By Stephanie Andre
RISMEDIA, Sept. 25, 2007-Does searching for property from your cell phone sound like it might be light years away? It might just be closer than you think. Here, we talk with Randall Standard, founder and CEO of VoicePad®, about mobile search as it specifically relates to the real estate industry and on how he believes consumers will locally search for real estate in the very near future.
Real Estate magazine: What is mobile search and how do you believe it will impact the real estate industry?
Randall Standard: Current Web marketing efforts simply lack mobility. Web sites are great for searching at home, but provide little value “at the curb.” Over the next few years, localized mobile search will become at least as important as traditional search, although the content will be different. In a mobile environment, criteria-based searches-by location, price, amenities, etc.-will not be as important to the consumer as the ability to query information on a specific property (in front of which they are probably parked).
RE: How will this technology affect consumers?
RS: We already know that consumers generally prefer an automated search over personal interaction. Once the ability to search from their cell phone becomes available, consumers will choose this method of search mainly due to its convenience. Whether industry professionals like it or not, the competitor to the yard sign is coming soon. They need to plan accordingly.
RE: You mentioned the cell phone as the delivery device of mobile search. Could you please explain this a bit more?
RS: Basically, there will be three main technologies that have the ability to deliver mobile search: the phone (audio-based), text messaging and Web-enabled mobile browsers.
RE: What are the differences between these three options?
RS: Unfortunately, with 260 million cell phones in the U.S., most cell phones are not equipped-or have service provisioned-to offer enhanced services such as outgoing text and broadband wireless. Then, of course, you have the consumer’s learning curve of actually using these services even if they are available on their cell phone.
Of the three options, audio-based mobile search is the most ubiquitous solution as it avoids equipment and demographic issues altogether while operating on all 260 million cell phones, by simply converting listing data to speech. Additionally, audio-based searches can be delivered in multiple languages and require no end-user training. The consumer simply enters, or speaks, a property’s street number or MLS ID. Property information is delivered in a high-quality sentence format.
At the same time, the potential buyer is listening to a property presentation, the listing agent is immediately notified of the consumer’s name, phone number and language preference, as well as the property inquired upon (via text and e-mail). On the same call, the consumer can get a monthly payment calculated, set a time to see the property and transfer live to the listing agent for more information. It’s a completely new type of consumer experience, yet seems familiar to most consumers.
RE: Can you compare the mobile Web to “traditional” Web service at your office or home?
RS: The mobile Web is very promising, but it still inherits the anonymity issues from the “traditional” Web. Additionally, separate design and development requirements for each of the current mobile Web PDA platforms (BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile) makes for an inconsistent availability of applications for many devices at this time.
At VoicePad, we have invested heavily in multi-platform PDA-based MLS access. Over the next five to seven years, mobile Web adoption rates will improve, service costs will reduce and the consumer’s ability to effectively use the service will be significantly enhanced. We’re hedging our bets that audio-based mobile search is the best solution for the foreseeable future, and that the mobile Web will emerge as a long-term winner.
RE: What is the legal significance of audio-based mobile search?
RS: Audio-based mobile search, as well as text messaging, has little to do with the rules that surround Web site-based listing aggregation (IDX). Telecom rules replace Web rules when listing data is delivered over the phone. The identity of the inquiring party is available without the normal “opt-in” requirements of the Web (including name and phone number). This means more quality local leads delivered to the listing agent.
RE: Does audio-based mobile search work for property management?
RS: Yes it does. Special information such as pet and security deposits, background check requirements, unique features for rentals as well as the monthly rental are all delivered on VoicePad’s automated voice platform. This limits the number of time-wasting inquiries from unqualified applicants. RE
For more information, visit www.voicepad.com.