By Nick Caruso
RISMEDIA, June 15, 2011—Over the course of the last decade, advancements in mobile technology have changed consumer interaction on the Internet. As the advent of the BlackBerry paved the way for the iPhone, the user experience was forever changed. Consumers now had the Web at their fingertips, shifting the ways that businesses communicate with them and influencing the technology necessary to maintain those relationships. Society was on a fast-track path toward the world of Web 2.0.
Today, the number of smartphone users in the U.S. continues to skyrocket, proving that mobile is an area that progressive, forward-thinking real estate brokerages simply cannot ignore. Thanks to this technology, the BlackBerry, iPhone and Android platforms continue to dominate the market, begging companies to rethink their mobile strategies and optimize their websites for mobile viewing.
With the help of Mobile Real Estate ID, a mobile marketing and technology company that helps real estate agents and brokers achieve their mobile goals, the following brokerages have all found continued success by staying conscious of their Web-oriented consumers’ needs.
“We definitely know that mobile is growing and the need for real estate information on-the-go is getting more important,” says Lindsay Oparowski, director of Online Communication & Public Relations for Prudential Preferred Realty in Pittsburgh, a member of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN).
Prudential Preferred Realty launched their mobile website in August of last year, created by Westchester County, New York-based Mobile Real Estate ID. The company quickly followed up with an enhancement that October, including an app capability for smartphones and also a GPS search function, allowing users to find the 10 closest properties nearest to their current location. Additionally, open houses can also be found via GPS or by entering specific criteria. There is also a general property search feature, a mortgage calculator, real estate news, an “About Us” section and a contact form, all of which can be found from the homepage. Showing requests are also accepted directly from the site.
“Our mobile site has been effective because it’s simple and fast,” says Oparowski. “It doesn’t take time to load because it’s optimized. We get people the exact info they want.”
Prudential Preferred’s mobile site has achieved success, receiving over 127,000 page views and 6,000 unique visitors, numbers that continue to climb each month. “Mobile Real Estate ID has been a great partner. They were very knowledgeable and were able to guide us through the process every step of the way,” she says. “Since the launch, they have followed up with great customer service, they accommodate changes we want to make and have been proactive in bringing us updates to our mobile platform along the way.”
Jamie Troia, marketing director of Hudson Valley, New York’s Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty—also a member of RREIN—agrees on the importance of Open House and GPS property searches. “More and more people are utilizing the mobile phone when they’re on-the-go, so we felt it was an opportunity to provide not only our customers, but also our agents, with an easy means of searching for property.”
To stay current with the market, Troia and his team knew it was imperative to get a mobile version of the company’s website up as soon as possible. Going forward, one area of importance for the brokerage is the incorporation of HTML5, an innovative design language that allows a website to change its appearance depending on the device and screen size. “By utilizing HTML5, we’re going to provide the user with the same experience they would get accessing the site through a regular browser,” he says.
In less than a year, BH&G Rand Realty’s mobile site has broken the top 20 list of referral sites to their Internet site, beating out other sites such as the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, the mobile site has overtaken the traffic generated by the Internet site, proving its position as a mainstay marketing tool for the company.
“The number of people using mobile-enabled devices has surpassed that of the PC. That’s the driving factor,” says Joseph Liguori, president of Premier Estate Properties in Southern Florida.
Liguori also points to GPS as being a crucial component to his company’s mobile site. “If you’re in a guard-gated community, a condominium building or somewhere that does not allow yard signs, you can find out what’s on the market through the GPS search where, otherwise, you would never know,” he says.
For Liguori, working with Mobile Real Estate ID was a beneficial partnership. “They were very knowledgeable, professional and handled everything in a timely manner,” he says.
Unsurprisingly, Frederick Romley, digital product manager for Houlihan Lawrence, joins in the positive sentiments for GPS. “In the old days, you’d get the Sunday paper, but now you’ve got your phone with you and you can do all of your searching in real time,” he says. “You can immediately see what’s for sale in the neighborhood.”
Romley points to ease of use and convenience as some of the main factors why his company’s mobile site is so effective. “Just the sheer change in mobile traffic has been absolutely incredible. iPhone year-to-date visits are up 120% and Android visits are up 526%,” he says. “We’ve also made some changes to our website so that flash elements would not affect iPad users.”
In today’s mobile climate, it’s imperative for brokerages to accommodate their consumers, some of which are always on-the-go. Mobile is and will continue to be a dominating force and tool for today’s real estate-buying and -selling consumers. To continue striving for success, this new mobile-enabled territory simply cannot be left unturned.
According to Oparowski, mobile and real estate is “a great match,” one that uniquely benefits all parties. “With a mobile website or an app, you get to see photos, prices and schedule showings,” she says. “It ties the whole buying experience together.”
“It is estimated that by 2012 or 2013, the Internet is going to be accessed more by mobile phones than computers,” says Troia. “Clearly, the trend is away from traditional means and more of a personal shopping experience on handheld devices and tablets. The idea of having a robust website that recognizes what kind of device the user is on and is fine tuned to that device is critical to remaining a leader in our area.”