Nowadays, mobile applications are considered to be the most widely used and effective marketing tool in the business world. According to an NAR Report, 72% of Real Estate customers use them to look for suitable property options.
Increasingly, Real Estate companies have begun to invest more in the development of a competitive mobile application for their business, which seems quite tough, as each of them face significant competition in the real estate mobile app market. When users install an app, but fail to experience decent response rates from it, this often results in one-time use and an immediate uninstall of the app in just a couple of clicks.
One of the best ways to avoid this issue, and increase the retention of loyal users, is an initially different approach to development. To reduce the uninstall rate of a mobile app, it should be designed to be advantageous to both agents and customers. As such, real estate mobile app features often require careful consideration to ensure high opt-in rates, thus increasing app user retention rates.
Before we look at the elements that most often require fixing in real estate mobile apps, let’s consider the reasons for using mobile apps in the property market. The benefits mostly come down to retaining customers; an essential element in the real estate industry, yet also one of the biggest challenges.
It’s important to realise that a real estate mobile app can bring huge benefits to a business in the following ways:
An Increase in Customer Reach
With an app, every real estate company has the power to reach customers that they could not physically reach using other platforms. A smartphone is always at hand, and due to mobile Internet, everyone can be online, anytime and anywhere. This 24/7 reach is of huge value to businesses.
Amplification of Customer Engagement
A well-thought-out and properly designed app interface, with features that are individual to each user, can encourage engagement and will help the app gather momentum. This, in turn, ignites interest, which means a user will stay with the mobile app for longer. Interestingly, a recent Criteo Research Study showed quite clearly that real estate mobile applications are twice as likely to retain users than their mobile browser equivalent.
Enhanced Communication and Customer Support
Regular communication is the key to building and maintaining healthy relationships with customers. The use of important features, such as push technology opt-in, in-app messaging and bespoke, tailored app options increases the value of the real estate mobile app, as agents can contact customers directly, grab their attention and notify them in real-time. Customers favour this type of personal touch.
A real estate mobile app might include the most amazing, up to date features and technology, but difficulties occur when the lifespan of the app in the customers mobile phone is short. According to Localytics, 21% of users open an app just once before abandoning it.
By the 90-day mark, a whopping 75% of users will have disregarded the app completely, so it’s unsurprising that users ever only really need between 3 and 7 days to decide whether they will continue to use the app or not. So, it’s easy to see why keeping a customer focussed and engaged is paramount.
For a real estate app to be successful, it must have subscribers who are not only loyal, but also use the app exactly as it was intended; this is where retention rates are crucial. So, let’s consider why customers may be lost.
A Lack of Understanding of the App’s Value
If a customer is not advised as to the workings of the app and how it can benefit them, for example, it’s time saving abilities in helping them find property in their exact current location while walking or driving around, viewing the most recently added listings nearby and quality images of available properties, then interest and therefore retention will be low.
Difficulty With the Initial Onboarding of Customers
If there is not a set process and outline of features and benefits that are adhered to, to ensure customers come on-board initially, a lack of sign-ups automatically equates to low mobile app retention rates, simply due to fewer customers.
A Lack of Personalisation Within the App
No matter what the nature of the business is, customers like to feel special. When an app is ‘one-size-fits-all’, customers engage less because it is not specific enough to their needs or desires.
The best real estate mobile apps should incorporate features available for smartphones and include the ability to complete tasks quickly, whilst on the move, to increase retention. This, combined with a smart initial onboarding process, can go a long way towards increasing customer retention rates.
Ensure Slick Onboarding
On-boarding is about balance, so it’s important to understand that new users will require guidance, but won’t want to be overloaded with information. Basic functionality will suffice initially and then following a ‘learn by doing’ approach is beneficial. The drip-feeding of advanced features and functionalities over a period also holds interest.
Add Search Filters and Sorting
Ease of filtering and sorting is vital within any app, simply because not all information is of interest to all people at all times. So, by filtering, an element of individuality enters the picture straight away. For example, a filter might include options to choose a property of a particular type, budget, location, locality and area, number of rooms, parking, garden and garage.
Utilise Instant Push Notifications and Alerts
Search filters and sorting, coupled with instant notifications and alerts, make a powerful combination. According to Kahuna Mobile Marketing, push notifications double mobile app retention rates and help prevent app uninstalls. The reason is simple – engagement. By increasing the push notification opt in rate, staying in touch with customers and offering them bespoke updates, the customer not only feels special, but realises there is no effort required to get the latest information and updates, thus quickly understanding that the real estate app is of value to them.
Include ‘Smart Map’ Features
Mapping technology, such as Heat Map, Geo-Targeting, Geopush and even ‘draw your desired area’ type technology, must be an essential part of the real estate mobile app, as it allows customers to see all listings in a specific area whilst at home or on the move. GPS based search technology can show properties in specific geographical locations, which makes searching extremely simple.
