Mobile platform - getting smarter and growing in importance

by Alistair Helm in ,

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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.

Living with greater transparency - the challenge for real estate

by Alistair Helm in ,

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Two articles this week prompted my thoughts about the challenge that greater transparency plays in our lives and the impact it will have on the real estate market. I have commented in the past as to the use of obfuscation by some commentators from within the real estate industry when talking about the market, a behaviour that I sense will have no part in the future.

The first article that caught my eye was a tweet which came into my stream as a retweet from a person I do not know but the content certainly made me sit up! 

rental Wellington.png

A person using social media to reach out to as wide a community as possible to ask a question - a very relevant question as to the condition of a rental property. A question they could have asked the letting agent or the landlord, however they chose to reach out to an open audience to see if anyone could answer the question. This 'reaching-out' to people's connections whether on Twitter or on Facebook or any other medium is what the internet allows us all to do. Rather than historically relying on controlled channels we can look for trusted connections to help us evaluate products and services.

The lesson for the real estate industry from such examples is be open, be ready to engage and answer all such questions and better still, be proactive and provide as much relevant information as possible. If as the case in this example there really is a water-tightness issue with the property (and I have no idea) then take steps to discuss with the landlord to be ready to answer any such question, after all the agent is just that, the agent, not the owner. 


The second article was actually a link I saw to a random listing in the US on Zillow. A house that had been on the market for a couple of months. Now; with well over 2 million homes on the market this house is not remarkable in anyway. What is remarkable, and it is not for the first time that I have seen this, but in the context of this issue of greater transparency this property caught my eye because of the richness of valuable information available on the property that we would never see on a property in NZ.

Let me highlight these insights and in so doing provide an explanation of why I think we are being short-changed in regard to valuable property information, not so much from the real estate industry but from at heart the property data industry.


5410 Ocean Mist Loop, Blaine, WA 98230 is For Sale - Zillow.png

1. Sale Price - this property much like most in the US and in fact most countries has an asking price. Not a sticker price, but a price which based on comparable local sales would indicate that it should be worth as judged by the listing agent, thereby providing prospective buyers with a guide. This property may sell for more than the $339,500 if there is sufficient demand just as would be the case for property in Auckland at the moment. To put a price on a property, every property for sale in NZ would not be extra work for real estate agents, it would not diminish their role or devalue the sale price, it would though I think build respect and openness!

2. Last Sale Price - this property sold for $390,000 just over 3 years ago - FACT. A fact that is true of all houses in NZ, yet we are not given open access to this information, it is locked away behind payment walls by government entities (local/ national) - it is public record and should be openly accessible to assist the property process. 

5410 Ocean Mist Loop, Blaine, WA 98230 is For Sale - Zillow-1.png


3.  Days on the market - valuable information, thankfully we do have this insight on both Trade Me Property and in the form of a listed date; although somehow this data structure seems more telling.

4. Estimated valuation - in this case the proprietary Zestimate. A complex dynamic algorithm developed by Zillow to place an up- to-date estimate on every property in the US. Now in NZ you can buy such an estimate from QV for $50, but in the US the data is free, dynamic and referenced as to when it was last updated. QV is joint venture between the Government owned entity Quotable Value Ltd and the US company Core Logic. It's NZ public record data being managed through a US technology company's algorithm to be sold back to us at $50 at a time!

It is interesting to see that QV report an accuracy of 10% variance of sale price to estimate 65% of the time and 20% variance of sale price to estimate 93% of the time, Zillow goes further by reporting 5% / 10% and 20% variance by major city with accuracies of up to 73% at 10% variance and 93% for 20%. So the data model of QV is good - we just have to pay the government and the US company for the pleasure.


5410 Ocean Mist Loop, Blaine, WA 98230 is For Sale - Zillow-2.png

5. Price History - not only do property buyers in the US have an asking price and a 'last sale' price they also have an incredible insight into the historical price movements of both sale and asking price as cited by this example.  Here we can see the historical transaction record (a bleak picture in this case as the US property market tumbled and continues to struggle). Two public record sale prices together with details of when the property was listed at what price and price changes as well as by which agency.

I can sense a loud cry from the real estate industry about this data, that it should not be exposed as to do so would be to diminish the appeal of the property. However if all property was laid bare with the true facts, buyer could make informed choices. Property transactions would not collapse. Quite possibly we might not have the rampant property speculation and price bubbles built off the back of sketchy information and hyped frenetic auctions. Maybe, just maybe this greater transparency like sunlight could help us all better understand and operate with greater confidence in the property market!



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.

Advertising property for sale - online or offline - that is the question

by Alistair Helm in

I was attending the digital conference in Melbourne this week hosted by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria and

One of the speakers, Andrew Beecher the head of marketing for Realestateview and previously with made the statement that he had “a passion for seeing print media decline” he also went on to challenge the real estate industry that “2012 (or 2013) should be the year to undertake an online-only campaign for property”. The latter driven by first hand experience of selling his own house this year. These statements are completely consistent with someone who is working for a property portal and given the dominance of online for property searching in Australia.

I, in my usual manner was actively tweeting from the conference, keen as ever to share the insights from the speakers and both of these quotes I shared with my followers

Alistair Helm (alistairnz) on Twitter-1.jpg

With over 1,300 followers I have a good cross section of real estate people as well as technology people and “others” who are interested to hear my thoughts. However I was somewhat surprised to receive this tweet from one of my followers – a person who I shall not identify but is a key person in the NZ real estate market who runs a large real estate company. Have a read of the tweet:


I was very surprised to see this response; it was to my mind very defensive and clearly showed that I had hit a raw nerve!

Surely real estate companies recognise the power of the web. It is the most effective medium for buyers to locate their new home and the most cost effective medium for sellers to promote their property to buyers.

To say that “experts” have proven that property selling requires both print and online is inaccurate. Not because I dispute any such research; but because it can never be tested.

Statistically to prove a hypothesis requires a control, and in property marketing you can never establish a control. Let me explain.

If I were to say that online marketing can sell more cans of soup that offline then I would set up control environments. I would set up similar audience, similar competitive environment and do a test over a significant enough time period (say a month) at the same time in four discrete markets; one market would just have online advertising, one would have no advertising, one with print only, and one with both forms of advertising. A statistically valid sample size of buyers over a month period would allow a statistical confidence to be established to show that one form of advertising is more effective over another or not.

When it comes to property you cannot establish two simultaneous markets, let alone four. Every property is unique. Even two identical properties in the same apartment development are not identical as the small pool of buyers actually will skew the data. Equally the only way to establish online-only or offline-only advertising is in different physical markets, this is impossible with property as houses are only in a physical location and the physical location affects the appeal and demand.

Therefore I can say with complete confidence that there is no evidence that online-only property advertising is better than offline-only or that you need both. It simply cannot be proven.

What we do know from extensive research globally is that property buyers each year in larger numbers spend more time researching, browsing and enquiring online, whereas the numbers using and relying on print media is declining, with people spending less time viewing print media.

The real estate industry is trying to deny this trend; not because they don’t believe the research, no it is even simpler.

Online property advertising is not as effective a medium for real estate brands as print media and that is why real estate companies continue to pour $millions each year into print publications. Added to which the print publications incentivize such advertising – as any medium would do to ensure they don’t loose customers – especially as print media is in terminal decline.