Mobile Real Estate: What Can You Do?

6 minute read
Philip Schiller of Apple introducing the iPad mini in 2012. Because of devices like this, more of your marketing takes place in mobile apps.
Philip Schiller of Apple introducing the iPad mini in October 2012. Because of devices like this, more of your marketing now takes place in mobile apps.

Your customers are increasingly using their mobile devices to research property, agents and the market. You know this.

Engaging those customers on the mobile platform is smart. For that to work, however, you have to offer them something of genuine value and in a way that takes hardly any time or brainpower.


Customers Like It Easy

As my grandmother used to used to say, it’s best not to overestimate your prospect’s willingness to help you sell things. (Yes, grannie was ahead of her time.)

If you make it hard for the user to engage with your marketing, they give up. They feel rejected and the impulse dies. In its place is left a residue of resentment, which can’t be good for your business.

Here’s an example from the Nespresso U  coffee maker’s marketing campaign. I found it today while I was skimming through Elle Décor at the doctor’s office. (I’m fine, thank you.)

The ad was beautifully designed. But the company used up valuable space on the page with this message:

“LEARN MORE ABOUT U. Download the free viewa app, select the Belle Channel, then hold your phone over the page to learn more about the Nespresso U.”


Three Steps Are Three Too Many

This text was accompanied by a logo for viewa, a smartphone app that uses image recognition technology. Using the app, you hold the phone over a picture in a magazine and it will link you to more content from the web.

There may be some people in Australia who would go to all that trouble of 1. finding and downloading the app, 2. choosing the right channel and 3. taking a picture of an ad.

As for me, however, I’m willing to stake my reputation on a little prediction: the viewa app is going nowhere. It will never get any more user pickup than the QR code has. That’s unless, of course, they significantly change their offering.

By asking its potential buyers to go to so much tedious trouble just to learn more about their product, Nespresso is hurting itself twice.

  • First, it wastes an opportunity to profitably engage with a larger number of potential customers.
  • Second, it throws away the time and money it has invested in this particular exercise of marketing myopia.

Nespresso can probably afford a little marketing screw up here and there. After all, the product has a marketing budget of $58 million.

Ask yourself if your marketing budget is big enough for you to throw money away like they do.


Who Does It Right?

I had to look hard to find real estate marketers who are doing mobile right. Here are four examples:

  • domain’s app is easy to use and –most important— gives users access to a large swath of the market, especially in certain suburbs where Fairfax papers have high circulation.
  • (Disclaimer: I have worked at the REA Group.) REA also has a good app. (They even seem to have won an award.). Like Domain’s app, REA’s is easy to use. It also gives users access to much more of the overall market. Both domain’s and REA’s apps are friendlier alternatives to surfing their websites. That’s why users are willing to download them.
  • LJ Hooker’s new image recognition app: (Disclaimer: LJ Hooker is a past client of mine) The downside here is that you have to download an app and it only gives you access to LJ Hooker’s own listings. The upside of this app is that their image recognition technology actually offers you something of value. You don’t get a bunch of self-serving marketing copy. Instead it links you right to the full listing info of the property you are interested in. It makes it easier and faster to find a given listing.
  • McGrath: McGrath has created an iPad app that lets you view its weekly magazine. This works only because the magazine itself works. The print product is a pleasure to skim, and includes some actual stories about art and design in addition to the listings themselves. All of these qualities translate to the iPad, which makes this an app I am happy to download.


What Can You Do Right Now?

Not everyone has the resources of a major portal or agency network. So what can a smaller player do, right now? Here are two ideas:

  1. Remember your best mobile play may involve an app for your team, instead of your clients. Ray White and LJ Hooker are among those who have created apps that let their agents and property managers access the data stored on the companies’ networks. Other common features include sales presentations designed especially for use on the iPad. You can do something that helps your people do their job better with a limited investment.
  2. Advertising might be a better fit for your needs than creating your own app. In the old days, not everyone owned a newspaper. Agents were content to advertise in them without having to own one themselves. Some things haven’t changed so much. There are still only a handful of businesses that can deliver a large, relevant and motivated audience on the mobile or any other platform. Instead of trying to compete, just advertise. That gives you the freedom to switch to another platform whenever the business case makes sense.

