Tech Bytes: Bubandu builds niche with no-frills app-making

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer/Albuquerque Journal

Randy Asselin, CEO of RockTops Digital Media, left, developed a customized app for Ron Peterson, right, owner of Ron Peterson Firearms. RockTops focuses on no-frills apps using a platform that can build for Apple and Android simultaneously. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)


Like many other retail gun dealers, Ron Peterson Firearms LLC in Albuquerque has been slow to embrace modern marketing through mobile apps.

Owner Ron Peterson has sold new and used firearms for 50 years, gaining an international reputation for his unique guns, including many antiques unavailable elsewhere.

But moving to new marketing methods in the fast-paced era of modern communications has been difficult.

“I’m not very computer-literate, and at 75, I’m behind the curve,” Peterson said. “People in the firearms industry tend to be more traditionally conservative. We don’t jump on new ideas as fast as others.”

But in late May, Peterson’s store launched its first app through Albuquerque-based RockTops Digital Media, which specializes in rapidly building customized apps with a proprietary platform that makes them simple to create and easy to use. It’s a no-frills approach that offered Peterson mobile marketing at an affordable price.

“It’s given us a new way to show products and stay in communication with our customers,” Peterson said. “More than 300 customers have downloaded the app and are now communicating with us on a real-time basis.”

Randy Asselin, CEO of RockTops Digital Media, holds a smartphone with a customized app for Ron Peterson Firearms. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

RockTops, which launched in 2014, created its Bubandu mobile app platform to offer cash-strapped and often technology-challenged businesses a high-quality, affordable alternative to high-end app-development companies, said founder and CEO Randy Asselin. Bubandu allows RockTops to simultaneously create and quickly deploy apps for both Apple and Android devices.

That contrasts with the mainstream approach of relying on different developers to build Apple and Android-based apps separately. And it eliminates the need for a post-development manager to constantly make sure apps developed for different operating systems are working the same.

“Our platform allows us to build an app one time with just one effort for both Apple and Android,” Asselin said. “We don’t need specialized developers to create separate apps.”

The company applies a no-frills strategy to reduce costs and maintain simplicity, focusing on basic features most customers want. That includes safe and direct business-to-customer communications, one-touch dialing, one-touch driving directions and location, and instant messaging for customers and businesses to interact. The apps also fully integrate with social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Randy Asselin, CEO of RockTops Digital Media, holds a smartphone with a customized app for Ron Peterson Firearms. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

“Any changes made by businesses on their websites or other social media platforms are immediately seen in the mobile device,” Asselin said. “They don’t have to make any changes on the mobile app, because it’s all completely represented in real time, allowing businesses to leverage the technology they already have in place.”

RockTops’ approach streamlines development by cutting straight to the basics, sidestepping the need for a team to fully assess a business and its social media needs before designing an app, which can significantly increase costs.

“We’ve identified eight to 10 things that most businesses need to be great on mobile, and we often pre-build an app to show potential customers before even meeting with them,” Asselin said. “That makes things easy for customers, because most businesses new to mobile don’t really know what they want an app to do. That just want a mobile app to communicate with customers.”

RockTops has developed apps for some large customers in New Mexico and elsewhere, such as Dippin’ Dots, Las Vegas Gold Magazine and the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce. But this year, it began targeting smaller businesses attracted to its no-frills approach, beginning with the firearms industry.

Apart from Peterson, it’s developed apps for Albuquerque-based Geoffrey Russell Outfitters and ABQ Guns. And it’s launching a national campaign this month with North Carolina-based Laura Burgess Marketing, which focuses on the arms industry.

“Building mobile apps for retail and online stores in the firearms industry is unique, because dealers are generally slow to take on newer technologies,” Burgess said. “Most apps in the industry today are used by big manufacturers like Smith & Wesson.”

In part, that’s because of a tabu surrounding gun advertising and sales, which make it difficult to build apps acceptable to Google and Apple. But RockTops has worked with those companies to make its apps available for download, Asselin said.

That was a big sell for ABQ Guns co-owner Belinda Gallegos.

“Randy did all the work to get the needed permission from Google and Apple,” Gallegos said. “That’s huge, because when you deal with firearms, there’s so much tabu for so many people.”

Peterson is now working to get all customers to download his app.

“We sell between 8,500 and 10,000 guns a year, which translates into about 6,000 to 7,000 customers,” Peterson said. “We’re known all over the world. We want to get them all signed up to keep them informed about our business.”

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