What Is A Salesforce Native App?

There’s a lot of confusion in the market. But what is a Salesforce native app? And how can you really tell? We’ve got you covered with five questions to ask to be sure.
  • August 28, 2020
  • Dylan Echter
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Evaluating new software for your business is never easy. It’s a balancing act between your business requirements, software functionality, pricing, how it works and integrates with your current software stack, and pleasing different stakeholders. Not to mention the procurement process requirements… 

But as a Salesforce customer, specifically, you have several additional considerations for new software that–while they may be more challenging to navigate in the near-term–can have huge payoffs for your business in the long run. 

One of those considerations is whether or not a solution is Salesforce native, a phrase that causes a lot of confusion in the Salesforce ecosystem. But what is a native app anyway? And, given the confusion, how can you be truly sure an app is Salesforce native?

What is a Salesforce native app?

A Salesforce native app is an application that has been built entirely on Salesforce technology. Pretty straightforward stuff, right? Not quite. 

A Salesforce native app is one where every single piece of the application’s technology rests on the Salesforce platform. This means that the application’s data, metadata, security, authentication, custom code, and more, are all built on Salesforce. 

Simply put: 

  • A Salesforce native app is one that is written for the Salesforce platform, specifically. 
  • A Salesforce app that is NOT native is one that is built to work with Salesforce or to integrate easily. 

This is a seemingly small, but very crucial, difference that impacts the security, extensibility, data integrity, technical simplicity, user experience, and overall trust in any solution you choose.

Fastcall uses a great analogy to illustrate this point, comparing Salesforce native and non-native apps to native and hybrid apps on your phone. 

“Here’s an example: You have native and hybrid apps on your phone. The native apps are more closely interfacing with the operating system.

According to Techopedia: a native mobile app is a smartphone application that is coded in a specific programming language, such as Objective C for iOS or Java for Android operating systems. Native mobile apps provide fast performance and a high degree of reliability.”

For more on choosing a native app and the impact it can have for your business on security, extensibility, data integrity, technical simplicity, user experience, and overall trust in a solution, check out our article, 13 Reasons To Invest In A Salesforce Native App.

Only about 11% of the apps listed on Salesforce’s AppExchange are actually Salesforce native.

So, where does the confusion come in?

Great question! 

First, did you know that most apps that work with Salesforce are not, in fact, Salesforce native? It’s true.  

Many businesses assume that any app that’s found on the Salesforce AppExchange, Salesforce’s marketplace for apps, is Salesforce native. However, as of the writing of this article, only about 11% of the apps listed on the AppExchange are actually Salesforce native, per Salesforce’s own designation. The other 89% are apps that integrate with Salesforce, work with Salesforce via a third-party integrator, or have a “Native Connector.” This last group adds to the confusion as well.

Second, many apps will often lead with language or marketing materials that tout the app’s “Native Connector,” and many people, understandably, mistakenly believe the app is Salesforce native. However, there’s an important distinction, especially as it relates to Security and Trust.  

Before becoming available for use, every single native application is vetted, scanned, tested, and validated by Salesforce. It’s a process that includes qualitative analysis and a code review and, hopefully, results in the Salesforce stamp of approval. 

It’s important to know that, when considering apps using a “Native Connector,” only the connector, not the entire app, goes through this rigorous process. Your Salesforce data still passes over to an app that hasn’t been vetted by Salesforce and, furthermore, is outside of Salesforce’s secured system. That’s not saying that non-native apps or “Native Connectors” are not secure, but it’s worth vetting those apps independently as well. For more on the difference for your business between Salesforce native apps and those with a “Native Connector,” check out our article, 13 Reasons To Invest In a Salesforce Native App.

Is this app really Salesforce native? How can you tell?

With all the confusion and noise in the market, you’ll need a little more of a discerning eye to find an app that’s truly native. If you’re unsure whether an app is truly Salesforce native, here’s a handy list of questions to ask to help you find out. Credit for some of these questions comes from our friends at SalesforceBen, but we’ve added some and built on the answers here. 

As a note, if you can’t find these answers during your research on the app’s website or during a demo, there is absolutely no harm in asking these questions of a sales rep directly. In fact, it might expedite the process.

1. Does the application’s AppExchange listing have a Salesforce native badge?

This is probably the fastest and easiest way to discover whether the app is Salesforce native. Search for the app on the Salesforce AppExchange. If you scroll down to the Highlights section, a Salesforce native app will have a “Native App” badge. 

Salesforce Native App on the Salesforce AppExchange

Word to the Wise: Some apps have a specific, Salesforce native version of their software. This version may not always include 100% of the features included in the non-native version of the tool. It’s worth asking whether the Salesforce native version is different than the original version of the app and whether any of your core requirements are not included in the Salesforce native version. 

2. Is the application able to run without Salesforce?

This is the next most direct way you can find out whether the app is Salesforce native or not. In short, if the application can be run without Salesforce, it’s not Salesforce native. This is where your discerning eye matters: Many apps marketed as having a “Native Connector” (i.e. those that are not really Salesforce native) can still run without Salesforce. But those built entirely on the Salesforce platform cannot.

3. Is the application built out of any code other than Visualforce, Apex, or Lightning web components?

This is a question you probably can’t answer through your own research, but it’s a perfect question for you to ask the sales team or the sales engineer. If the app is built out of code other than Visualforce, Apex, and/or Lightning Web Components, it’s an indicator that the app is probably not built entirely on the Salesforce platform, and, therefore, is not native. 

4. Does the application have a proprietary API?

Because native apps are built entirely on Salesforce, there is no need for a proprietary API. The presence of one usually indicates that the app only has a “Native Connector” or is not native at all. 

5. Can you use the Salesforce data loader or import tool with the app?

Because native apps are built on top of Salesforce and use Salesforce’s objects to construct a data model, you should be able to use the Salesforce data loader with the app. If you can’t, it’s a sign the app is probably not native. 

Now that you know how to identify a Salesforce native app, be sure to check out our article, 13 Reasons To Invest In A Salesforce Native App, to understand the impact choosing a Salesforce native app can have on your business. And if you still find yourself lost in a sea of technical jargon, feel free to ask questions in the comments below. 

And if you’re in need of a Salesforce native mobile forms solution for your business, be sure to check out our solution, Youreka, on the AppExchange. 

Interested in Youreka?

If you’re in need of a Salesforce native solution to manage complex mobile forms for your business, we’re here for you. Read reviews or install today, on the Salesforce AppExchange.

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About the Author

Dylan Echter
Product Marketing Manager for Youreka. Former Gartner, Capterra. Specialist in messaging and marketing strategy to get an idea to stick. William and Mary graduate (Go Tribe!), and fan of DC United, the New York Yankees, and the Washington Nationals. Originally from New Jersey, but currently in DC.

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