Leveraging Mobile Publisher with Your Salesforce Community
Mobile Publisher was released for use with Salesforce Community Cloud in 2019. This new offering enables organizations to release a branded app on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store that showcases their Salesforce community digital experience. By understanding the opportunities that Mobile Publisher affords, companies using Mobile Publisher unlock additional business value from their digital solutions, especially their community experience.
What exactly is it?
Mobile Publisher is essentially a managed process that produces an app version of a Salesforce community experience to be listed in one of two places: the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. It’s important to understand that this is not a Salesforce product in the typical sense, in which everything is contained within Salesforce itself.
How much does it cost?
Mobile Publisher is a paid product, calculated at the aggregate level via a summary of per-user charges. Note that there is a minimum annual charge per Mobile Publisher instance, so organizations with potentially small projected app user audiences might need to think through the long-term value before diving in. Your Salesforce Account Executive can get exact pricing on this product, as pricing can change without notice.
Does every community update require a resubmission to App/Play Store?
No. Changes made through Experience Builder do not require a resubmission. Changes to the “container” (e.g., icon, splash screen) would require a new app version.
Does Mobile Publisher require a special “mobile-ready” community to qualify for submission?
Yes and no.
Let’s start with the “no.” Technically, there is not a distinct, unique path that must be followed during community development in order to take advantage of Mobile Publisher. For example, a “normal” custom component built for a community would not necessarily require additional work to successfully pass through the entire Mobile Publisher process. This contrasts with the requirement to modify a custom component built for communities to work in Lightning Experience, Flow, etc. (via the interfaces specified in the component’s “implements” attribute).
However, there is a “yes” here, as well. All elements (components) of a community that will be submitted through Mobile Publisher must be developed to be appropriately responsive for a mobile device (or, really, for any device). If not, you will have a problematic app — or one that does not make it through the process due to a poor user experience.
However, building digital experiences with responsive design in mind should be happening already. So, while responsiveness is critical for a community experience that will leverage Mobile Publisher, it should also be critical in your community independent of Mobile Publisher.
The takeaway here: when approaching the development and design of your community–whether for Mobile Publisher or not–consider responsiveness and ideal user experience as a top priority.
Since Mobile Publisher submission is done by Salesforce, does that guarantee App/Play Store review approval?
A hard “no” on this one. Salesforce is owning the submission, not the content submitted. While they can provide guidance, they will not guarantee review approval.
How does an organization using Mobile Publisher maximize the chances of App/Play Store review approval?
Since it’s possible that a submission can get rejected, it’s important to maximize your chances of approval from the onset. This is a tricky one. Let’s first get real: there is no magic bullet for conquering this mysterious, fabled foe. You’ll need to get to know the guidelines for both Google and Apple:
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that secures approval, there are some particular areas to consider that you can address with wisdom. Let’s take the Apple App Store. One particular section that can be problematic for Mobile Publisher reviews is 4.2 Minimum Functionality.
4. Design: Apple customers place a high value on products that are simple, refined, innovative, and easy to use, and that’s what we want to see on the App Store. Coming up with a great design is up to you, but the following are minimum standards for approval to the App Store.
4.2 Minimum Functionality Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store. If your App doesn’t provide some sort of lasting entertainment value, it may not be accepted.
4.2.2 Other than catalogs, apps shouldn’t primarily be marketing materials, advertisements, web clippings, content aggregators, or a collection of links.
Additional Notes: Your app provides a limited user experience as it is not sufficiently different from a mobile browsing experience. As such, the experience it provides is similar to the general experience of using Safari. Including iOS features such as push notifications, Core Location, and sharing do not provide a robust enough experience to be appropriate for the App Store.
While Apple’s guidelines aren’t terribly specific, the applicable section appears to suggest that the app’s experience is not sufficiently differentiated from a Safari mobile web experience.
Apple may say that certain iOS features “are not enough,” including push notifications, “core location,” and sharing. However, there are other approaches. One strategy would be to enable biometric ID (fingerprint / Face ID). See this page for additional details on Biometric ID.
Is it possible to test/verify an app before App/Play Store submission?
Yes, it is. Salesforce has released a “playground” that allows users to test out their Mobile Publisher app before the app is ready from the App/Play Stores. Learn more about this capability here.
As a part of the Mobile Publisher submission process, organizations will have access to the Beta build (with branding and configuration) via Apple’s Test Flight and Google’s Alpha track. Additionally, an admin may invite others to view and test this build.
Do I have to publicly distribute the app through App Store or Play Store? What are my distribution options?
A Mobile Publisher app does not have to be distributed as a public app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. It is possible to privately distribute the app. Learn more about distribution options here.
Is Mobile Publisher a worthwhile investment?
Ultimately, the value of Mobile Publisher will be determined by how it is used. There are obviously costs involved, both the time required to work through the process and maintain the app (which could be minimal) and the required recurring fee. However, based on my personal experience, it is safe to say that this meets a critical gap for customers and, in summary, Mobile Publisher’s closure of that gap makes this a worthwhile investment.
If you’re looking to build a transformative digital experience that can be distributed on iOS or Android, reach out to 7Summits. We have successfully taken multiple customers through the Mobile Publisher process and we’d love to help you out, as well.
Phil Weinmeister is the VP of Product Management at 7Summits. He is a Salesforce MVP with 20 certifications and has authored three books that guide readers through leveraging Salesforce in their digital solutions.