Mobile platform - getting smarter and growing in importance

by Alistair Helm in ,

iPhone iStock_000017188325Small.jpg.png

There are more internet connected devices in people’s hands these days than the total installed base of computers and laptops. If you add on the 440 million tablet devices to the 1.6 billion smartphones it far exceeds the total of 1.53 billion desktop and laptop computers.

Data from Mary Meekers (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) presentation at the ReCode conference on Internet Trends May 2014

Data from Mary Meekers (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) presentation at the ReCode conference on Internet Trends May 2014

We have reached this tipping point of mobile vs desktop and from here the divergence will only accelerate , especially as currently only a quarter of internet usage is on a mobile device. A few years ago we heard the phrase “mobile-first’ when describing the mindset of new tech companies, that mantra has to be a continuing theme of all business models that rely on a technical platform. When it comes to real estate advertising, there is no argument it is a technical platform that dominates real estate advertising when seen from the consumer perspective.

An interesting deeper insight into this mobile usage for home searching was highlight in data last year from the US portal of published in the Wall Street Journal which highlighted the profile of mobile vs desktop searching by suburb in the US. The findings showed that the higher priced suburbs saw far higher usage of mobile and that within this usage which exceeded half of all views, the Apple iOS ecosystem dominated with combined iPhone and iPad accounting for 50% of views vs. 8% for Android in these high price suburbs. 

At home in NZ we have seen a number of developments to the mobile landscape over the past year with enhancements to the app as well as the Trade Me Property app. In addition we have had the launch of the Kiwi Bank Home Hunter app and a iPad app from Open2View.

When analysing the relative level of audience to and Trade Me Property earlier this year I analysed the performance in terms of downloads using the tracking analytics of AppAnnie which ranks apps on a top 1,000 list per country. At the time back in Aril there was no doubt that continued to lead the field in terms of the higher ranking in new downloads, added to which its installed base built up over nearly 4 years had given it supremacy over Trade Me Property amassing over 200,000 downloads.

Revisiting the latest stats from AppAnnie though shows a very significant difference as the two charts highlight below:

Trade Me Property’s iOS app (for iPhone and iPad) has leapt in the rankings since the beginning of July from 350th placed downloaded app in NZ to an average of around the 70th most downloaded app. Meanwhile download ranking appears to have slipped from a high of 175th place at peak in Feb / March to 250th overall place in the past 3 months.

What could have lead to this significant lift in the rankings of Trade Me Property?

I don’t actually have the answer - I will ask Trade Me Property to share their secret if I get the chance. However if I was in their shoes the advertising tactic I would have used is the new download app placement available now from Facebook and Twitter

The sheer simplicity and contextual logic of these ad services staggers me. Both Facebook and Twitter as news and social platforms are more and more about mobile - they are also used constantly and given the profile data they have about users they can target so perfectly so as to maximise conversion and in so doing minimise advertising spam and maximise revenue per ad unit.

Look at this simple example:

Option 1 : Web advert for mobile app

Consumer experience - if on a desktop / laptop click on advert, taken to company website and the click again to app store to then sync app with mobile device. If on mobile device often face difficulty of landing page design not optimised for mobile

Cost for campaign: $4 per 1,000 impressions - company buys 1,000,000 impressions. Typical click through rate of 0.05% = 500 clicks to landing page, 70% conversion to app store and 50% conversion to download.

Result - 1,000,000 ad units, spend of $4,000 for 175 extra downloads = $23 per acquisition


Option 2 : In app download

Consumer experience - only on mobile as specifically targeted. Only shown if profile matches profile of property buyer

Cost for campaign : pay for performance vs. pay for adverts. $15 per download is far less than cost of traditional advert. Conversion rate of 10% - to achieve 175 downloads requires only 1,750 ad impressions and costs just $2,625.

This model is a win win for each party - the consumer is saved the extreme bombardment of endless ads, the company only pays for successful downloads, the advertising platform (Facebook & Twitter) shows far less adverts and attracts new advertising revenue.


