The migration to online advertising is an inexorable march leaving in its wake the traditional platforms of print, outdoor, TV and radio. Whilst digital is where the advertising dollars are headed following the ‘eyeballs’, it is far more complex a process to optimize the expenditure in digital media given the variables and opportunities for rich personalisational engagements between brands and consumers.
This challenge is in many ways more complex and yet potentially rewarding when it comes to the mobile platform and the apps that dominate this landscape. The smaller screen space and less structured format for ad space, matched to the added context of location is both the great opportunity and the inherent challenge with looming pitfalls for the unwary.
When it comes to real estate, the mobile environment is now seen as the first priority with close to half of all engagements with agent listings via a mobile devices in many parts of the world. So getting it right from a user experience perspective is key.
The consumer loves mobiles. Whether it be on the couch of an evening or in the car checking out open homes at the weekend. However a major issue for property portals is the ability to monetize that enormous audience in a way that adds relevance and value. Monetisation is critical as most portals rely on display advertising or content advertising on the web, which, with its large page format provides multiple touch-point monetization whereas the smaller screen and smarter user experience limits the mobile options.
What portals need to do is deploy advertising in intelligent and valuable ways so that the consumer using the app and the advertiser seeking to engage that audience derive mutual value.
Sadly my recent experience in my local market in New Zealand over the past few weeks seems to be somewhat less than ideal and may end up in my opinion damaging the consumer experience rather than deriving significant advertising revenue and creating mutual value between portal and advertiser. Let me explain with an example. (I make these following comments not as direct criticisms of the portal in question: Realestate.co.nz or their respective advertising partner, I simply want to provide feedback and opinion as a demonstration of the principle).
The Realestate.co.nz mobile app featured an advert for the real estate company, RE/MAX. This advert had a call to action “Thinking of selling?” and a click invitation to “Find your local agent”. This I judge to be a compelling and contextual advert as it is well known that a large proportion of property hunters are also likely to be about to sell their home.
However the user experience collapsed as soon as you click the link. For rather than delivering you with what you want (or what I judge you would want) – a list of contact details of local Re/Max agents, you are thrown onto their website (mobile enabled) and forced to do a manual search for the location and agent that might be able to help you. Again in my opinion a less than satisfactory experience and more importantly a missed opportunity made all the worse in my mind by the heightened expectation created.
A Better Solution
What could have Re/Max and Realestate.co.nz done better to deliver a valuable user experience? – here are a few pointers:
- Created a landing page that accepted a URL structure that carried with it the geo-coordinates of the users on the app at that time, this would require the portal to parse such data, also it would require the landing page to do a smart database look up for agents in that area. This would deliver a user experience that gave a much more relevant answer to the request “Find your local agent”
- An even smarter solution would (again dependent upon the data export from the portal) be for the URL structure to parse not just geo-location data but also user search string as to price of property and type of property. In this way the landing page could provide a shortlist of agents who not only operated in the local market to where the person is searching but also personalise the result to show agents that are currently marketing the type of property and the price range of such property or are specialists in this sector.
Both of these solutions, whilst more complex and costly than a simple banner advert would deliver far greater likelihood of conversion as well as a far more enhanced user experience. Yes the cost of the development might even be more than the costs of advertising, but I am sure it would pale into insignificance compared to a mainstream non-digital brand campaign and yet be able to deliver real results.
Technology holds great opportunity to undertake engaging and rewarding user experiences. It is always disappointing in my opinion to see such experience squandered through limited thinking or simplistic advertising strategy, planning and investment. The greatest threat though is that poor or frustrating user experience created by such campaigns may forever limit the opportunity of the medium for both advertisers and portals alike and potentially have damaging impacts on the reputation of portals.