By Stephanie Andre
RISMEDIA, October 19, 2010—Up until 2009, the first few real estate applications that arrived on the scene for smartphones were certainly visually exciting. But although they were interesting examples of new technology for real estate, it was not clear if these apps would ultimately be a meaningful contributor toward building listings and sales. Not any more, says MOVE. Today, the value of mobile is quite evident. REALTOR.com® and Top Producer Systems, (both operated by MOVE, Inc.) are making deeper commitments to developing mobile solutions for agents and real estate consumers. It is apparent to both companies that the mobile reality is not only the new norm for the real estate industry, but a tremendous business opportunity for agents.
The tipping point was the convergence of two things. First, mobile Internet is close to becoming commonplace, with virtually one-third of the U.S. population actively accessing the Internet through Web-enabled mobile devices. Second—and what really drove the point home for MOVE—was that when provided with a very well executed home-search application for mobile devices, consumer participation was extraordinarily brisk.
Everyone at MOVE knew they had a winner on their hands when they first glimpsed the REALTOR.com® Real Estate Search iPhone app, the first in a series of planned releases for smartphones by the company. When the app became public, favorable reviews immediately started coming in from the press, Realtors, home buyers and sellers.
Clareity Consulting reviewed 23 leading real estate smart phone apps and found REALTOR.com® to be the leading real estate mobile application for consumers. The REALTOR.com® app “had almost every feature, easy to use, no glitches, and seamless task transitions.”
But, critical acclaim aside, the real question for MOVE was, would the application be accepted and used by the public?
When Mobile Technology Meets the Mobile Consumer
The answer arrived when the number of REALTOR.com® Real Estate Search iPhone app downloads exceeded 1.6 million in August 2010, with downloads projected (at press time) to hit 2 million by October 1. Over 7 million listings are viewed monthly via the app. Given that there will only be about 4 million homes sold in 2010, these are remarkable numbers.
The preliminary numbers of mobile real estate prospects converting into sales for listing agents appears promising as well. One of the most notable consumer behaviors to emerge from the usage of the REALTOR.com® Real Estate Search iPhone app is the fact that mobile consumers appear less hesitant to contact an agent directly by phone via the app than when they view listings from the relative anonymity of their home or business computer. For every e-mail lead that comes through the app, there are 10 consumers who “click to call” or otherwise phone the agent.
Part of this is the result of simple convenience—the consumer has a phone in their hand after all,—so “picking up the phone” comes naturally. But it goes deeper.
The enthusiastic adoption and heavy usage of the REALTOR.com® app also has to do with the fact that it addresses the unique attributes of mobile consumers, who are:
-Speed Junkies - Mobile consumers expect instant response and immediate access to real estate information.
-Data Distillers - Mobile consumers survive and thrive on small bytes of information, and have little attention for anything more. Consider this: the maximum length of a Facebook status update is 420 characters (including spaces). For SMS messages, it’s 160 characters. The maximum length of a tweet on Twitter is 140 characters. And the most you can squeeze into a status message on Windows Live Messenger is 128 characters. Agents need to keep communications fast and succinct to keep consumers’ attention.
-Easy Connectors – Consumers are not only receptive to short, on-the-go communications, such as texts and SMS messages, they now expect them. Smartphone technology makes it much easier for mobile agents to make quick, meaningful connections with consumers when they’re on-the-go.
-Qualified Outreachers – Real estate prospects who reach out via mobile devices are more informed and, as a result, more qualified business leads. But again, they expect rapid response and regular follow-up.
Furthermore, because the REALTOR.com® Real Estate Search iPhone app incorporates multiple functionalities into a single application—including GPS—it mirrors and supports the behavior and habits of the average buyer. According to the 2009 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the median distance between a buyer’s previous residence and the home they purchased was 12 miles. With such a short distance between the old neighborhood and the new one, there are bound to be a considerable number of buyers who are already familiar with the area to which they want to move. These consumers are much more qualified because they know the area and the homes, and simply need someone to take them inside. A GPS-enabled smartphone, loaded with the REALTOR.com® application, makes it very easy for potential buyers to approach a neighborhood of interest and let the GPS guide them to a listed property. They can also save the homes they like, make comments on them directly from the app and easily click to call and set up an appointment with the listing agent.
Completing the Cycle When Mobile Consumers Reach Out
Even though mobile real estate consumers are accessing information via their smartphone devices, one conditioned response remains—when consumers know what they want, they wish to connect to agents immediately and expect to do so effortlessly.
Consider how fast things move for the consumer:
• 45 seconds downloading the REALTOR.com® iPhone app
• 30 seconds searching for property on their iPhone
• 15 seconds scanning the amenities and price
• 5 seconds to click to call the agent
So here’s an important piece of advice for Realtors: don’t let the first breakdown in this seamless communication chain be the disappointment of a consumer reaching your voicemail when they’re trying to connect with you via a smartphone app. REALTOR.com® consumer behavior test results reveal that 70% won’t even leave a message—they’ll simply disconnect.
Not letting the call go to voicemail is just the start. Agents need to respond at the same speed as the pace of information flow up until the point of the consumer’s click to call. If the connection to a live agent results in a “hurry up and wait” experience, statistics show it will end in a lost business opportunity for the agent.
Closing Mobile Prospects as a Mobile Realtor®
A common mistake made in the effort to convert mobile prospects into clients is enthusiastic, detailed initial contact from the agent, followed by lengthy silence. In reality, short, regular communication at just the right time is far more effective than a big burst of communication once a week, once a month or once a year. Thankfully, there are mobile solutions that help to facilitate this communication approach.
To keep up with mobile consumers, agents need to be able to access leads in real time. It’s all about momentum. Being well prepared by having your contacts, leads, tasks, and conversation histories handy at all times—no matter where you are—is also essential. That’s where mobile tools like Top Producer 8i®s iPhone application can keep agents connected and moving through the business day without being chained to a desk. With it, a mobile Realtor can keep communications, follow-ups and to-do lists moving at the same time as their busy schedule.
For example, have you or one of your agents ever had the experience of waiting for an inspector who was 30 minutes late? Do you remember what it was like being held up at a slow open house, wishing you could use that time to get some work done? By the time you connected your laptop, the inspector or next customer would walk in and you’d have to wait until later to return to a mountain of office work. A system like Top Producer 8i® for iPhone, would have given you instant access to your contact database, notes, e-mails, and tasks, and enabled you to get work done.
As millions of home buyers and sellers continue to adopt increasingly sophisticated mobile technology, REALTOR.com® will continue to connect this lucrative audience to Realtors. And as mobile consumers demand more responsiveness and agility, Top Producer will evolve to help agents convert this valuable and growing segment of consumers into appointments, listings and sales.
For more information, and to get your Free Marketing to Mobile Consumer Preparation Guide, visit www.REALTOR.com/freetraining/mobile.
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