Here’s a hard truth: For many in the real estate industry, mobile strategy isn’t paying off.
Too few leads are being generated, and most mobile apps have, unfortunately, failed to achieve any real market adoption.
We all know the homebuyer is increasingly mobile-focused, and we see it everywhere we look: in grocery store checkout lines, on every commuter train or bus, even inside our own homes.
This year is going to be an even bigger bonanza for mobile devices due to the explosion in large-screen smartphones and the proliferation of tablets on coffee tables and kitchen counters everywhere.
If you have not already done it, now is the time to optimize your mobile site if you want to reach and identify more prospective homebuyers.
Going “mobile first”
The “mobile first” development process focuses your strategy on optimizing your Web presence specifically for mobile consumers.
There is a danger in taking a shortcut by offering a scaled-down (responsive) site developed for a desktop computer. For many consumers, your responsive site won’t be very responsive. Users will often find your site is slow to load and weighed down with CSS files, none of which are required for a quick and efficient mobile search.
When homebuyers grab their mobile devices, the research says they are using it to search. That’s why building for the mobile site first lets you focus on providing easy access to the information that the consumer wants while giving you deep visibility into their activity.
Mobile Web design
Mobile-first is a functional approach to Web design that develops the mobile interface first, and then builds up to the traditional desktop website.
Today, most Web development companies do it backward: Mobile becomes the afterthought instead of the primary focus. What the homebuyer gets on the smartphone, as a result, is a tarnished version of your desktop website.
Conversely, mobile-first uses “progressive enhancement,” the process of enhancing a mobile interface until it’s a fully functional desktop website.
Best of both worlds
Technology has made the functionality of the mobile Web interface now on par with what one would expect from a quality mobile app.
During the “app revolution” in the last five years, your Web vendor got a pass. Now that it’s possible to have the best of both worlds, why doesn’t your Web vendor provide you with a quality mobile site?
The answers to this question are a little unsettling, but likely include the following:
They don’t have to. Just pick up your smartphone and take a look at several real estate brokerage sites. What you’ll notice is a sea of mediocrity when it comes to the site’s mobile functionality. Although there are some impressive mobile interfaces provided by Web vendors, they are rare due to the lack of competition in the mobile Web development in the real estate industry. In fact, Web vendors are probably relieved that so many firms invested in their own mobile apps. It saves them both the trouble and expense of developing mobile functionality for your site.
It was free. You received a responsive design site as part of your Web investment. In effect, you got what you paid for: a slow-loading mobile site, most often without a GPS map search or photo-swiping technology. As long as websites and mobile sites are purchased from the same vendors, expect more of the same.
Lack of talent. Quality mobile site development requires a different skill set than traditional Web design. These folks are hard to find and expensive to retain. Besides, they already have jobs: They are working at mobile-first and app development companies.
If you’ve been questioning the efficacy of your mobile application results — and I know a lot of you have been lately — then you need to rethink your where your focus has been and where it needs to be.
The approach is no longer from the desktop down; it is from the smartphone up. When you invest, you need to consider what it takes to develop a quality mobile site strategy.
The solution for most real estate firms today will never be found in a real estate app: You need to avoid the barrier of any mobile solution that requires a download to view optimized content. All of our phones are loaded with apps we never use.
And remember, hardly anyone downloads an app at the curb.
A quality mobile strategy can give you the tools to leverage your search engine optimization investment and incorporate IDX-based mobile landing pages for lead-generating tools like text and IVR (search-by-phone). An app, well, just stands alone.
Going mobile first ensures that you’ll best serve the largest segment of your homebuying market. It unites your mobile and desktop strategies — and you generate more quality leads.
And after all, it’s really all about one thing: lead generation.
Randall Standard is CEO of VoicePad and a 20+ year veteran of the mobile phone industry.