We are excited to announce the launch of the Hudson Company’s newly revamped mobile application, which is available on phone and tablet devices by going to their company website at www.thehudsoncompany.com. Located in Chicago, IL, The Hudson Company is a boutique brokerage that
focuses on the North Shore market. Not your average brokerage, they devote their time and energy to differentiating themselves from the competition in more ways than one. With top of the line marketing and a broad community inspiration pushing their brand forward, we strove to develop a mobile application that highlighted the value that they bring to the market. Working closely with their team, we developed an application that demonstrates The Hudson Company’s close attention to detail while simultaneously creating a brand alignment between their web and mobile platform. We see mobile applications as a valuable piece and extension of a brokerage’s brand and value proposition. From the web to the phone, the experience should remain a seamless transition. Seamless brand integration is important to establish through all online and offline outlets, which is what we aim to do with all of our clients.
What Makes Hudson Unique
Already standing apart for their impeccable marketing, The Hudson Company needed a way to apply this differentiation to their mobile presence. What distinguishes The Hudson Company’s marketing from their competitors is the detail and work they place into each property listing. It starts with the high resolution photography that they generate for each property. They incorporate these photos into a digital brochure and virtual video tour that provide all of the information that a prospective buyer would like to know about a property before deciding to tour the home. We were tasked with the challenge of taking this incredible marketing platform The Hudson Company has created in their existing online and offline presence and translating that into a user friendly mobile website. Through close interaction with their team, we were able to implement a design that exceeded expectations.
Transitioning from Web to Mobile
Since The Hudson Company was all about the user experience and had an established brand design in mind, we worked closely with them to make sure their mobile platform emulated this. The result was a modern, sleek, user friendly design throughout all the pages and resources on the application. We took special care in making sure the high resolution photos of their property listings were portrayed just as beautifully on the mobile interface. So what specifically makes their new application stand out?
1. The design. With cleaner colors, brighter backgrounds, and smooth transitions between pages, the design stands apart. It is customized specifically for their brand and completely one of a kind and unique to The Hudson Company – something that was already making them stand apart from other competitors. The design reflects high end quality and care, which helps their clients to recognize and sets the expectation of the high level of service The Hudson Company provides to their clients.
2. Implementation of their web marketing. We didn’t just leave the application completely naked with only minimal marketing that the company had already worked so hard on. We implemented it, which really gives their mobile website some leverage in the market. We incorporated all of the high resolution photographs of their listings, the video tours, and the digital brochures. We paid attention to detail to ensure that the resolutions and clarity of the images remained intact when switching platforms, thereby maintaining our philosophy of seamless brand transition from web to mobile.
3. Now includes tablets. Mobile doesn’t just mean phones anymore, and with the new revamp we wanted to make sure tablets weren’t left out. More and more users have tablets today, but not enough applications are formatted to look their best on them. We decided to change this by giving The Hudson Company a leg up on the competition by ensuring that their newly renovated application also looked flawless on tablets.
4. Highlighting the Team. We wanted to shine a brighter spotlight on their broker associates, especially considering the personalized boutique nature of the brokerage and their involvement in the community. New bios were added complete with high resolution photos along with all of their contact information. From the user perspective, you can not only see and learn about members of the team, but also contact them with a simple tap. Ease of contact exemplifies the personal touch The Hudson Company includes in their interactions with clients.
It’s Just the Beginning
2.0 only scratches the surface of what’s possible when it comes to the mobile platform. As the brokerage continues to grow and develop their brand, so will their mobile application grow and develop with them. Keeping The Hudson Company on the forefront of burgeoning technology enables them to be the leading brokerage in both their market and the industry.
As usual, 2014 was a busy year for mobile. Apple released not one, but two bigger iPhones, Amazon jumped into the market with the Fire Phone, Android and iOS continued their dominance, mobile payments got a huge boost with Apple Pay, and mobile phone car integrations got a huge boost with Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto.
I don’t expect that 2015 will be any different. There is still a lot of opportunity in mobile. It’s a dynamic market with rapid technology advancements making it hard for anyone to keep up. That being said, here are some trends that I’m watching the rest of this year.
