Taking it to the streets — more on mobile

The Breakaway Brokerage: Part 5

MobileBrokers

The first part of this post covered the strategic opportunities for brokers to reach out to mobile users. We talked about the types of mobile users, where they sit in the funnel, and gave some broad ideas for how and where to engage them.

This week, I want to get more tactical and offer tangible ways to focus your mobile efforts in three main areas: the mobile Web, native applications and mobile marketing.

Mobile Web

Every broker should be optimizing their site for mobile browsers. After a few years spent monitoring analytics accounts for major brokerages around the country, one thing is clear: Mobile Web traffic — those visitors coming to broker websites from smartphone or tablet devices — has steadily marched upwards. I suspect your numbers are no different.

Scratching below the surface, what’s also interesting is where that traffic is heading. Here’s a hint: It’s probably not your home page.

This makes sense when you think about … Say a husband or wife is searching for homes on a device at home and finds a property of interest. They send that listing to their partner via email or some other messaging service and they then pull up that listing on their phone. They’re on your site, but they’ve come in through the back door.

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What we’ve observed from looking at many mobile websites that brokers have built is that they’ve spent far too much time and energy duplicating the search functionality of their desktop websites on their mobile sites. Not enough attention is paid to the money pages — the listing detail pages.

So here’s my advice: Put the front door on the back burner. This type of cross-device behavior makes it clear that you need to focus your mobile Web efforts on optimizing your listing detail pages for mobile visits. A clean layout, plentiful decision support data and a clear call to action must be your priorities for smaller screen sizes.

Native apps

Native apps create a better user experience. There, I said it. They’re faster, more responsive and can make use of all the device’s onboard sensors and storage. They are unequivocally better than mobile Web apps. As such, I firmly believe that user behavior, in the short term, will continue to favor the native app experience.

That said, they are expensive to develop. There are multiple languages and platforms to support and there’s the whole issue of discoverability. The app stores are notoriously flooded, and a brokerage will need to spend a lot of time, money and resources to be found. Think SEO was tough to figure out? This is even tougher.

This reality likely rules out most brokerages from playing in the consumer space with native apps.

Supporting your agents, however, is a different, viable opportunity. Here, a brokerage can effectively dictate the platform it will build on (most likely the iPad), and the marketing question is solved by having a baked-in audience that can be effectively shepherded to a download.

Products like TouchCMA, RE/MAX’s Presenter app and OpenHomePro each have peeled off key processes of an agent’s daily business activities and tackled them with mobile-first designs.

The build-versus-buy discussion is still very real in this scenario, but most brokerages’ native app efforts will be best directed at how to support their customers … their agents.

Mobile marketing

Let’s sum up where we are so far: Mobile Web efforts should be focused on nailing the listing detail page. Native app efforts should be focused on serving your agents’ needs first.

So how does a brokerage reach out to consumers in the new 2013 mobile reality?

First and foremost, you need to be found. New voice-driven search aides like Google Now and Siri mean fewer and fewer mobile searches will be taking place in the search bar of a browser.

This means having your company and its locations updated in location databases like Google Places and Yelp, and even Facebook. Jeff discussed how you can take control of your data in Part 3 of this series. Make this a priority for 2013.

Second, consider advertising on mobile devices. Google Adwords is the granddaddy of online advertising platforms, and they recently revamped their platform to take advantage of the new multidevice world with what they are calling Enhanced Campaigns. This will allow you to target messages to consumers based on their location and what kind of the device they’re using, even the time of day that they are using it.

That’s powerful stuff. Think about an ad for an open house that’s relevant in time (Sunday afternoon) and space (right round the corner from you, right now!).

Also, think of all those apps on people’s phones as new channels for your message. Specifically, consider the apps that have local relevance to you, like your local newspaper’s app. These are opportunities to bring your brand to where we know people are spending their time.

And guess what? The portals are already doing just that.

To get there, Google Adwords can help you get to apps on the Android platform, and Apple’s iAd network can help you get onto iOS devices.

In certain markets, it may also pay to reach out directly to the app developers themselves and inquire about placing ads.

So there you have it: three concrete steps for you to consider when approaching mobile.

Admittedly, it’s a busy, noisy space that’s constantly evolving and changing. But that doesn’t make it any less important for brokers and agents to consider now how they are going to adapt their digital presence, their businesses and their marketing.

Joel Burslem is with 1000watt, a marketing, design and strategy firm focused on real estate.

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