If you have a smartphone or tablet, I’m sure you’ve downloaded your share of mobile applications. Businesses have certainly gotten wise to this trend, and know this is a great way to promote customer stickiness and engagement. But what about the small business or entrepreneur?
Let’s face it, mobile device users are “app-happy”, and it’s a rapidly growing market. According to Mobilewalla, about 100 movies and 250 books are released worldwide each week. When compared to the approximate 15,000 mobile applications released each week, mobile app development dwarfs traditional media. In mid-December, the New York Times reported the one millionth app went to market.If you’ve had thoughts how you might go about increasing your customer-touch, Appsbar might be worth a look for you.
A few weeks ago, I got an opportunity to sit down with Scott Hirsch, CEO and Founder of Appsbar. Appsbar has a very unique concept: They want to be the easiest way to have your own app built. In Appsbar’s case, they lowered the cost to free.
I was a bit skeptical of this at first, and naturally wondered what the catch was. While my first take is that Appsbar will eventually monetize their business through in-app advertising, Scott was quick to offer his guiding principal: “Build a loyal community and the money will come.”
As it turns out, Scott has built several successful online businesses. Naturally, he’s learned a few things along the way. After initially being frustrated with initial estimates to develop one of his own apps, Scott saw a unique opportunity to help other businesses by eliminating many of the technical and cost barriers.
In April 2011, Appsbar launched its beta release with a goal of 1,000 users. By the end of 2011, Appsbar counted over 40,000 users in their community, and in May counted over 90,000 users.
How does it work?
The premise is fairly simple. After creating your profile, you are greeted with a whimsical Appsbar wizard (reminiscent of Microsoft’s Office Assistant, Clippy). Provided you have a decent idea of what you want your mobile app to do, you can create a very rough app in a short amount of time. I managed to flesh out four screens of an app in about an hour.
Once you submit your app to be published, the Appsbar team of developers step into action.
Is this right for you?
When I asked Scott this question, his reassuring response was, “If the app is your business, hire a developer. But if you want an app for your business, then use Appsbar. You can always graduate to a paid app later if this works for you.”
Many of the businesses I’ve work with get scared away when they can’t make heads or tails of the tech-specs and sales-speak. Even worse, companies spend precious money on something without really understanding why they needed it in the first place.
My belief is that apps are quickly becoming requisite in today’s business environment, much like corporate websites are today.
What are the practical applications for an Appsbar app?
Beyond creating a simple vanity app telling all your loyal fans about where you’ll be at 8:00pm tonight, one of the immediate opportunities that caught my eye was the opportunity to leverage a “Groupon-style” app to send coupons to your customers. Scott quickly pointed out this was a great way to increase the value to your existing customers without the customary fee you’d pay one of these social coupon sites.
Another keen idea that caught my attention was that Appsbar plans on launching a commerce module by the end of 2012. I can’t tell you how many times I’m out running errands and decide I want take out. It’d be great to have my favorite local Greek/Italian restaurant pulled up, scroll through my favorite menu items and place the order for pickup in 15 minutes.
While it appears that Appsbar is predominantly focused on the Android app market, they do submit your app to the Apple Appstore as well. Just be mindful that both Google and Apple reserve the right to refuse your app, but it appears the Appsbar team has a fairly successful track record with over 10,000 apps reportedly published.
Most importantly, you’ll need to ensure you plan on marketing your app to promote adoption. After all, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of over a million apps. Be sure you account for how your customers will find out about your great new offering.
In conclusion, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons around mobile app development. Appsbar pleasantly surprised me. If you are of a mind that you want an app for your business, I’d certainly recommend you take Appsbar for a spin.