December 9, 2009 | The Wall Street Journal

Barbara Heinrich says she isn’t computer-savvy, but last month the owner of Local Motion, a clothing boutique in Minneapolis, went online and built her own mobile-phone application.

It was worth a try, she figured, considering how cheap and easy it was to do and how addicted to iPhone apps young people like her daughter were. It also dovetailed with other online marketing efforts —her Web site and e-mail blasts—aimed at bringing regular customers, collected over 25 years, back to the shop. So she built a free app to display her hours, location and pictures of new arrivals using BuildAnApp, a Web site from Mobile On Services Inc., of Minneapolis, and submitted it to Apple for inclusion in its App Store.

“I kind of jumped in and did it, and now I just need to figure everything out. But I think it will be great,” she said. “I think that everybody’s going to be doing it.”

A number of services including MobileAppLoader LLC, SwebApps, Mobile Roadie LLC and Kanchoo LLC have cropped up recently to help even the smallest and most local of businesses make apps, and they are pitching the programs as the next must-have marketing tool. With easy-to-use online templates, much like those used to make low-cost Web sites, a basic iPhone app can take 15 or 20 minutes to make and cost as little as $15 a month in hosting charges.

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