capabilities, manage distribution, and track app usage by segment.

[Want more on the inter-company alternative? Read Salesforce.com Enables Private App Stores.]

"If you're a B2B brand and you're building a bunch of apps for your customers, putting them in the Google Play store does not make sense," said Jim Sinai, senior director of AppExchange and platform marketing. "Customers have asked us to help them build their own app ecosystems."

Stores can be used for free downloads or purchases of iOS, Android, Windows, or any other app, not just Force.com-based apps. Sites can be extensively customized, and Salesforce partners including Zuora, Stripe, and others can add payment engines and credit-card-processing capabilities. Build-in dashboards and analytics help keep track of app usage.

"One of the key things the enterprise customers want is the ability to track who is using their apps and why," said Sinai.

A sample app storefront built with AppExchange Store Builder.
A sample app storefront built with AppExchange Store Builder.

Retailers that have franchisees, manufacturers that deal with distributors and retailers, and even government agencies have expressed interest in building apps stores, according to Salesforce. More than 50 customers have signed up for the new service, according to Sinai.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), for example, is using AppExchange Store Builder to make available fleet-management, correspondence-management, budgeting, and process-management apps to constituents and fellow government agencies.

"We're working to quickly create a customized and transparent app inventory for our key stakeholders," said Todd Schroeder, business systems management director at the USDA, in a statement from Salesforce. The stores will "bring stakeholders and apps together in a self-service marketplace that allows the USDA to more broadly share success."

AppExchange Store Builder is free to Salesforce customers. Downloads and sales of apps require authentication, so the cost is in tracking registered users, a task handled by Salesforce Identity, which starts at $1 per user, per month (with discounts at scale). Salesforce Identity supports logins through Facebook. In situations where you anticipate many users with infrequent logins, you can pay by number of logins rather than a per-user, per-month approach.

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Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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cimarronb01
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cimarronb01,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2014 | 9:21:37 AM
AppExchange Store is a basic solution, lacks true mobile support
AppExchange Store is a basic solution for hosting a web-based app store with URL links, but lacks true native mobile app support. The promise of "support for all platforms across desktop and mobile including Android, iOS and Windows" is not quite there. The basic "app object" consists of the app name, URL, App type, Categories, Languages, App logo, Tag line, Description and Requirements.

So, although this provides a "display view" for apps, it's not a complete solution. What's missing is an app store infrastructure and life-cycle management (e.g., managing security, workflows, app updates, etc). Here, an "app" is a URL launch point, which means that the SFDC Admin needs to provide everything else behind the scenes.

For example, if you want to support the installation of native iOS or Android app, you would need to create a back-end solution including an XML manifest, installer, and provide separate support for installing, securing, and managing the app. You'd also need to take care of any policies for the app (e.g., app wrapping) or app signing. In addition, if you want to use a "native app store" (i.e., an enterprise app store app for your organization), that would be something you'd need to build separately since AppExchange Store is a website.

The challenge here is that the "PR release" about this SFDC add-on lacks any real detail about the solution, and implies some capabilities that are not really available for mobile users. Note that Salesforce Labs makes the source code available, so enterprising individuals can modify the code to suit their needs.


NOTE: This comment from Cimarron Buser, Apperian. We offer an enterprise-grade mobile application management (MAM) solution. We also use SFDC at Apperian, and I've been a SFDC Admin and user for over 12 years. Always interested in seeing the latest from Salesforce Labs, and they have put out some cool stuff. Also wanted to see how this SFDC add-on might be integrated with Apperian in the future. (This would enable AppExchange features such as role-based views, categories, and analytics, and combine these with the back-end capabilities of a MAM solution.) However, it's not clear yet what the applicability of this would be to enterprises, partners and contractors, since not everyone has a salesforce license.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
12/11/2014 | 10:02:34 AM
App Stores
The best thing about an app store is that if it is large then most probably, there is an app already in existence that is a perfect fit for the user or business. However, since the ecosystem is large and user requirements are diverse, it takes a lot of time to test and find the perfect app. In a consumer environment this could be acceptable but in a business environment, time is important, making networking and work colleagues extremely important that help to introduce a valuable app to an entire team.
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