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Mobile Matters

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Making Mobile Apps Without Breaking the Bank

by: | August 14, 2011

Seven out of 10 small and medium-sized businesses plan to ramp up their technology spending over the next 12 months, according to a study published in late July by IT industry trade association CompTIA. Look for SMB IT spending to grow by an average of slightly more than 5 percent in the year ahead, although a third of companies surveyed forecast their IT budgets will increase by 10 percent or more. Chief among SMB tech objectives: Embracing mobile tools to improve both customer interaction and employee productivity. Twenty-five percent of small businesses are already leveraging mobile solutions, CompTIA reports, and another 43 percent expect to launch mobile initiatives during the year to come.

Now more than ever, reaching customers via the mobile channel means rolling out branded applications. Among the 234 million Americans ages 13 and older that used mobile phones in June 2011, nearly 40 percent of them accessed downloaded apps, digital research firm comScore reports. The potential for mobile apps extends far beyond marketing: Sure, companies can leverage applications to promote their products and services, reaching on-the-go consumers looking for compelling places to shop or grab a bite to eat. But mobile apps can support online purchase transactions, customer loyalty programs, turn-by-turn directions, and social media interactions as well. No less significant, mobile apps enable small businesses to compete head-to-head against their larger, deeper-pocketed rivals— Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market level the playing field, offering an egalitarian (and heavily marketed) distribution platform where anyone can play.

In short, mobile applications are no longer a luxury for any forward-thinking small business— they’re a necessity. The problem is that mobile software development costs and complexities have severely limited SMB efforts to hop on the app bandwagon. Contract app development projects alone can cost thousands of dollars and require weeks or even months to complete, far exceeding the budget (and the patience) of the average small biz owner— and that doesn’t even take into account ongoing maintenance, software upgrades, and other demands. However, with smartphone penetration surging and mobile app usage exploding, a wave of startups is launching mobile development platforms targeting the SMB segment, offering do-it-yourself tools, analytics dashboards, and everything else startups need to go mobile without going broke. Here are three:

Mobile Roadie offers an automated turnkey platform enabling SMBs, bands, and other upstarts to build and manage their own customizable iPhone and Android apps in a matter of minutes. Once you upload the desired content and information, Mobile Roadie handles the rest, even helping you navigate the often-difficult app store submission process. Pricing begins at $499 for initial setup and $29 a month for ongoing support.

Bizness Apps’ in-house development team promises to set up and design a complete mobile app in under 24 hours for $399. Feature options include push notifications for sales and special offers, GPS-based directions to your place of business, and Facebook- and Twitter-sharing. Bizness Apps also touts a web portal for app editing and management. Small businesses can target both the iPhone and Android operating systems (or any two platforms of their choice) for $59 a month—for $69 a month, you can also expand your app to fit Apple’s iPad tablet.

Appsbar boasts a three-step DIY wizard to build iPhone and Android apps— the platform supplies both preloaded app templates and customizable options, a host of page options (including photos, videos, newsfeeds, and social media links) and the new appsCoupon, enabling users to create and publish digital promotions and discounts for in-store redemption. Perhaps most important, Appsbar services are free, although applications built using the company’s Digi wizard must be offered free to download as well.

Small businesses should compare and contrast the different platforms, pricing models, etc. to determine which solution is the best fit. But don’t delay— chances are your competition is already going mobile, and you can’t afford to sit still.Marketing Zeus

Posted in: B2C, Campaign Development, Content, Direct Response, E-Commerce, Facebook, Geolocation, IT, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Development, Mobile Matters, Professional Services, SMS, Social Coupons, Social Networks, Twitter

About the Writer:

Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of the FierceMobileContent and FierceDeveloper e-newsletters as well as a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and the website All Music Guide. Additional credits include efforts for publications including Rolling Stone, Wax Poetics and No Depression, along with liner notes for a number of album releases. He lives in Chicago.

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