This is the future of advertising and saves us from the ages old ‘shotgun’ approach to marketing. That is how I would approach the promotion of a mobile app.

Property musings on Facebook - 8th August

by Alistair Helm in

Here are the articles posted on Facebook over the past week - short, spontaneous insights and observations which I felt needed immediate discussion and didn't warrant long-form articles written.


Pillar Shock! - is there more to this story

Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 20 June

by Alistair Helm in

Smarter way to help people find where to live - the US real estate portal Trulia has created a game which based on responses to lifestyle aspirations or behaviours helps you better select a New York neighbourhood - great approach to the primary task of helping people choose where to live before - what to buy.

Significant shift in the property market over the past year - the May data from which powers the Property Dashboard has shown a significant easing in the shortage of inventory we have been experiencing over the past year

House earns more than your income! - the headline story from last weekend for me signalled a tipping point in the property market

Property sales in May continue to track down - the latest sales data from REINZ 

Attention to detail in real estate advertising - some shocking misspelling within real estate advertising!

It appears the UK and NZ property markets are joined at the hip - we are now seeing mirrored stories between the two countries!

The ultimate example of real estate marketing - the property is on sale for US$26m and the marketing online thru this unique quality site must have cost US$150,000+

Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 13 June

by Alistair Helm in

LVR impact distorting house price figures - I shared my views on the Auckland property market with Michael Wilson on FirstLine on TV3 following the release of the Barfoot & Thompson data for May


What is happening at the lower end of the property market? - an excellent new piece of analysis by Core Logic into the lower end segment of the property market


Great interactive Property Value graphic - The NZ Herald together with QV provide their quarterly data update on property values around the country


Presentation is so critical for the marketing of a property - but don't forget the garden! - here is a great example of a well presented and dressed new home, only someone forgot about fixing up the garden, a major let down in my opinion


So you think Auckland is expensive? - very interesting research on European capital city prime real estate costs per m2 shows how little you get for a million Euros and potentially how much you can get in Auckland


This is simply irresponsible journalism - for a newspaper to headline an article "House values soar in tight Auckland property market" when the data is hardly representative or authoritative in my book is irresponsible and misleading  

Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 6 June

by Alistair Helm in

Vendor Paid Marketing - in my view the term is inappropriate, the marketing campaign is the key question in selling a house and focusing on who is paying is illogical

What does the skyrocketing price of property mean for society? - a great article from a respected journalist about the London property market of relevance to Auckland and NZ 

How can NZ burst the housing bubble? - this is an interview I did with Paul Henry on his TV3 show this week - IMHO No Bubble / No Crisis! 

Affordability test for mortgage applicants or LVR restrictions? - some thoughts and observations as to the various options being looked at in the UK and NZ to cool the property market and why in my view we are fine as we are

Real Estate Speak - a somewhat lighthearted examination of a single listing which in my view is stacked full of superlatives and extravagant language

Property for rent with Bathroom & Kitchen in the same area - In my view a clear case of unprofessional behaviour by the real estate agent

Auction clearance rates falling - an excellent article from Campbell Live on Thursday night showcasing the empty auction rooms around Auckland indicating how the market has turned

Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 30 May

by Alistair Helm in

Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 23 May

by Alistair Helm in

Been wondering what has been happening between Trade Me Property &

Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 16 May

by Alistair Helm in

Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 9 May

by Alistair Helm in

Properazzi on Facebook - w/e 2 May

by Alistair Helm in

I have in the last couple of weeks changed my perspective on Facebook. My long term allegiance has been to Twitter as I have judged Facebook to be too jumbled and not worthy of engagement for what I focus on which I best describe as ‘long-form’ articles.

This change of focus is the result of a pragmatic realisation that in the course of a week there are moments when I have a thought or a reaction to something I read or hear about and I want to share it, but creating a full article seems somewhat of overkill and the 117 character limit of Twitter is too constraining. This is when I have turned to Facebook and have found a large and engaged audience. In some cases the pieces I have posted on Facebook have had a reach of over a thousand people, far in excess of what most of my article achieve - not fully accepting that reach and page views are relevant comparative metrics.

