Editor’s Note: Jason Spero, director of mobile ads for the Americas at Google, will deliver a keynote address during the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference next week in San Francisco. Spero joined Google in May 2010 as part of the company’s acquisition of mobile advertising network AdMob, where he served as vice president and general manager of North America responsible for strategy and operations, as well as sales, business development and marketing.

Q: What are your thoughts on characteristics of mobile consumers and strategies for successfully engaging with users on the mobile platform?

A: First and foremost, I’d say it’s critical for businesses to understand that mobile isn’t just a smaller version of the desktop. It’s a unique new platform, with lots of new and exciting potential, as well as some limitations.

Businesses need to better understand the unique attributes of mobile and determine their goals for it as well. Not only does that mean you should build ad campaigns and assets like websites that are optimized for a mobile device, but it’s also about understanding how mobile consumers are fundamentally different from consumers in other contexts. Mobile consumers are on the move and often looking to take action, for example.

If you’re just getting started on mobile, there are two things in particular you should focus on. First, make sure you’ve got a website that’s optimized for the platform. As more people start using devices with full Web browsers, it’s increasingly important to have a website that’s designed with the mobile platform — and the mobile user — in mind.  

Second, if you’re running mobile ads, develop mobile-specific campaigns so you can measure what works best (for) your business on the platform, and optimize. We’ve seen mobile-specific campaigns receive 11.5 percent higher CTRs (click-through rates) compared to mobile CTRs on campaigns running simultaneously on desktop and mobile.

Additional stats:

Q: Are there any mobile trends that real estate agents, brokers and owners should be particularly mindful of?

A: Mobile is an increasingly critical tool in the real estate space:

  • 82 percent of homebuyers use the Internet as their primary source for real estate info (according to a Google Compete Study in 2010);
  • 35 percent of homebuyers used their mobile phone to complement their research in 2010 (also according to the Compete Study);
  • 17 percent of Google real estate searches are coming from mobile (based on Google internal data).

Q: What mobile advertising trends in the real estate industry are you aware of, and how can real estate professionals best advertise on mobile platforms? What other industries have had success, and what can real estate professionals learn from them?

A: Advertisers have a variety of goals when it comes to mobile and we’ve developed several different tools and features designed specifically for the mobile platform to help accomplish these. On the search side, ad formats like click-to-call make it easy for consumers to call businesses simply by clicking a phone number within an ad.

We’re seeing some tremendous momentum in our business from tablets, too, and some of our savviest advertisers are jumping on this. Coldwell Banker used one of our newest ad formats — interactive video for tablets — and saw some really strong results, including a more than 7 percent interaction rate.

Q: What do you think is the future of apps? Of mobile phone features? Usage? How have these changed and what changes do you anticipate in the future?

A: Both apps and websites are important for businesses to consider as they’re developing their presence on mobile. The mobile app ecosystem continues to grow at a tremendous rate, and especially recently we’re seeing great momentum on the mobile Web as well.

In general, mobile is an opportunity for agents to extend their personal relationship with customers. Imagine if you could push listings and relevant information to your customers via a mobile app? There’s also an opportunity for agents and brands to differentiate themselves by creating a superior mobile user experience.

Q: Is there something you feel makes real estate different from other industries trying to take advantage of the mobile platform?

A: Real estate (often has) a long sales cycle. You need to keep winning over your customer throughout the process. Mobile can be a way to begin a relationship, but it’s also a way to keep customers engaged throughout the process so they’re more likely to refer your services to others (or use you again) in the future.

Additionally, mobile has the potential to fundamentally disrupt real estate more so than other industries. I will talk about how and why at Connect, but essentially the power of smartphones will change the way consumers conduct the new-home or apartment search. This has already happened in retail: 79 percent of smartphone users research product decisions on their phone, in the moment.

From a marketing perspective, there will be tremendous opportunity for agents and brands to take advantage of unique mobile features, (such as) highly engaging, informative, HTML5 Web and app experiences; mobile-specific formats; and features like click-to-call and hyperlocal, and others that give customers the information they need on the go.

It’s a very exciting time for both consumers and real estate agents and brands. There will be an opportunity to extend that agent-client personal relationship to the mobile device through sharing of information.

Q: What will you be talking about at the Real Estate Connect conference?

A: Consumers have jumped on mobile, but most businesses — real estate included — still need to better understand the platform and how to best engage their customers. I’m hoping to give folks a sense of mobile’s broader growth, and some concrete steps to get started on the platform.

Hear Jason Spero, director of mobile ads for the Americas at Google, speak at the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference next week in San Francisco. The conference runs from July 27-29, 2011. 

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