Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
The rapid rise of mobile device use has forced local businesses to rethink their marketing strategy to include mobile-optimized websites, mobile advertising, and mobile-enabled customer loyalty programs.
Another option that local businesses may want to consider is mobile apps. Thanks to app-building services such as those listed below, creating a mobile app is not as difficult or as expensive as one may think. Most use simple drag and drop design technology that requires little or no HTML coding, and pricing often starts at just a few dollars per month.
Reasons to Create a Custom App
Aside from ease of use and relatively low-cost, there are three other reasons to consider creating a custom mobile app.
Brand awareness. A mobile app that carries your branding helps keep your business top of mind with consumers. When customers use their phones, they may see the icon associated with your business. Push notifications built-in to the app lets you alert subscribers to updates and special offers.
App customization. A propriety app can be customized to feature only the options you want. No longer are you restricted to those offered by third-party providers.
No competition. Apps like Foursquare and Pushlocal will list other businesses alongside yours, which may include direct competitors. That won’t be the case with a custom app.
With these in mind, here are eight mobile app-building platforms for your review.
Como, a pioneer in the field of mobile apps, enables small businesses to turn their customers’ smartphones and tablets into tools for sustaining loyalty and driving revenue.
The platform has more than 25 features, which include:
- Mobile commerce;
- Restaurant reservations and menus;
- Appointment scheduling;
- Loyalty programs;
- Directions and maps.
Other features include user reviews, product and service catalogs, events list, and contact information. Como also offers professional app design and development services for those who need it.
The platform is compatible with iOS and Android devices.
Pricing starts at $57.00 per month or $48.00 per month if paid annually.
Service businesses will appreciate the features offered by Canvas, a data collection and sharing platform designed to increase productivity and reduce paperwork. The platform takes paper processes and turns them into an “app” for use on mobile devices.
Using Canvas, service businesses can do such things as capture signatures on a sales order, configure estimates, scan barcodes, dispatch service personnel, create invoices, and collect payments.
Canvas offers apps for the following industries:
- Construction, repair, and improvement;
- Professional services;
- Mining, quarrying, oil, gas, and chemicals;
- Retail, sales, and wholesale distribution;
- Transportation and warehousing;
- Government and NGO;
- Utilities and energy.
The platform currently works on Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Mobile (5.0-6.5), and Microsoft XP+ devices.
Pricing starts at $15.00 per month, and a 30-day free trial is available with no credit card required.
ShoutEm offers a do-it-yourself mobile application-building platform called ShoutEm Mobilizer. Its features include:
- A customer loyalty program;
- Content management (integrates with WordPress, YouTube, Vimeo, RSS, and other services);
- Mobile advertising;
- Event ticket sales and live streaming;
- Social media;
- Local business listings, maps, and tourist guides;
- Push notifications.
ShoutEm works with iOS and Android devices.
Pricing starts at $19.90 per month, billed annually.
Hotels can create a custom mobile app using Appytect. The platform, which also functions as a mobile website, provides hotel information, a list of amenities, a booking engine, GPS-enabled directions and maps, a tourist travel guide, promotions and special offers, a photo gallery, and more.
It works with iOs, Android, and Windows devices.
Contact the vendor for pricing.
With AppMachine, you can use the content on your website as a springboard to build apps. Or, create your app entirely from scratch using any one of its 35 pre-coded, snap-together “building blocks.”
AppMachine comes with a free site to that you can use to market your app. It also includes a QR code, which you can link to promotional materials so that subscribers can download the app directly.
Users can create apps for service businesses, restaurants, healthcare, nonprofit, events, and more.
The platform is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8.
Pricing starts at $19.00 per month, billed annually.
6. Appy Pie
Appy Pie offers a brand range of features that include:
- Push notifications;
- GPS location tracking;
- Social profile integration;
- Photo gallery;
- Restaurant tools integration;
- Contact features, such as click-to-call;
- Appointment scheduler.
The platform can be used by professional service firms, restaurants, real estate agencies, healthcare, construction, and fitness — more than 30 industries in all.
Apply Pie is unique in that not only works with iOS, Android, and Windows devices but with Blackberry and Kindle as well.
Pricing starts at $7.00 per month. A free version is available.
Biznessapps pitches itself as a platform intended for use by marketing agencies. However, it is equally well-suited to small businesses that wish to create a mobile app.
Its features include one-touch dialing, push notifications, a loyalty program, mobile shopping, contact information and directions, a music player, image galleries, and custom form creation.
Biznessapps is compatible with iOS and Android.
Pricing starts at $24.00 per month with a 30-day money back guarantee.
BuildFire contains many of the same features as the other platforms on the list — push notifications, a loyalty program, mobile shopping, contact information, and social media integration — but it has one thing the other’s don’t: an internal social network called “Social Wall.”
The feature allows users to post content to a feed stream, upload images, and create groups. The app sends push notifications to group members each time there is an update.
BuildFire works with iOS and Android devices.
Pricing starts at $49.00 per month.