With this new approach to the use of Facebook I have decided that for those readers of this site who do not live constantly with their Facebook app open all the time, I will on a weekly basis aggregate these short-form articles from the Properazzi Facebook page into a single article here on this site - timed to coincide with the weekly email at the end of each week. 

So here are the collected articles and insights for week ending 2 May:


The LVR policy imposed by the Reserve Bank last October continues to constrain the property market


TVNZ Breakfast interview discussing the issue of affordability and & LVR impact


Have you tried using the words of Winston Churchill to sell a house??


Is this the worst listing photo you have ever seen ??

Is virtual reality a disruptive technology for real estate?

by Alistair Helm in

I have a sense that by the weekend the term 'virtual reality' and the company Oculus VR will be better known than it was a week ago. When Facebook plonks down $2billion in stock and cash to by a technology company it makes news, not as much as spending $19billion buying WhatsApp, but $2billion is a large amount of money for a company who are still only in a beta stage of development for their VR device.

In the context of real estate the question has to be asked as to the impact this technology might have for the future and could it in anyway advance Facebook's role in the industry. In short, I don't think so.

I know there will be those who hold the view that property viewings could become an immersive experience through this type of device whilst sitting on the couch - with the added benefit of being able to create alternative decor and style to a property for sale. This will certainly be within the capability of the technology I have no doubt. However I sense that being able to have people 'walk though' a recreated virtual version of a home will be of greater value to interior designers, architects and make-over services than to real estate agents.

The virtual reality experience is merely to real estate another version of the photo portfolio, another optional version to complement virtual tours and video tours. The fact is that property inspections in person at an open home are the only true way to experience a property before making that hard and tortuous decision to invest in a property.

I would therefore urge real estate agents and companies to save their tech funds and not rush out to start creating virtual reality portfolios of their listings. Photos are more than adequate to provide the incentive to drive viewings.

Just to avoid confusion there is a distinct difference between the Virtual Reality of Oculus VR and their immersive headset and the more practical and relevant Augmented Reality which as a service has been around for many years mashing together the smartphone property data through geo-locational data to overlay valuable information as you look at properties whilst out and about - that is smart technology of value to the real estate industry.

Insight into social media strategy

by Alistair Helm in


I have just set up a separate Facebook page for Properazzi, 3 months after I launched this site. Somewhat late I must confess, but for me it was a conscious decision as to how I wanted to write, read and be found online.

I thought I would share my thoughts and logic around this decision, and would welcome input, criticism and comment as with all posts, just add comments at the foot of all posts (sometime it loads a little slowly - so be patient).

I have been a big fan and user of Twitter for many years ( 4 years, 8 months, 1 week, 1 day and 15 hours to be reasonably precise) - I use Twitter as a news service and broadcast marketing channel. Over the years I have created a following which in NZ terms is reasonably relevant at over 1,300. I like Twitter - I feel a sense of community, I gain insight and through the limited number of people I follow I get up-to the-minute links and insight around the things that matter - whats going on in the world generally and specifically in tech and in real estate.

As I said I also use Twitter as a broadcast medium - whenever I post an article I broadcast it out to my followers, I actively share relevant stories to my followers, stories that I find interesting and I feel will be of interest to others, that for me defines Twitter. What I tend not to do (although I do make a few exceptions) is tell people where I am or what I am doing. Sometimes I share an inspiring photo I take, but most of the time I don't use twitter to tell people of my day!

When it comes to the web and marketing yourself and in my case Properazzi I tend to have always focused on search engine optimisation and the pivotal role that Google plays in success. I have always written with an eye on SEO, in terms of content and headline, I think about how articles could be found under search terms and always ensure the rules of SEO are followed and adhered to.

So to Facebook - I must admit I have always had an uneasy relationship with Facebook. I joined up years ago as everyone did and for may years dismissed it as a party place for non-work related social connection - great for family and friends. Then over the past year or so I have been to presentations and gained a greater insight into the power of EdgeRank (the Facebook equivalent of Google's PageRank) and just how effective Facebook can be in building engagement and connection for people and businesses. The key though is that there must be a demarkation between business and private. I now more fully buy into the ability of Facebook to be a marketing platform for business. I use the term marketing not in the simplistic form of push-advertising but in the sense of marketing being about conversations.