- Android gradually pulls away from Apple in market share
Android and Apple have been neck-and-neck over the last few years, but I feel this is the year Android slowly pulls away. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone is a great product, but the shear volume of Android competition is creating innovations that makes it hard for one company to keep up with.
- Smaller phones make a comeback
For some reason, it’s near impossible to buy a flagship phone these days that isn’t at least 4.7″ in screen size. We’ve entered the “SUV” stage of the phone market where bigger is perceived as better. While the bigger screens are great, there’s still a market for smaller 4″ handsets. It’s an end of the market that’s been abandoned, for now. I suspect we’ll see new flagship phones come out this year that will give people the option of carrying a pocket-sized phone again.
- Phone hardware advances stall
There’s only so many ways you can build and style a rectangular slab of metal and plastic with a screen. In fact, all of the latest hardware features are gimmicks rather than technological breakthroughs. In 2015, the biggest advancement will be made in software – both in the apps and the operating system itself.
- Modular phones open up new business models
Google’s Project Ara, a modular smartphone project, is slowly coming to life. When it does get here later this year, I expect it will open up a bunch of new business models and spawn a cottage industry of hardware manufacturers that will allow you to customize your phone. For example, are pictures you’re thing? You’ll be able to plug-in a great camera. Need extra battery life? You can trade-off features for a bigger battery. The options will be endless.
- Windows Phone (Microsoft) ends up third by default
Microsoft continues to spend their way to grabbing market share. The problem is, it isn’t working. Even though their share of the market declined in 2014, it fell a lot slower than their competitors. Microsoft is going to end up as the third mobile option. It’s not because they won, it’s because they had enough money to survive longer than their competitors at the bottom of the mobile food chain. While this may change with the launch of Windows 10, the effects won’t be felt until mid-2016 at the earliest.
- Amazon takes another run at phones
The Fire Phone was a flop for a myriad of reason, the primary ones being carrier lock-in and price. I don’t know much about Jeff Bezos, but I do know that he is a fierce competitor who wants to win. The phone is an important part of Amazon’s strategy, and they will take another run at it this year. They need to dramatically lower the price and bundle with a free/discounted phone service made available through Amazon Prime. I figured they could offer the phone service as an MVNO through one of the existing carriers, but Google may beat them to it.
- No-contract options continue growth
If you haven’t tried going no-contract, you should. T-mobile has been very successful acquiring customer with their no-contract options, so I expect that we will see more no-contract options from all the major US wireless carriers in 2015.
- BlackBerry gets acquired
As a hardware provider, BlackBerry is done. Their software, though, is still very valuable. I expect that 2015 will be the year that someone looking to enter or augment their mobile offerings steps up and buys BlackBerry.
- Wearables look for a niche
Smartwatches, Google Glass, and fitness trackers were all the rage this past Christmas, but in my opinion, they are a fancy solution looking to solve a problem none of us have. Do we really need to carry around more devices that scream for our attention? I don’t expect big things from wearables in 2015. In fact, I don’t see the market for wearables growing until they find their killer app.
- Tablets struggle to maintain their growth rate
Two years ago, it was predicted that tablets would clobber PC sales. Turns out people realized they still need PCs for true creative work. Tablets are great consumption devices, but they don’t need replaced nearly as often as phones. I suspect the tablet market will still be healthy in 2015, but don’t expect it to grow as rapidly as in the past, and don’t expect it to be a true replacement for the desktop/laptop PC – at least not in 2015.
- Apps adapt to car integration
Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto are making their rounds at the car shows this winter and spring, which means we should see them in cars this summer. The car is a new context area for apps, so developers will have to adapt their apps to these new use cases. I suspect that developers will spend more time adjusting their apps for car integration than they will updating them for wearables.
- Mobile payment options advance, but don’t go mainstream
Apple Pay is gaining momentum in mobile payments, but mobile payments are still not ready for mainstream. The existing merchant credit card players are dragging their feet with mobile implementation, and businesses have too much invested in existing hardware to make wholesale changes. Mobile payments will continue to be an area of focus for lots of companies in 2015, but I still don’t see it as a mainstream payment option. Maybe in 2016, but I suspect it could be 2017 before the mobile payment market really takes off.
