With multiple customer segments in diverse markets, you’re leading a truly complex company. It’s no wonder creating a native app for your digital product is proving difficult. 

Should you create one app to serve all your customers? Or do you need multiple to target each individual group? How will you reassure your engineering team that your choice (whatever it ends up being) is the right one?

What’s more, it’s especially difficult to decide between one app or multiple when both options have their merits. 

To help you decide what’s right for your product — and more importantly, your prospects and customers — consider these dos and don’ts of digital app development. 

Don’t Ship Your Organizational Chart Into Multiple Apps

Sometimes creating multiple apps makes sense. But the decision to launch multiple apps instead of just one should be strategic, and a business-driven decision, not based on separate budgets and departmental goals. Be sure to consult other areas of the business before creating an app that serves only one customer segment. 

Otherwise, you may very well end up with confused, unhappy customers who don’t know which app to download for their specific needs. 

Don’t Leave the One vs. Multiple App Decision Up To Engineering 

In the same vein as shipping your org chart, some companies allow the engineering team to dictate how many apps they develop. 

We recommend a more customer-centered approach when deciding how many apps or app features to release.  If one app will make more sense to your users, it’s worth the extra effort upfront and will likely save your support team from customer questions down the line. 

Don’t Write Separate Code Bases for Multiple Apps 

Even if you do build more than one digital application, it rarely makes sense to create separate code bases for each. Why? Because there’s going to be a lot of similar functionality between apps. And let’s say one of your apps doesn’t need a certain feature, effective code will allow you to toggle it on and off easily. 

The only semi-valid reason to implement separate code bases is security infrastructure. With siloed code bases, if one of your apps was hacked or subject to fraud, it wouldn’t automatically affect your other app or apps. Still, well-written code should have built-in security no matter what. 

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t waste your developers’ time writing similar code over and over again when you could feasibly recycle the same code base, regardless of the number of apps you end up with.

Do Proceed With Caution When Dividing Apps

Our research across several projects and clients suggests that the general public prefers one app to manage their relationship with a company. 

That said, if there’s a clear reason — from the customer’s perspective — to have separate apps, they will tolerate it. Just know that the prevailing sentiment is that one app is better. 

The following two scenarios may constitute having multiple apps:

1. You Have Distinct Customer Segments With Diverse Needs 

You can make a case for splitting up your apps along naturally occurring boundaries in your customer groups, such as:

  • By country, jurisdiction, or region of the world. That way, you can take local regulations and cultural norms into account as you develop your app. 
  • By business function. Charles Schwab, for example, has an app for retail traders and an app for financial advisors. And Delta has an app for their internal employees and another for customers booking flights. In both cases, they’re totally separate customer types with distinct needs.
  • By light vs. pro, or free vs. paid. Again, these are different customer groups that might benefit from separate apps based on their needs, not yours.

It’s worth noting that you could also make the argument for one app in any of the above scenarios. Customers could simply choose their region from a dropdown menu upon logging into your app, for instance. 

Think about Airbnb vs. Vrbo. Both companies are targeting property owners to serve as hosts and travelers to rent these properties — disparate customer segments. Airbnb has just one app where customers toggle back and forth between the host and traveler views. Vrbo, on the other hand, has an app for each group. 

2. You Have a Powerful Marketing Reason To Create Multiple Apps  

Sometimes, creating separate apps gives your company a competitive advantage — a great reason to proceed with more than one app. 

Imagine that Chase creates a sleek new app exclusively for their high net worth customers. These customers don’t technically need different functionality than your average Joe, but they’ll feel singled out and special with their own app. 

Nine Labs Can Help You Create Apps Customers Love

There are a lot of ways Nine Labs can help you decide on how many apps you need, and how they should look and function. 

Our Product Positioning Workshop uncovers what your ideal customers want and need from your product through target market definition and value proposition exercise. While a User Journey Mapping session can help you identify opportunities to improve the customer journey by providing a single reference point for your future decision-making across your product design team.

We hope our "dos and don’ts" got you thinking, but we’re also here for further guidance.