NEW ORLEANS, LA - With the proliferation of smart phone technology, use-specific and creative business mobile apps are making a comeback in a big way. The latest example? An app helping to guide attendees to the best events, features, and speakers at this year’s Apartment Internet Marketing Conference. Sponsored by Apartment Guide, the app is available for iPhone and iPad and is indicative of where marketing content for multifamily is likely to head in the future. Apartment Guide Senior Product Manager Brian Lee stopped by MultifamilyBiz.com this week for an exclusive download on where the apartment app scene is headed.
MultifamilyBiz.com: The importance of mobile marketing to multifamily owners and managers seems to be growing every day. How much has the use of mobile among apartment searchers changed how Apartment Guide approaches digital marketing?
Brian Lee: With the ever-increasing usage of mobile devices, Apartment Guide has focused considerable resources on the mobile apartment search experience. Throughout the past few years we have created a mobile version of Apartment Guide, and have launched the industry’s first mobile applications for all major platforms. In August 2010, mobile traffic accounted for approximately 5 percent of overall traffic, in January 2011 it doubled to more than 10 percent and today it accounts for more than 40 percent (including tablets).
MultifamilyBiz.com: What are some of the changes you've seen in mobile apartment search over the past several years? Have any characteristics on location, search terms, devices, or mobile platforms/apps grown or changed substantially?
Brian Lee: As the number of mobile Web-capable devices and smartphones increased throughout the past few years, we have experienced growth in user engagement on these mobile platforms. Additionally, the last year has shown a significant growth in the number of tablet devices and as a result, Apartment Guide has placed a renewed emphasis on maximizing the user experience on the larger screen they offer. In 2009, almost all of our mobile traffic was from iOS (iPhone). Now, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android are split fairly evenly.
MultifamilyBiz.com: What about apps, specifically? How has the world of apps changed in the past couple of years, both from a design and functionality standpoint? What defines a cool app that gets downloaded and used a lot versus one that languishes?
Brian Lee: Users expect and desire an app that is simple to use, offers advanced capabilities and allows users to save their favorites. Additionally, offering the ability to search via an interactive map has grown in popularity in the past couple of years.
MultifamilyBiz.com: Are mobile apartment marketing apps limited by the nature of apartment search? i.e., once a prospect finds a place to live, they no longer need the app?
Brian Lee: While that has traditionally been the view of the multifamily ILS industry, Apartment Guide is actively assessing what we might be able to offer consumers and properties after the lease is signed. We have seen an increase in the number of "casual apartment shoppers" using mobile devices to look at properties outside of their normal shopping experience.
MultifamilyBiz.com: How can multifamily marketers and property managers make the best use of mobile app technology? What are your top 3 recommendations to help them find mobile marketing success?
Brian Lee: First, listen to your advertisers’ needs and the needs of the consumers. While your advertisers are your customers, our job as a mobile search app publisher is to drive consumers to your communities, so understanding the consumers’ needs in searching for a place to live is just as critical. Second, maintain a feature-rich mobile optimized (m-dot) website – you will see better conversion than if the user has to navigate a full (www) site on a small screen device. Lastly, get user feedback either informally or if possible, via a formalized user-testing program. Take that feedback seriously and use it to drive improvements into the mobile experience.
MultifamilyBiz.com: Any teasers of developing technologies or capabilities in the mobile app space that have Apartment Guide excited?
Brian Lee: Cloud technologies appear to offer opportunities that single-device apps have not historically offered. Near Field Communications and similar technologies may prove useful as well.
Apartment Guide is the official app sponsor of the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference. Visit www.aimconf.com/register to register for the conference and download the official conference app, now available in the iTunes App Store.