Out of all the above, the only constant I can guarantee for 2015 is change, and lots of it.
We are pleased to announce the availability of the Riskin Associates mobile application. Based in Montecito, CA, Riskin Associates has been the top selling Santa Barbara real estate team for the past decade. The award-winning team lists some of the most coveted estates on the south Santa Barbara coast. We were engaged by them to create a mobile application that would add to the services they provide their buying and selling clients that have made them a market leader.
Goals and Approach
For the design of the application, we took queues from the Village Properties mobile website we developed since the Riskin Associates team is part of the brokerage. We decided to keep the overall flow of the application intact, but the branding, content and functionality needed customized for Riskin Associates. We wanted to accomplish a number of goals with the modified design:
- Produce a clean, elegant design that conveys the elegance and luxury of the properties they represent
- Provide a vehicle for them to highlight and market their distinctive properties
- Incorporate visual imagery that reflects the unique nature and beauty of their listings and the surrounding area
- Create a finished product that would further differentiate their brand and set them apart as a leader in the market
Key features of the application
In order to develop the key features of the application, we evaluated their online presence which uses vivid photos and imagery to highlight their property listings. We wanted to provide a similar visual experience on mobile and give Riskin Associates the flexibility to highlight the different properties they represent. In addition to the essential features such as property search (both by location and by criteria), methods to contact the team, and an about us section, we incorporated the following:
- A vivid home page focused on a full width image that can be dynamically changed by Riskin Associates
- A featured listing section that allows them to highlight the properties they represent – each listing is its own interactive photo gallery that can be compiled and controlled by the Riskin Associates marketing team
- Links to custom content created by the marketing team such as property brochures that are hosted through Calaméo
You can access the application via any iPhone or Android device by opening the browser (or Safari) on your phone and going to www.montecito-realestate.com. You will be automatically redirected to the mobile application where you can learn more about the Riskin Associates team and explore their featured listings.
Raising the bar for service and performance
It was a pleasure working with the Riskin Associates team on the development of their mobile application. The energy and enthusiasm they brought to the project is evident in the finished product. It is a reflection of the time and personal attention that they give each of their clients. It shows in all aspects of their business, particularly in the level of service they provide their clients and the attention-to-detail they put into their marketing materials. With the availability of their mobile application, they have another tool that reinforces this high level of service, whether it is used for marketing properties or helping prospective buyers identify properties to purchase.
The Riskin Associates mobile application is another example of how leading brokerages and agent teams are embracing mobile to raise the bar on the services the provide their clients, differentiate themselves in the market, and further reinforce their leadership position in the market
We are pleased to announce that the Surterre Properties mobile application is available for download in the App Store and Google Play. Based in Newport Beach, CA, Surterre Properties is Orange County’s leading luxury real estate brokerage. Surterre strives to provide their clients the best of both worlds. On the one hand, they employ experienced, successful, locally based agents who are dedicated to delivering personalized client service and results. On the other hand, Surterre possesses the strategic vision, marketing acumen and global reach one would expect to find at a much larger company. We worked with their in-house marketing and design team to package and add native mobile features to the mobile web presence that we developed for them earlier this year.
Using mobile to differentiate
When Surterre Properties initially approached us regarding the project, we were excited about the opportunities it presented. Surterre wasn’t interested in simply checking a box so they could say they had a mobile presence. They wanted to create a unique experience that would reflect the effort and care they put into servicing their clients.
The first thing you’ll notice when you open the app is that it is does not look like your typical real estate mobile application. It is not a standard template re-branded with different colors and a logo. It’s a unique experience that reflects the approach and effort they put into all levels of their marketing. It contains vivid imagery and utilizes the colors, textured backgrounds, and brand elements that are present throughout their other marketing materials, both online and offline. The application stands out from other real estate apps and is a true representation of the company’s brand and the level of service that they provide to their clients.
To create the native applications for the App Store and Google Play, we used the mobile web application as the basis for the development. It allowed us to achieve two important goals:
- From a user experience perspective, the interface between the mobile web and native apps is identical. It allows a client to use either version of the application without having to learn new gestures or user interface conventions. It also eliminates the disjointed messaging that can occur between application versions, which is common when different companies produce the mobile web and native versions of the app.
