Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | September 12, 2011

Is Gimmickry Here to Stay ?

When it comes to the latest in technological gimmickry, real estate professionals are perhaps a little more jaundiced than those eager early adopters.

At least that’s what a recent PropertyWire.ca survey indicated.  When asked if realtors were currently using mobile technology tools, such as QR codes or SMS numbers, in their day to day business dealings, more than 76% of you indicated that you were not. 

The newness of the technology may be the reason why, says Brad Sage, a TREB social media trainer and blogger.In a recent informal survey of 15 QR codes posted on real estate for sale signs in Toronto, Sage discovered that virtually all scans sent his mobile device to the website of the brokerage firm or the realtor, not to specific information about the property.

“The whole purpose of mobile technology is to provide a shortcut to information with the least amount of hurdles,” says Sage. “If a scan ends up at a brokerage’s website, I can see why people wouldn’t want to do that again.”

Realtors need to start using technology appropriately otherwise they will simply frustrate, disappoint and ultimately alienate consumers. But, says Sage, many professionals are drawn to the relatively new technology because they think it builds their reputation as a tech-savvy entrepreneur.

That, in and of itself, is not the reason to embrace it.“You wrap technology around your business, not your business around technology,” says Sage. 

As consumers begin to demand even higher levels of instant gratification during their buying experiences, they will likely move onto quicker and easier tools.“I see QR codes going the way of the dinosaur,” he says. 

In its place Sage sees an emerging technology called geofencing. Geofencing sets up a virtual perimeter—the “fence” around a location, such as a house for sale. When prospects carry their cell phones across the perimeter the system is made aware that they are nearby and can push information to the phones.While the concept is quite new, some companies are experimenting with it, but it’s still likely years away from serious and wide usage.

Privacy concerns are probably one of the biggest obstacles with this technology.

The enthusiasm for QR codes will die down. “In a nutshell, it’s a passing fad,” says Savel. “People aren’t using them because they’re not getting the direct information they’re looking for.”

In addition, QR codes aren’t easy on the eye. Their general cold, black and white block design Savel describes as “ugly” so they don’t often blend well with a realtor’s other marketing materials.But Savel has had great success using QR codes, he says, because he directs prospects straight to video tours of the listing, a unique service he offers clients.

The fact that there is no universal QR code reader also presents a problem, says Savel, as this results in different methods of scanning them. People are getting frustrated and they probably give up on it. I think that’s at the root of it.”

What he envisions as eventually replacing QR codes is what is known as augmented reality, a world in which, if a property is for sale, you only need to scan it with your mobile device to get the details.

According to Erik Goldhar, a founding partner of a Toronto-based mobile website design and strategy agency specializing in QR code technology, there are good reasons to be frustrated with the technology, but that has little to do with the QR codes themselves.“Most people are not providing any value to the person asked to scan the code,” says Goldhar. “That has nothing to do with the QR code; it has to do with mobile content. At the end of the day, it’s all about the mobile experience and the QR code is simply a tool so you’d better give them something extremely compelling.” 

A comScore study found that 14 million Americans scanned QR or bar codes on their mobile phones in June 2011 and according to a Nielsen study, 40% now own a smartphone.

In a recent blog, Goldhar noted that after nearly 18 months of usage, QR codes are still not being properly used to optimize results by the real estate industry. The reasons? He offers ten, but here are just a few:

• They are linked to desktop, not mobile, websites which makes for a poor user experience.

• Don’t link to useless information.

• Don’t use a QR code that can’t be tracked. ROI is important information.

• Don’t print your QR code smaller than one inch by one inch.

What’s your take on mobile technology? Do you love it, hate it or just tolerate it? Share your thoughts.

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