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Mobile and Web? Match Made in Heaven?

October 28 2010

iphone3Although about a third of US mobile phone subscribers used a downloaded application in August, according to ComScore. As app downloads have slowed down in their impressive growth, many mobile device users appear to think browsers offer the better user experience.

Mobile users polled by Keynote Systems for Adobe reported a preference for mobile browsers to access virtually all mobile content. Games, music and social media were the only categories in which users would rather use a downloaded app than browse the mobile web.

This research has a profound impact on the future of mobile search in real estate. I will tell you why I believe that after illustrating the trends discovered in the research.

Consumer preference for mobile browsers extended to the retail category, with users showing a strong bias toward mobile browsers for accomplishing every mobile shopping task mentioned. Whether it was researching product and price info or sharing that information socially, mobile users have a habit of going to a browser rather than a dedicated app.

These preferences may surprise you. They certainly shocked me. Facebook and Twitter are horrible to use on my iPhone, which is also true on my wife's Android. I always head for the apps for social networking, and I imagine that you do to.

Consumers may simply be unimpressed by the mobile-optimized efforts they have seen so far. When the Adobe survey asked about a preference for using regular or Mobile Optimized Sites on their mobile device, they preferred regular sites. According to the report, this preference suggests a low awareness of optimized experiences for the mobile web, but users could also be frustrated with the limited functionality that mobile enabled sites provide. They may also be experiencing frustration with the capacity of the mobile browser, for example, many sites that use flash (the most popular format for building restaurant websites) will not work on your iPhone.

As we turn our heads to real estate mobile, technology and real estate websites need to grow together to find the perfect consumer experience. Chief among the developments of the mobile browser is to pull in location information that currently is only found in applications. In other words, applications on your Smartphone can ping your GPS to find out where you are and provide you with local information. So if you visit a REALTORS® or broker's website, and you are in front of a home for sale that property appears. All of that technology exists today, but no company has stitched it together yet.


Secondly, the REALTOR® website and broker website need to become location aware. Your computer does not have a GPS (yet). Not sure that it ever will unless the technology just becomes so darn cheap that they just throw it in. However, in a way, websites on the Internet do know where you are from information they receive when you visit the website. If you have ever looked at your website analytics, you can see the region the visitor came from, the Operating System they were using (including version), even the browser. REALTOR® and broker websites with map search could automatically orientate the map to the user's area. You already see some of this functionality on Trulia and Zillow.

The Big Idea

As these two developments come together, mobile browsers become geo-location aware (like mobile apps) and REALTOR® and broker websites zoom property search to the location of the mobile device - a wonderful new mobile web experience is born. As a technology guy, that is our Big Bang!

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