Just because the world is going mobile doesn’t mean you have to invest a fortune in your own app. Be realistic about how useful your customers will really find it. If not, you might get user reviews like this one from a frustrated user of the viewa app:

 “Sh#t doesn’t work”

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  • Darren Moffatt
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 9:40 am 0Likes

    Hi Dave, great post. Mobile is already super important, but will become even more so. You only have to take public transport to see this: catch a bus or train and you’ll see hoardes of commuters glued to their device/smart phone. It’s a real conversation killer!

    This trend is why we launched with a mobile site. We’re finding that people are increasingly searching for agents on our mobile site, and I’d say agents really have to think hard about where they spend time building their digital footprint. If you’re blogging or networking on a site that is not mobile – is this time well spent??

    Cheers, Darren

    • Dave Platter
      Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:51 am 0Likes

      Thanks, Darren. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. May I ask, what % of your traffic is mobile?

  • Wendy Chamberlain
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm 0Likes

    Totally agree with you Dave.

    There is nothing more annoying when you’re not in front of your pc and you need to view a website, to have that website not enabled for optimal viewing on a smartphone or tablet.

    Given most buyers of real estate are usually out from behind their pc (they’re standing looking at your house) when they want to find out more about a property, it makes sense to enable access to information as easily as possible.

    Agreed, simple is best. No one is going stand there downloading stuff when they could just be merely scanning a QR Code right on their phone.

    Time to move with the times and the real estate industry needs to better empower both buyers and sellers through the more effective use of mobile technology.

    Great post.

    • Dave Platter
      Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:54 am 0Likes

      Wendy, I agree. QR codes are almost uniformly awful. I think the biggest problems with them are that most consumers don’t understand them Also, marketers using them most often try to enable behaviour that would benefit the company, rather than behaviour that the consumer would find useful.

  • Sal Espro
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 9:14 am 0Likes

    QR codes are a shocking waste of time, in print and certainly on boards!
    When is the last time you got out of a car to scan a QR code on a board, and how many people have actually downloaded the QR code software anyway!?! Just because something works doesn’t mean it will be used!
    Still too old and gnarly!

  • Paul D
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm 0Likes

    QR codes have never really taken off in this country, yet. They may in the future. check out what’s happening in Korea.

    We are obviously not “time poor” enough yet, to be able to waste a whole lot of time in a Supermarket.

    • Dave Platter
      Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:56 am 0Likes

      Paul D – thanks for sharing that video. Once I got past the boring beginning, I thought the “Virtual Tesco store in the subway” was a great idea.

      That’s one use of QR codes I can believe in.

  • Scott McCluskey
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:50 am 0Likes

    Undoubtedly people are searching for property on their mobile phones and tablets. Buyers want to get as much information about a property whilst in the area, in real time.

    Dave and Sal the QR code debate will continue to have points for and against, face it they are not the most attractive things! However when used well, QR codes can be a quick and easy way for a buyer to access useful information. The Australian QR code market is growing (just look at any recent consumer purchase you have made – Smiths, Coca Cola, Mt Franklin Water, Wine, Beer …. The list goes on). Consumers understand what to do immediately and generally DO have QR readers on their phones. It is up to the agent to point them to something that will make them want to organise an inspection – not a website that is not mobile optimised or some images that they have already seen on the print advertisement.

    Our product Quick Realty was developed for this reason. Buyers want a quick and easy way to access property information on their mobile. Quick Realty provides a QR code, Mobile optimised landing page and a video slideshow with voice over for individual property listings for less than $100. The agents using us have seen a definite increase in scans over the past six months and coupled with good use of the internet and social media are getting results.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 10:39 am 0Likes

    30 to 40% of our traffic is now mobile.

    I did a test and used QR codes and URL on a few photo signboards both of which we could track. There was a clear winner… the typed out web address. It was only a couple of hits on the QR code across all boards and was never in the race. I suggest anybody wanting to use QR codes actually put both on their ads or signs and track the results.

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