A hot, but not-so-new mobile marketing technology is getting set to rock the real estate world so hang on because it should be entering your radar any day now.
It’s called QR technology and it allows real estate professionals to instantly market their listings to mobile prospective homebuyers thanks to a black and white code that’s affixed to a home’s for sale sign, in a real estate ad or perhaps on the back of your vehicle.
Mobile clientele scan this QR code with their smart phones and – voila – they’re provided with every kind of information – photos, video, and maps – about a real estate listing. All the user needs is a smart phone and they can collect reams of data from their vehicle, their bike or as they walk by.
“I think it’s the fastest way to get the most information into a client’s hand,” says Hans Taal, a sales representative with Century 21 Miller in Oakville. “I know 98 per cent of my clients have done research on the internet long before come to see a house. My clients know more about a house, in some cases, than I do or my competition. People don’t buy a toaster without research these days. This is the next step.”
QR codes have been in use in the real estate industry in Canada for about a year. Created in Japan in 1994, the code is a squiggly pattern arranged within a square that’s usually black and white in colour. QR codes are being used outside of real estate as well as in everything from movie posters and newspapers ads to in-store sales and promotion campaigns. While QR codes are more widely used in Asian countries than in North America, that may be about to change.
Taal says this new, environment-friendly technology saves him money because he’s spending less in printing costs by using QR codes. At open houses, instead of printing fifty to one hundred feature sheets or printing up pricey coloured photo, glossy brochures for his multi-million-dollar properties, Taal uses a single 8 ½-by-11 inch card that sits prominently in the seller’s home on a small easel. The card, of course, has a QR code on it.
His clients, a large number of whom are Asian, are very comfortable with the technology and his overall response has been wonderful. Taal is now teaching his non-Asian clients about QR codes.
“In six months, I’ve probably had 12 people call me because they scanned my sign outside a listing or in the paper,” he says. “I get very, very positive feedback and I think I’m getting more clients because of it. It’s very green, too.”
There are a number of web-based QR code companies, some of which charge a fee, while others offer QR codes for free. The benefit to paying for the service is that you have more control and options than with the free companies, says Erik Goldhar, a founding partner of Clikbrix.com, an award-winning Toronto company that has experienced 700 per cent month over month growth since its inception in June of 2010.
The benefit to using a paid service says Goldhar, is that clients can track who uses their codes and they can brand their codes to fit their business or brokerage. Also, most realtors use desktop websites to post their listings. These display poorly on smart phones.
“So that equates to almost 110 million Americans and 10 million Canadians that would have a terrible user experience,” explains Goldhar, “because you are sending them to a desktop website which is not designed for the device they are using at the time they scanned your code.”
Debate now among those in technology business circles centres on whether QR codes actually have staying power or are they a flash in the pan.
“If you’re saying QR codes are a shiny new toy, you’re missing their purpose,” says Goldhar. “In addition to having an undeniable wow factor, QR Codes are a user-friendly way to drive people to your mobile web content. But at the end of the day, QR Codes are merely a link to your mobile website. To suggest they’re not here to stay is comparable to saying that URLs, short URLs, TV commercials, newspaper ads and other tactics that drive people to your mobile content are also shiny new toys. This, of course, is not the case.”
Goldhar points to the massive growth of the mobile web and its growing importance for marketers and brands to have visibility in this new space as proof of his argument. “The tactics for how you get a mobile audience to that mobile site are many and we see QR Codes being a leading tool to accomplish this goal.”
Kim Cookson, a Saint John, NB realtor with RE/MAX, pays the $25 per month fee to use Clikbrix.com so she can track how many hits she gets from her codes. Cookson puts her QR code on her business cards, on her real estate signs, even on her car.
Mobile prospects can simply snap a shot of her code with their smart phone, which immediately takes them to her website where they can find all the details of the house she's listed.
"The QR code is my unique fingerprint,” says Cookson. "It's one less step. You have the visual with the sign and then it connects you to the virtual world. I can have 101 pieces of information at the other end of it."
Steven Davis, owner and founder of Universal Property Code in Arizona, says it’s important the QR code users be extremely careful and precise about the information they enter when getting a QR code. He cites an incident in which a user made a small, hard-to-spot typo that resulted in scanners of the code getting zero information.
“People have an insatiable appetite for information,” says Davis. “When creating a QR code campaign, be sure it’s fully tested and ready to go as soon as it is created. Give people a coupon, information, cool videos, great pictures, useful contact information, but whatever you do, do not give them anything.”
When considering a QR code marketing effort, Davis recommends realtors keep the following rules in mind:
• If your QR code goes to a YouTube video or a website, make sure you have access to the video or website. Never create a QR code that points to someone else's content. They could change it or put up something completely inappropriate and you’ll have a disaster on your hands.
• Try the code. Be sure to scan the code yourself so you can actually see what your intended market will see
• Use a QR code that you can change after publishing. Having the ability to change the destination URL at any time is an important step in avoiding disasters.
• Make certain the code is large enough to scan. You must scan your code on the media that you are marketing in. If you are putting a QR code in the paper, make sure it is large enough to scan. If it is on your business card, try it out. Prototype QR codes often work great, then when it comes to the real marketing, a little more testing would go a long way.
While there seems to be a lot of buzz about the emergence of QR codes in Canada, the actual numbers of realtors using the mobile marketing technology seems to be – for now at least – fairly low. In the Magog and Memphrémagog regions of Quebec, where the technology was reportedly first introduced last November thanks to Royal LePage Au Sommet real estate broker Christian Longpre, only his three-member sales team among a staff of 16 realtors use QR codes on a regular basis.
Longpre is a techy at heart, who loves to apply the latest in technology to his real estate practice.
“It’s very new technology still for the area and our industry so not everybody knows what it is,” says Longpre. “We have to explain it. I try to put QR codes on my website and signs so that more people can see the codes and ask questions. We try to offer more services to the seller and the buyer so we use QR codes to increase service and value.”
From Property Wire April 1, 2011