‘Save Your Search’ Feature
Of course, any ‘search’ features would be pointless if there is no ‘save your search’ option, a feature that allows customers to add their preferred properties to a favourites list. Once the favourites are within a special list in a specific location within the mobile app, the customer can refer to them as often as they wish, safe in the knowledge that they are easy to view.
Find an Agent Feature and In-app Messaging and Calling
If a customer can easily find an agent, and messaging or calling that agent can be done in-app, then this immediately makes life easier for the customer. No searching for numbers, leaving the app and then re-entering. Any process that can be completed from one main hub contributes to the retention of customers looking for simplicity.
Real Estate Calculators
A real estate mobile app that can give a customer reliable information about mortgage interest rates and estimated payments goes a long way towards customer retention, but is also useful for a real estate agent when they are on the move and are looking to work out affordability, or the best lender for their client.
As for your customers, what better way to recall which property was viewed on what date than with a calendar within the real estate app that keeps track of all such data? Customers can easily refer to this data 24/7.
Buyers often rely on feedback of other users, so you are guaranteed to get a variety of perspectives, increase the level of user confidence and get the opportunity to find out the weaknesses in your work. Users are able to get all the information they require, as well as ask questions, join in discussions and interact with like-minded individuals and professionals. So, the in-app forum is a great resource for engaging newcomers and experienced users alike.
Signing Documents Online
When it comes to getting documents signed, a digital or electronic signature feature is the most efficient way to do so on the move. It’s even better if the app can be connected with a cloud service such as Dropbox or Evernote so that documents can be imported and saved. This way you will speed up the transaction process, saving yours and the customer's time.
Using this feature, the properties up for sale or rent can be shared on social media, which will attract more buyers. This way, the users themselves market your mobile app to other prospects -there is a 52% chance that your app will be discovered via a friend, family or colleague, outside the app store. You get the opportunity to target a huge spectrum of customers through different social media sharing platforms without much effort or cost.
As we already know, when a customer encounters difficulty early on when using a real estate app, this is likely to lead to the app being abandoned for simpler alternatives, so the design is crucial. In order to retain users, three simple steps must be taken when it comes to the design:
Easy Onboarding Flow
The onboarding process is crucial when creating the initial experience. At the initial stage, you should show your product value while reducing user inputs to an absolutely necessary minimum. Easy onboarding equals simple instructions. Your app could benefit by offering first-time users helpful, simple drop-down tips, directing them to key features and service offerings.
Rich and Appealing App Design
When we are talking about selling a property worth millions, how you introduce it to the user is also of great importance. Real estate mobile apps should be developed with a rich and intuitive user interface. Based on how impressively your property is presented on the app, a customer decides whether to visit it and go ahead with transaction talks. This helps to increase the success of app relaunches, average in-app session lengths, app stickiness, and 90-day user retention in the long run.
Simplicity Is the Key
A more usable app focuses on users and reduces chances of app uninstalls. Paired with the minimalistic approach of the interface design, clear, eye-soothing visual elements could help maintain user attention for longer and prevent them from looking for other options. The idea is the simpler the real estate mobile app is, the easier it is for the users to use its features and not get bogged down in all the extra opportunities.
With 157.2 million monthly unique users*, Trulia is committed to providing a host of important information, including property for sale, neighbourhood insights and markets and trends, to help customers figure out everything they need to know as they embark on their property journey.
The main features include finding a real estate agent, prices of recently sold homes, home values in specific locations, advice and opinions from local real estate agents, brokers, and other local experts via their own online community.
Each listing contains key information e.g. price, address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and square footage, along with an estimate of the monthly mortgage payment. Property photos and listing details are also displayed, plus a detailed description of the property provided by the agent, features, and similar homes in the area.
Trulia also provides a breakdown of monthly costs, including mortgage payments, home insurance and any associated fees, which give prospective buyers an idea of affordability.
Masters in retaining customers, Trulia are able to do this due to their refined features, allowing them to empower customers with data, inspiration and knowledge, while connecting them with professionals who can help them during the buying and selling process.
To sum up, users don't stay around because of the number of features in your real estate mobile app, they stay close because you have the right features that provide them value. That's why the most successful mobile apps are the ones that have a core set of well-thought-out features, rather than tons of features that are useless and confusing.
Your real estate mobile app needs to be more individual and embrace features that directly correlate to mobile app retention rates to adapt quickly to the market and your target audience’s demands. With a well-thought-out app, you will never lose a prospective buyer again. Clients will not only want to use the application, but also enjoy using it, which will increase performance.
According to a study by Frederic Reichheld of Bain & Company, a 5% increase in customer retention means an increase in profit between 25% and 95%. Once you understand how to harness the power of mobile apps for your real estate business, you can take your business to the next level.