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“Mobilegeddon” versus Mobile first

Here’s a hard truth: For many in the real estate industry, their mobile strategy isn’t paying off.

Too few leads are being generated and most brokerage mobile apps have, unfortunately, failed to achieve any real traction.

Yet we all know the homebuyer is increasingly mobile and we see it everywhere we look: In the grocery store checkout lines, on every commuter train or bus, even inside our own homes.

This year is going to be an even bigger bonanza as mobile asserts its dominance in the typical home because of the adoption of larger screen smart phones and the proliferation of tablets on coffee tables and kitchen counters everywhere.

If you have not already done it, now is the time to optimize your mobile web presence if you want to reach and identify more prospective homebuyers. This is especially true now that Google has forced “Mobilegeddon” on the world by using “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking factor for web search placement. Unfortunately, your mobile application won’t help you with this.

Going Mobile First

The Mobile First development process focuses your strategy on optimizing your web presence specifically for mobile consumers.

There is a danger in taking a shortcut by offering a scaled down (responsive) site developed for your desktop website. For many consumers, your responsive site won’t be very responsive. In the real world, consumers will often find your site is slow to load and weighed down with CSS files, none of which is required for a quick and efficient mobile search.

When homebuyers grab their mobile devices, the research says they are using it to search. That’s why building for the mobile site first lets you focus on what’s truly important: Providing easy access to the information consumers wants while giving you deep visibility into their activity.

Mobile First Design

Mobile First is a functional approach to web design that develops the mobile interface first, and then builds “up” to the traditional desktop web site.

It’s a radical and fundamentally different approach than most of the current solutions in our industry. Today, most web development companies do it backwards: Mobile becomes the afterthought instead of the primary focus.

As a result, what the homebuyer sees on their smartphone is often a tarnished version of a your desktop website. Often without location-based functionality (GPS), mobile friendly tours or the ability to share the site via text. These things are important to the millennial homebuyer. Me too…and I’m 53.

Conversely, Mobile First, uses “progressive enhancement” to take a mobile interface and enhance it to become a full-functioned traditional website. The non-mobile portion of your website will consistently decrease in importance. Thus…”Mobile First.”

Enter the App

The real estate industry was quick to realize that mobile touch screens, combined with GPS and quick load times, were the future of our content rich industry.

Unfortunately, real estate industry website providers simply didn’t have the mobile programming experience to build rich mobile sites that delivered the right mobile experience.

Enter the stand-alone mobile application. Stand-alone mobile apps filled this void, allowing companies to create a better mobile experience. The catch was Buyers had to log into their app store to download this beautiful content.

Best of both worlds

Lately, real estate thought leaders, practitioners and consumers are all asking the same question: “Why does someone need to download a separate app to get the right mobile experience from my website content?”

The answer in 2015 is: You don’t.

Technology has made the functionality of the mobile web interface now on par with what one would expect from a quality mobile app.

Now that it’s possible to have the best of both worlds, why doesn’t your web vendor provide you a quality mobile web experience?

The answers to this question are a little unsettling, but likely include the following:

They never had to. Just pick up your smartphone and take a look at several real estate brokerage sites. What you’ll notice is a “sea of mediocrity” when it comes to the site’s mobile functionality. Although there are some impressive mobile interfaces provided by web vendors; they are rare. This is probably due to the lack of competition in the mobile web development in real estate industry. Web vendors got a “pass” on their mobile site development when brokerages invested in their own mobile apps. It saved them both the trouble and expense of developing mobile functionality for your site.

It was free You received a responsive design site as part of your web investment. In effect, you got what you paid-for: A slow-loading mobile site, most often without a GPS map search or photo swiping technology. As long as web sites and mobile sites are purchased from the same vendors, expect more of the same.

Mobile Talent Pool Considerations Quality mobile site development requires a different talent set than is required with traditional web design. These folks are hard to find and expensive to retain. Besides, they already have jobs: They’re working at Mobile First and application development companies (mainly because they don’t want to support legacy, flash-based traditional websites).

In The End, Better Lead Gen

Imagine if your mobile website operated better than your mobile application. Where your SEO investment doesn’t get sabotaged as you send your mobile consumers away from your site for an “appropriate” mobile experience. Activity is just more visible when you control it on your own site. More visible activity = Better Lead Generation.

The successful approach to your on-line identity no longer starts from the desktop down; it is from the smartphone up. When you invest, you need to consider what it really takes to develop a quality mobile site strategy.

The solution for most real estate firms today will never be found in a real estate app. All of our phones are loaded with apps we never use. Avoid the barrier of any mobile solution that requires a download to view optimized content. Remember, hardly anyone downloads an app at the curb.

A quality mobile strategy can give you the tools to leverage your SEO investment and incorporate IDX-based mobile landing pages for lead-generating tools like text and IVR (search-by-phone). An app, well, just stands alone.

The Bottom Line

Going Mobile First ensures that you’ll best serve the largest segment of your home buying market. By provide a mobile site that is optimized for small screens and incorporates exciting search tools that previously were only available on mobile apps. Apparently, this is what the new Google mobile-friendly ranking process is all about.

Doing this unites your mobile and desktop strategies and you gain greater visibility into your home buying consumer and generate more quality leads.

After all, it’s really all about one thing: Lead generation.

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