With more than 1.1 million apps available for smartphones in the U.S., consumers are coming to expect every business to have one. The problem for most cash- and time-strapped small businesses is that developing a mobile app is an expensive and difficult proposition--or was.
This year a slew of do-it-yourself services have come online and pierced the armor of the $20.5 billion app-development market, allowing everyone from indie musicians to neighborhood coffee shops to claim space on their customers' phones--and in their wallets.
For companies previously shut out of the app world, the low barrier to entry has opened up new opportunities and potential markets. "I noticed that there were very few apps in the [iTunes] App Store that were marketing-related, so I saw my app as a chance to capture some market share," says Douglas Karr, CEO of DK New Media, who used the Appifier service to build his Marketing Technology Blog app.
There are several players in the DIY-app marketplace, each with a different business model. Most, such as Appifier, Bizness Apps and Conduit Mobile, provide a template, get apps approved and set up at the individual stores and help keep apps compatible with operating system updates. Some DIY services charge an upfront fee; others charge a monthly rate that helps ensure an app continues working on ever-changing platforms. Conduit's model, meanwhile, gives customers the app for no upfront cost but takes a cut of any advertising revenue generated.
Every business and DIY platform has different strengths and needs. Looking to measure customer engagement? Rolling out a loyalty program? Want to push notifications to feed limited-time deals to customers? Check out the chart below. Because this year, whatever your goal, there's an app-maker for that.