I also have also long held the opinion that Facebook should never be the "home page" for a business, brand or company and recently shared that thought in the post I wrote "All marketeers are dumb!" - the necessity for every company, brand or business to have an owned space on the web is paramount.

With this changed perspective on Facebook I have eventually got round to setting up the new Facebook page for Properazzi. So what am I going to be doing on Facebook and what am I going to be doing on Twitter?

Well I am not going to be changing what I do on Twitter. Further I am not going to be just using Facebook as a mirror of the Properazzi blog and just post articles each time I write. One thing I have learned of Facebook is that they are not as agnostic as Google to external links - they like to be a walled garden so I propose to play to their rules. I will largely post new articles in short form and won't necessarily link out to posts. I will highlight a new post but not copy it onto Facebook in total. I will use images extensively, especially the charts I develop of market analysis, Facebook is great at sharing images - far more than articles. I will write short-form opinion of stories i see in the media to engage in the conversations on Facebook, these are the kind of stories that are hard to fit into the wonderful 140 character restriction of Twitter.

My strategy is to build an engagement around a community on Facebook and let them choose when they want to, to jump out of Facebook to read and comment in more depth on this site.

I hope this insight has been useful, it has been a bit of a summary, internal review for myself.

All marketers are dumb!

by Alistair Helm in

I wrote this post some months ago now whilst sitting on a plane - a habit I have developed over the years - its always a creative place for me. It was triggered by this spray painted "advert" on the pavement in Auckland the previous day.


All marketers are liars – so wrote Seth Godin as the title to one of his many excellent, easily digestible books. I have respectfully plagiarised the title to headline this post.

I am not drawn to blog often to matters non-real estate related, but when it comes to the web I am often moved by what I see as inane marketing online, certainly here in NZ and likely as not overseas.

The matter that drives me to believe that all (well at least some) marketers are dumb is the seemingly blind devotion to Facebook.

I am seeing an ever growing move to drive more and more consumers to Facebook – whether it be a competition or as a surrogate home page. Do not these technically competent people realize that Facebook is a “walled-garden”? – a community where brand loyalty is to Facebook and not your brand.

As a marketer you create compelling content online and invest in rich content to drive deep SEO for your website which may very effectively drive e-commerce or at least response to you through contact forms or details of your physical location or your retail outlets and then you literally throw it all away by saying to people “Find us on Facebook” in some apologetic attempt to say that we as a company and a brand are happy to bow down before the “almighty Facebook”.

Yes I hear the cry of “well 1 billion people have a Facebook account and somewhere around 500 million people use Facebook everyday – the fact to remember is that to get to Facebook you have to access the internet through a mobile browser, app or the web. This core infrastructure is what your website runs on. The analogy would be for a fashion  brand building a great retail store on the high street and then saying come and visit us at the discount remnant store out of town in which all your branding counts for nothing with all companies apparel lined up and sold on price with you receiving cents on the dollar.

Facebook is a commercial company; the Internet is a free and open environment. On the web you can build what you like, how you like and when you like and control every facet of the experience and your investment can be rewarded through SEO and engagement. Facebook is not open, it has even begun to charge users to receive traffic to your page through promoted posts, this is likely to be their core future revenue, especially when they have your customers, but it is not flexible creatively or commercially.

As marketers we have always argued that branding is a developed art that creates and sustains a point of difference that can create loyalty and hopefully sustain premium positioning and differentiation. Why would you sacrifice all of that to flock to the Altar of Facebook?

Don’t forget that the web is accessible to likely as not twice as many people and Facebook – be creative, use Facebook, but please stop believing the web is Facebook and do a service to consumers to educate them.

As a demonstration of how to use Facebook in marketing - as opposed to being used by Facebook for your marketing have a look at this campaign currently being undertaken by Amnesty International - trial by timeline. A perfect execution in my opinion.