Mobile Real Estate: What Can You Do?


Your customers are increasingly using their mobile devices to research property, agents and the market. You know this.

Engaging those customers on the mobile platform is smart. For that to work, however, you have to offer them something of genuine value and in a way that takes hardly any time or brainpower.

Customers Like It Easy

As my grandmother used to used to say, it's best not to overestimate your prospect's willingness to help you sell things. (Yes, grannie was ahead of her time.)

It's easy to make it so hard for the user to act on their impulse to engage with your marketing that they give up. They feel rejected and the impulse dies. In its place is left a residue of resentment, which can't be good for your business.

Here's an example from the Nespresso U coffee maker's marketing campaign. I found it today while I was skimming through Elle Décor at the doctor's office. (I'm fine, thank you.)

The ad was beautifully designed. But the company used up valuable space on the page with this message:

"LEARN MORE ABOUT U Download the free viewa app, select the Belle Channel, then hold your phone over the page to learn more about the Nespresso U."

Three Steps is Three Too Many

This text was accompanied by a logo for viewa, a smartphone app that uses image recognition technology. Using the app, you hold the phone over a picture in a magazine and it will link you to more content from the web.

There may be some people in Australia who would go to all that trouble of 1. finding and downloading the app, 2. choosing the right channel and 3. taking a picture of an ad.

As for me, however, I'm willing to stake my reputation on a little prediction: the viewa app is going nowhere. It will never get any more user pickup than the QR code has. That's unless, of course, they significantly change their offering.

By asking its potential buyers to go to so much tedious trouble just to learn more about their product, Nespresso is hurting itself twice.

  • First, it wastes an opportunity to profitably engage with a larger number of potential customers.
  • Second, it throws away the time and money it has invested in this particular exercise of marketing myopia.

Nespresso can probably afford a little marketing screw up here and there. After all, the product has a marketing budget of $58 million.

Ask yourself if your marketing budget big enough for you to throw money away like they do.

Who Does It Right?

I had to look hard to find real estate marketers who are doing mobile right. Here are four examples:

  • domain's app is easy to use and -most important- gives users access to a large swath of the market, especially in certain suburbs where Fairfax papers have high circulation.
  • (Disclaimer: I have worked at the REA Group.) REA also has a good app. (They even seem to have won an award.). Like Domain's app, REA's is easy to use. It also gives users access to much more of the overall market. Both domain's and REA's apps are friendlier alternatives to surfing their websites. That's why users are willing to download them.
  • LJ Hooker's new image recognition app: (Disclaimer: LJ Hooker is a past client of mine) The downside here is that you have to download an app and it only gives you access to LJ Hooker's own listings. The upside of this app is that their image recognition technology actually offers you something of value. You don't get a bunch of self-serving marketing copy. Instead it links you right to the full listing info of the property you are interested in. It makes it easier and faster to find a given listing.
  • McGrath: McGrath has created an iPad app that lets you view its weekly magazine. This works only because the magazine itself works. The print product is a pleasure to skim, and includes some actual stories about art and design in addition to the listings themselves. All of these qualities translate to the iPad, which makes this an app I am happy to download.

What Can You Do Right Now?

Not everyone has the resources of a major portal or agency network. So what can a smaller player do, right now? Here are two ideas:

  1. Remember your best mobile play may involve an app for your team, instead of your clients. Ray White and LJ Hooker are among those who have created apps that let their agents and property managers access the data stored on the companies' networks. Other common features include sales presentations designed especially for use on the iPad. You can do something that helps your people do their job better with a limited investment.
  2. Advertising might be a better fit for your needs than creating your own app. In the old days, not everyone owned a newspaper. Agents were content to advertise in them without having to own one themselves. Some things haven't changed so much. There are still only a handful of businesses that can deliver a large, relevant and motivated audience on the mobile or any other platform. Instead of trying to compete, just advertise. That gives you the freedom to switch to another platform whenever the business case makes sense.

Just because the world is going mobile doesn't mean you have to invest a fortune in your own app. Be realistic about how useful your customers will really find it. If not, you might get user reviews like this one from a frustrated user of the viewa app:

 "Sh#t doesn't work"

Business 2

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