What is Apple’s B2B App Store and How Does It Work?



With gross revenue in the billions and millions of  apps, Apple’s App Store is a massive business. How do these apps get into the App Store and made available to people? Traditionally, there were only two main ways one could distribute applications to businesses:

    1. The public or consumer Apple App Store

The public app store is accessible by each and every person that owns an iPhone and hence developers were only able to build applications that were generic across businesses or had to build some specific user management systems to allow only specific companies to access the application.

      1. Enterprise App Store

The enterprise app store on the other hand was an internal (Company specific) App Store that enabled developers to build apps that were only going to be used and distributed within a company. Since this was an internal store, only employees within the company could access the application.

However, as you can see, there was a gap in the distribution model. How could developers distribute tailor-made applications to select clients? How can I fine-tune an application built for company X and sell to company Y with a different logo and branding specific to the new client? Last year, Apple introduced the custom B2B app store that helped developers achieve this.

How does the custom B2B App Store work?

The custom B2B App store allows you to offer custom B2B apps directly to business customers who have a Volume Purchase Program account. Custom B2B apps are created to provide a unique solution that addresses specific business objectives. So how does the custom B2B App store work?

      1. Develop An Application

Build the application that needs to be tailored and distributed to a specific client or group of clients. This is done in the exact same way that a regular application is built.

      1. Upload to the iTunes store

Once the application is built, it needs to be uploaded to the iTunes Connect store for Apple to review. Before uploading, check the box that says “Custom B2B application”. Set the price of the application as per the tiers outlined by Apple. Enter the Apple IDs of clients that will have access to this Custom B2B application. Note: These Apple IDs are the Volume Purchase IDs and not the regular Apple ID of a developer. Businesses can create their Volume Purchase IDs by signing up here: http://www.apple.com/business/vpp/

At any given point, access to the application can be revoked or granted by simply deleting or adding volume purchase IDs. Note: It may take up to 24 hours for it to take effect.

      1. Apple will review app

Once submitted, the application will be reviewed by Apple the same way as it is in the public app store process. Once it is approved, the application becomes available to the clients who have access to it.

How do clients purchase the application?

Businesses (Clients) need to login to their Volume Purchase Program (VPP) accounts to be able to access the applications that were built specifically for them. After logging in, clients would see the B2B application listed on their main page. Clients can then specify the quantity that they would like to purchase.

How do clients distribute the application?

Here are two ways one can distribute the application:

      1. Redeemable codes

If the client chooses this approach to purchase the application, a set of codes will be available in an excel spreadsheet for the client to download. The client would then distribute these codes (or a link to a code) to its users via email or with whatever form of communication the company uses. Once distributed, users would then tap the link to redeem the code and hence get the application. Users could also go to the “Featured” section within the App store and scroll all the way to the bottom to redeem the code. Once a code is used, it is exhausted and cannot be reused.

Business Implications: Clients do not own the rights to the application. I.e. The Apple ID which was used to redeem the code will own the rights to the application. If an employee redeems the application using his or her Apple ID, he or she would retain the rights to the application and not the company which bought the application.

      1. MDM

The other option of distributing B2B applications would be through an MDM. A client would need to link the MDM to their Volume Purchase Program (VPP) Account to be able to distribute the codes via the MDM.

Business Implications: Clients can control the access to applications. They can invoke or revoke access to specific users at any time. The only constraint is that the client will need to have an MDM installed on their end.

Updates to B2B applications are received in the same way as any other application in the store. The App store icon receives a badge to indicate that an update is available and the user can install the update as usual.

Have additional questions about the Apple B2B App store or mobile in general?

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