How real estate apps help Realtors crush the competition

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branded idx appsReal estate technology is constantly evolving and we now live in a world that's downright obsessed with smartphones, tablets, and overall screen time. Yet mobile apps are still a highly underutilized marketing channel for real estate businesses, often ignored completely in even the most competitive of online strategies. Realtors, that's coming to an end.

Why do real estate agents need a mobile app?

First, let's recap a couple of the major reasons you need to be considering a mobile app in 2018.

Maximize user engagement

87% of millennials never part from their phone. As a real estate agent, that means you can connect with a huge portion of the buying population at any time if they've downloaded your app. For example, the branded apps by REW can trigger push notifications when new saved search listing hits the market, or if a message is sent from their assigned agent.

Research by Criteo concluded that apps deliver 2x the new user retention power when compared to mobile web users, and app users are twice as likely to return within 30 days.

In addition, when we look at aggregated data from the top 5 real estate apps we built for clients, we can see that mobile app users are highly engaged with those real estate apps:

  • 29.92% of users are "low activity" users, active 1-2 of 7 days
  • 31.97% of users are "medium activity" users, active 3-5 of 7 days
  • 38.11% are highly active users, using the app 6-7 of every 7 days

Let's put that another way: more than 70% of active app users are accessing our clients' real estate apps at least three times per week. That's three times every week that they're actively engaging with our clients' brands, exploring properties they may fall in love with, and finding value in technology provided by real estate agents. They're addicted, and that's a great thing.

Increase brand loyalty & recognition

Several years ago, Adobe reviewed data from over 600 brands and published their findings on mobile apps and their correlation to loyalty. The quick and dirty summary is that apps are used more frequently and for longer periods of time than mobile websites, and the study concluded that "building a mobile app is a worthy investment as users of mobile apps are more loyal to the brand versus those who just visit the website from their mobile device."

time spent per session

Couple Adobe's research with the "effective frequency" concept, which tells us consumers need to see a brand approximately 20 times before they feel loyal to it, and the increased visibility and usage of mobile apps suggests apps are a fast-track to securing new business (without having to do a thing!)

Take back portal traffic

A lot of buyers and sellers don't enjoy browsing real estate on the mobile web. In fact, they'll actively avoid it and seek out apps instead. We discovered this behavior during our own formal market research, which will be publicly released later this year.

When the only apps available in a market are from portals like Zillow and Realtor.com, users are practically driven straight to these competitors, who are then given the prime opportunity to secure their loyalty and business for life.

"I use mobile, but not for agents' sites. You get way better functionality on the Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin apps," explained one of our research respondents.

If real estate agents genuinely want to compete with the portals, they need to be on the playing field, at the very least. Mobile apps put agents in the game and provide the opportunity to keep mobile traffic on their own site.

Create stronger user experiences

branded apps favorites

Perhaps of most importance, apps simply deliver a better user experience.

Consider that mobile websites are a compromise, which takes all of the information from a desktop website and adapts it as best as possible for smaller screens and touch interactions. The end result is an information-heavy experience, full of detail and distractions.

But because mobile apps are downloaded later in the sales funnel, they can forgo a lot of the detail expected on a desktop or mobile site. Mobile app users don't expect to find a home buyer's guide, or company biographies, or detailed neighborhood descriptions. Instead, people using real estate apps just want to search properties.

"The more functionality you have, the more complicated it gets for the user to understand," said Andy Madan, the lead iOS developer at Real Estate Webmasters. "This problem exists on desktop websites too but is significantly amplified on mobile devices. Because of size constraints, apps have to focus on what users want or need the most. There's simply no room for excess or fluff."

Without all the distractions required on a desktop or mobile site, real estate apps can focus on the goal of creating the best property search possible for each individual device. Every feature and function is created and optimized for device-specific interactions, and that results in a stronger user experience.

"When we build real estate apps, we intentionally construct every element and consider it within the mobile context. We're constantly thinking about how the user is going to interact with each element on their device and optimize the app for the micro-moments that intuitively guide our decisions. Significant time and care are put into user experience and, as a result, native apps are easier to use and understand than mobile sites," said Andy.

The result of these superior experiences is better stickiness, loyalty, and conversion. In fact, Criteo's research concluded that apps have the highest conversion rate out of any online channel. By contrast, mobile websites have the lowest conversion and desktop falls in between the two. Users naturally gravitate away from the poor experiences they have on mobile, even if they aren't consciously aware that it's happening.

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And that's not all...

While brand loyalty, user experience, and user engagement are convincing enough, there are several other reasons Realtors would be smart to invest in a mobile app:

  • Demonstrate savvy & innovation
  • Improve company visibility
  • Directly connect with consumers using push notifications
  • Stand out from the competition
  • Show clients you're successful enough to afford apps

At the end of the day, there are a lot of great reasons to invest in a mobile app, and the data outlined above shows us that consumers agree.

How users access real estate apps

Now that we know why real estate apps are important, let's talk about how users find apps in the first place. Many real estate agents are familiar with the concepts of lead generation and lead conversion, but they aren't quite as clear where mobile apps fit into those processes.

The answer? In between.

Mobile apps are not particularly great at generating new leads. While there are some exceptions and you will see people stumble upon real estate apps, the reality is that most people don't know they're there. Generally speaking, people don't look for things they don't know exist.

