According to a Twitter poll by QuantumListings, 81% of the agents who responded said they don’t use mobile CRE apps at all. So the thinking is that there’s a big opportunity for developers to create CRE specific mobile apps.
To be sure, there aren’t a lot of CRE specific apps. Some are standalone like calculators or measuring tools. Most of them, however, are a mobile appendage for a CRE specific subscription or app – like LoopNet, CoStar, cloud CRM or transaction management apps. What’s maybe more important about the 81% is what it says about the subscription rates for CRE apps.
Or perhaps the wrong question was asked. If the question had been how often you do use your phone for CRE related purposes, the percentage would have likely been 100%. And if you look over Comscore’s annual list of most popular apps, you’ll see that communication and information apps dominate the list. Who in CRE who took that poll hasn’t used at least one of those apps?
In the mobile industry, an app’s success is based on its user value – and I don’t mean value to the user, though that does have some influence on success. User value is how much a user purchases – for, within or because of the app. Apple owners, for example, tend to buy premium apps and make purchases on their phone (in our outside app) at a rate twice that of Android owners.
Like many CRE mobile apps are now, most of the most popular mobile apps have a desktop component. Is that necessary with desktop usage decreasing at about the same rate that mobile usage is increasing? Maybe it is, because if you look within the mobile usage numbers, you’ll see mobile website traffic is growing at twice the rate of app usage. Does that make the case for mobile friendly sites over apps? Not in the mobile world. The app rules, because no matter what platform, an app user has more value than a mobile website user. But for now, they’re covering all the bases.
Yes, it’s all about money – a perspective that CRE mobile app developers don’t really consider when creating mobile apps. Mobile CRE apps are created more as a hook – a benefit for those who subscribe or buy a web or desktop version of the app. No one in CRE is looking at mobile as a channel in itself.
There are two things to take away from how everyone else is looking at mobile. First is alternate ways to monetize apps, particularly standalone ones. Besides initial purchase price or subscription fees, you should consider “in app” purchases for feature upgrades or in app advertising networks as revenue sources. Agent or brokerage advertising packages work, too, especially if your app is widely (for CRE…) used. Ads would be served to users within the app based on their location or search activity.
The other is the target. Who are you trying to attract? If its agents, what CRE specific app can you create that aligns with how people use their phone? What communication or information apps – the types of apps that are perennially popular – can meet CRE’s unique needs that enough are willing to pay for?
If it’s CRE users that are the target – the buyers/tenants/owners – what kind of app do you create for them? If you’re going to use listings as the lure – and leads for agents – the problem is always having enough. If agents don’t participate or you can’t find other ways to get listings, you end up with no users and no leads.
Perhaps it’s time to stop using listings to attract. What if you created an app that lists all the agents and brokerages in the US with their contact info, social network profiles and any reviews you can find on the web? Even local versions would work or be more manageable to start. Or maybe create a Sitegiest type app with CRE related information garnered from the vast amounts of free data from around the web.
There’s more to CRE than just listings, isn’t there? And there’s more to cracking mobile than finding a hole to fill – and filling it with more “appendage” apps for agents. It’s about gaining more exposure, finding new users and markets. To do that, CRE apps need to be based on how people use their phones for non-CRE apps. Time to start looking at mobile from outside the CRE tunnel.