Disruptive companies like SpoonRocket and Uber have demonstrated the power of mobile apps to launch a startup business into the stratosphere. Even much smaller businesses can benefit from the app marketplace to expand their marketing reach, according to Scott Hirsch, CEO of Appsbar, which aims to “empower everyone to have their own apps.”
“This is a new free way to market and it’s very powerful,” he says. “It’s a great means to communicate with your customers.”
Why? “You want to be wherever your potential customers are going to be,” Hirsch says, noting that 1.5 million new smartphones are being sold every day. “There are a whole lot of people today who are going every day to the App Store or to Google Play, and they’re searching for all kinds of things.”
Hirsch has more than two decades of experience watching digital marketing trends. In 1991, as CEO of Lens Express, which sold contact lenses to customers through the mail, he recognized the power of online bulletin boards (the precursor to the internet of today) to provide free marketing for his company’s products. He went on to found an opt-in email company and an early social network. “I’ve always been a little ahead of the curve,” he says. About five years ago, Hirsch sensed that mobile apps would be the next big wide-open territory for marketing businesses of all sizes.
“As the smart device becomes more and more a part of everyone’s life — it’s becoming the television, the computer, the telephone, all of these things — mobile applications that reside on these devices are going to become a bigger and bigger part of our lives,” Hirsch says. “I think it’s the tip of the iceberg.” But getting a chip off that iceberg is tough for many entrepreneurs. Hirsch saw that many small businesses were knocked out of the ballgame by development costs of $25,000 to $50,000 to develop and build a new app. “I said there has to be a better way,” he recalls. That was the genesis of Appsbar, a free app-building platform.
“The way Appsbar makes it easier is you don’t need to have any programming or technical background,” says Hirsch. Small-business owners can create an Appsbar account and use the site’s free tools to build their own mobile app, guided by prompts each step of the way. Hirsch says most people can finish their custom app in about an hour. If you get stuck, “we have our app coaches where you can email us and we’ll get right back to you,” he says. “It’s not only free to use, it’s convenient, too, because you don’t need to hire anybody.” You can view examples of user-created apps in the company’s AppsGallery.
Currently, the site has 60,000 visitors a day; Hirsch says the goal is to generate ten times that traffic. “We haven’t made money yet but we do intend to,” says Hirsch. In the future, Appsbar plans to sell sponsorships and advertising, possibly including embedding ads into apps built for its users.
Most people won’t delete an app once it’s on their phone, Hirsch notes. Using an example of a pizza restaurant he says, “The next time they want to order, your app is on the phone.” And, with an app’s ability to send push notices, you can also offer customers coupons and special deals. “There is no way that you can touch your customer too many times,” Hirsch says.
If you are ready to build an app for your business, there are a number of app-building platforms that offer some services for free, though Appsbar is the only one we could find that doesn’t charge users for anything. You can create an app for free (with some limitations) on Taplytics, Build Fire, appery.io, or AppMakr, to name a few. Many other platforms charge one-time or monthly fees.