Mobile apps also aren't a mechanism for closing leads. They can get a user excited, showing them the perfect home in their dream location and inspiring them to take a look, but it's still up to the real estate agent to connect with a lead, transform them into a client, and then close the deal.

Instead of being a lead gen or lead conversion tool, mobile apps sit in between these two processes and act as a form of lead nurturing tool. Just like drip campaigns or long-term action plans, mobile apps are a phenomenal way for you to keep in touch and maintain a relationship with a buyer until they're ready to make their next move.

But first, you need to get buyers onto your app. Marketing the app is important and there are two simple tenants you can follow to do so:

1. Tell people about the app
2. Make it easy to find & download

The need for app marketing is reinforced by Google and Ipsos Reid research, in which users were asked: "In which of the following ways have you first become aware of smartphone apps?"

  • 52% - friends, family, and colleagues
  • 40% - browse the app store
  • 27% - search engines
  • 24% - company website
  • 22% - TV

Notice that all of those answers rely on an informant. Someone or something had to make the person aware that the app existed. So, let's talk a little bit about how we do that with a real estate app.

1. Tell people about the app

First and foremost, Realtors need to tell their users that they have an app! This sounds obvious, but we have seen numerous real estate agents purchase an app and then never try to promote it. While they do get a few users here and there, it's nothing compared to the agents who actively push their app out there.

Website advertising & intercept ads

The most obvious opportunity for getting leads onto your app is through your website. Your leads are already on the website and the app is going to sync data between the two, so it's a natural hunting ground for app users.

Intercept ads are most likely to drive traffic to your app. These are the ads that pop up when you visit a site on your mobile device, suggesting you download the app instead of continuing to the mobile version of the site. At the bare minimum, we recommend all real estate agents with an app to also invest in an intercept ad.

Once you've done that, here are a few additional ideas for converting website users into app users:

  1. Include the download links in your registration auto-reply
  2. Add the official download buttons to a visible spot on the website
  3. Send an email reminder every few months
  4. Include the Apple Store and Google Play buttons in your email signature

Remember, the goal here is to get your website leads onto your app so they can have a superior customer experience.

Paid app advertising

Next, how do you get your app in front of people who aren't on your website but already love apps? Advertising.

According to Google research, 47% of people have downloaded an app from a banner or graphical ad within apps. Mobile app advertising is a skill in itself, but it can be extraordinarily effective in driving app downloads. Real estate agents who want to get into this space should look into mobile ads to ensure the best possible audience is being reached.

For Android devices, Universal App campaigns allow Realtors to share their app across the search network, display network, Google Play, and YouTube. Similarly, Apple enables people to advertise in the App Store or within other apps using a couple different campaign options.

Search engine advertising

1 in 4 app users discover an app through search, and people are searching for apps in the search engines. That's pretty cool because it means there's potential for users to find your app "accidentally" before they know you exist.

In fact, let's take a look at the Google Trends for the search term "real estate app" in the United States:

People are more interested in real estate apps more than ever and there's no sign of that stopping anytime soon. But when we look at what that interest means in terms of keyword volumes using data from SEMrush, the opportunity is still fairly low:

real estate app - 9,900
mls real estate app - 4,400

The real opportunity for app promotion is in the more generic real estate keywords, like "new york real estate." Ranking organically in the search engines is an undertaking in itself, and it's highly unlikely that a mobile app page will outrank big real estate websites, but Realtors can use paid ads to get their app in front of major keywords.

Better still, they can target ads specifically for mobile devices, and geotarget their audience right down to a specific location. As a result, there's a huge opportunity for increasing app awareness through paid advertising.

2. Make it easy to find & download

In addition to letting people know about your app, it's important that it's easy to find. Some people naturally seek out apps, while others will be referred by a friend. In either scenario, it needs to be extraordinarily easy for these app seekers to find your app when searching for it or any other related apps.

Both the Google Play and Apple Store allow app descriptions and metadata to be updated. Ensuring you have a complete profile that accurately describes your app, including the location that is served, is going to make it easier for local buyers and sellers to find it.

You can also make your app easy to find by including it on your website, in your email signature, and in any other location where buyers and sellers might look up your company or contact info.

A missing link for Realtors

Real estate apps are an incredibly powerful means of engaging and building loyalty with users, yet they are missing in far too many Realtors' online strategies.If you're a modern Realtor who wants to build a meaningful connection with buyers and sellers, and differentiate from your competition, it's time to take a serious look at real estate apps.

There are numerous benefits that Realtors can take advantage of, including:

  • Maximize user engagement
  • Increase brand loyalty & recognition
  • Take back portal traffic
  • Create stronger user experiences

Any single one of these benefits is enough to justify the investment, but together they represent a powerhouse of opportunity. If you're ready to differentiate, the next step is to begin drafting your app marketing plan to ensure you're taking full advantage of the benefits, improved customer relationships, and potential ROI.

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References

https://think.storage.googleapis.com/docs/mobile-app-marketing-insights.pdf

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/micro-moments/win-every-micromoment-with-better-mobile-strategy/

https://theblog.adobe.com/are-mobile-app-users-more-loyal/

http://www.criteo.com/media/5333/criteo-mobilecommercereport-h12016-us.pdf

 

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