Winds on the Horizon: Why Mobile Will Matter

Over the holidays, I hit the road to visit my family in Canada. A 5 hour drive up the Olympic Peninsula and a bumpy ferry crossing later and we were sailing into beautiful Victoria Harbor. As we disembarked the ship, a brilliant crimson maple leaf flag snapped on its pole in the brisk sea air.

Welcome to Canada. I was home.

Instinctively I reached into my pocket and grabbed my iPhone. I did what I always do these days as I cross the border. I turned my iPhone’s data roaming off.

I felt naked. Stripped. All of a sudden, my phone was just, well just that… a phone. And it’s then that it really struck me.

Scanning all the colorful icons on my home screen, many of those that I mash a dozen or so times a day, I couldn’t touch any of them.

Tear a smartphone away from the Web and you’ve stripped away its soul. My “phone” has now become one of the primary ways I interact with the Internet.

So it’s not much of suprise then that we hear today that Apple has announced that more than three billion apps have been downloaded from its App Store. Or that the Zillow iPhone app alone, according to Zillow blog, has been downloaded 870,000 times. More than 2 million homes are now viewed on that app each month.

There’s definitely something going on here.

I think David B. Yoffie, in a piece in today’s New York Times puts it best, mobile is “the new paradigm… [one] that has the potential to change the economics of the Internet business…”

In my presentation yesterday at Virtual RE Bar Camp I made the case that 2010 will be the year the mobile finally matters in real estate marketing. But its not mobile by itself that matters…

2010 is the year the mobile web really begins to matter. In 2009, the mobile web grew 110 percent according to Quantcast. And just as advertising dollars flowed from print to the web, soon I suspect, they will flow from the desktop to the handset.

So how best to take advantage of this? I’ll sum up some of the key points I made in yesterday’s presentation:

  1. Evaluate the need first. Check your analytics package and see how many visits you’re getting to your site from mobile browsers. Here on the 1000WATT blog, 2% of our traffic now comes from Safari on the iPhone – the bulk of that uptick coming in the last couple of months.
  2. Build a mobile version of your web site. Services like and the WPTouch theme for WordPress can make this much easier and much more affordable.
  3. Consider a mobile advertising campaign. Google AdWords already lets you do this very easily. If you have the budget, consider an in-App campaign through some of the ad networks that exist (AdMob, Quattro and AdLocal). Acknowledge the unique medium of the mobile platform in your creative; your ads can be small, portable, location aware, even shakeable.
  4. Become mobile friendly in your current marketing efforts. Offer downloads in mobile-ready formats. Use URL shorteners like on your sign riders to direct mobile users to mobile ready landing pages for your listings.

If you’d like to go through the entire presentation, I’ve uploaded it as a free download from this site.

As marketers, we need to be constantly evolving and shifting our efforts to respond to the new winds that are blowing. The brave among us will commit the budget and execute. The timid will arrive at the ferry landing too late. The ship will have already left.

Driving south towards the US border after a full holiday break, my wife and I challenged each other to see whose phone would switch over to AT&T’s 3G signal first. As we drew closer, the anticipation mounted. A momentary flash and there it was, four bars strong.

I had won.

I was back online.

Photo by Kinematic Digit