- We were able to leverage the existing code base which allowed us to more efficiently develop both the iOS and Android versions of the application. The result was completing the project in a shorter timeframe and at a lower cost than building separate applications for each mobile platform.
Furthermore, moving to the native development platform allowed us to include a few additional features that were not possible in the mobile web version of the application.
- Clients can add agent contact data to their address book with the press of a button;
- Clients can add open house dates and times to their calendar with the press of a button; and
- Property search results are presented with larger, full bleed images.
Well, the last features isn’t a native specific feature, but one that we chose to add to differentiate the user interface of the native application from the mobile web version. It also makes for a more engaging and visually appealing application, and it’s a feature that we may chose to migrate to the mobile web version in the future.
We have only scratched the surface with regards to what’s possible. The foundation we have put in place will allow us to leverage more native capabilities over time. The result will be an even more personalized client experience and an enhanced vehicle for highlighting and promoting their listings.
Raising the bar
As Orange County’s leading luxury brokerage, Surterre Properties is using mobile to engage their clients at a deeper level and to differentiate themselves from the competition. Their mobile presence, both web and native, supports the company’s strategic positioning as a real estate company that provides personalized service and superior results to their clients.
It’s been a pleasure working with the Surterre Properties marketing and design team, and we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership. The features we have planned for their mobile presence will help to them raise the bar further and reinforce their place as Orange County’s leading luxury brokerage.
Download the Surterre Properties native mobile application for yourself and see how they are using mobile to reinforce their brand’s image, create a competitive advantage, and provide an engaging, personalized experience for their clients. iPhone users can download the application from the App Store by clicking here, and Android users can download the application from Google Play by clicking here.
If you’d like to learn how we can help tell your brand’s story with a differentiated mobile presence, feel free to contact us by phone or the web through our contact page, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I normally don’t review or recommend paid apps, but this month I’m going to make an exception with FloodMap Mobile by Atkins North America. The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices and costs $1.99, which is very reasonable given the functionality. In fact, I’d consider it an essential app for any agent or real estate professional.
As you would expect from the name, the app tells you the flood risk of a property address based on FEMA flood maps. You either enter the property address or use your location, and the app will show you the flood maps for that area. By entering some additional data about the address, such as the value of the property and its contents, the app will provide risk and insurance estimates. I wouldn’t recommend using the app as the official word regarding flood analysis, but at least you’ll have preliminary information when reviewing properties with buyers or discussing property risks with sellers.
In addition to maps, risk and insurance estimates, you can also access more detailed FEMA Flood Mapping Information including the FEMA Region, Community Number, Map Number, and Flood Zone for future reference. There is also a share button (labeled “Email”) that lets you email a report, post it to social media channels, or create notes through other installed apps on your phone.
Below are a few screen shots showing how the application works. In the first screen shot, you will see that the app is displaying my current location using the blue dot, which is our office (click image to enlarge). It allows me to quickly see if I am in a flood zone, which is shown by the red/orange crass-hatched areas. Thankfully, it appears that we are safe!
If I want to get more information, such as flood risk and insurance information, I can choose the Location option and enter my address. In this case I entered our office address. If I want to get more information, I simply touch the property icon that appears on the map, and then the “i” (or information) icon on the pop-up display.
The application then asks me for some property data, including the estimated value of the property and its contents. Then it will tell me the flood risk and provide an insurance estimate. I can also email this report to myself (or others) if I want to reference it later when talking with an insurance professional.
These are just the basic features. There are options that let you compare properties and access additional map information through the “Layers” menu. Layers include Base Flood Elevation, Flood Hazard Structures, Coastal Barriers, Dams, Bridges and Non-FEMA Floodplains.
For anyone who is a real estate professional, FloodMap Mobile is an essential tool and a $1.99 well spent. It gives you an initial look at a property’s flood risk so you’ll be aware of any possible issues should you proceed with a transaction. Just be sure, as mentioned above, to validate any information you receive from the app with an appropriate professional to insure its validity and accuracy.