The real estate industry is undergoing a major transformation. For sale signs and billboards are no longer enough for generating leads. Today, most realtors do have websites which they use to highlight their properties. But getting visitors, and that too the right kind of visitors, to the website is not easy.
A recent survey from comScore Inc. states that over half of the 91.6 million unique visitors to all the real estate sites were from mobile devices. Another realtor survey says that 85% of all the buyers used a mobile device during their home buying process.
But a mobile friendly website is just the first step that realtors can use to engage users and give them a good user experience. The challenge of drawing in the visitors to the website or mobile app still stands. This is where iBeacons can provide a way for realtors to grab user attention and provide useful information quickly.
Beacons are hardware devices that can emit and receive BLE signals. BLE stands for Bluetooth Low Energy. These are low-power devices that communicate using the new Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0.
Beacons have a range of up to 50 meters. Some manufacturers allow users to adjust broadcasting power, which directly affects the range of the beacon. Beacons are currently manufactured by various companies throughout the world and come in different shapes, sizes and costs. The price range is from $5 to $30 per beacon.
iBeacon technology can be used to send messages on all smartphones supporting Bluetooth 4.0.
iBeacon is Apple’s software framework to enable beacons to communicate with mobile devices that support BLE. This means not just iOS devices, but even the latest Android and Windows smartphones and tablets can communicate with beacons.
Apple hasn’t manufactured a physical beacon. Instead, Apple’s iBeacon capability is built into its devices through the iOS mobile operating system. Apple launched the iBeacon technology when it released iOS 7 in September 2013.
The advantage that a beacon has over GPS is the fact that beacons are much more accurate and can be used inside buildings to show realtors where their customers are located at the moment. Other technologies are great at finding a building but cannot help smartphone users once they are inside a building.
There are already 200 million iOS devices that can serve as transmitters and receivers.
How iBeacons work
The user’s smartphone is the receiver and the beacon installed is the transmitter. When the user walks into the range of the beacon, it sends a signal to the receiver and triggers an event. This is where businesses have a golden opportunity to engage their customers and increase their sales.
Apple has divided the range of beacons into four proximity states:
The device is physically very close to the beacon and is probably being held directly next to the beacon (within a few centimeters).
With a clear line of sight from the device to the beacon, this would indicate proximity of approximately 1-3 meters (or a couple of meters depending on device make and tuning).
This state indicates that a beacon device can be detected but the accuracy is too low to determine if it is either Near or Immediate (more than 10 meters away).
The proximity of the beacon cannot be determined. This is either because the ranging has just begun, or that there are insufficient measurements to determine the state (out of range).
Realtors can send push notifications to users using iBeacons. These notifications can be open house offers or property information.
How the Real estate Industry Can Use iBeacons
The main advantage of iBeacon is that it is a proximity marketing software. This makes it ideal for the real estate industry where the main mantra is “location, location and location”. Beacons, which have a range of up to 50 meters (~150 feet), have brought micro-location marketing to the real estate industry.
The alert that the user receives on his smartphone because of the iBeacon instructs him to swipe the alert to see the listing. The user then opens up the realtor’s app if he has already downloaded it or downloads it from the app store.
The realtor has complete control of the content displayed through iBeacon and the app through a backend system.
Open House Tours
Beacons can be placed in open houses to show prospective home buyers the property’s features. The homebuyers will receive messages as they move throughout the property.
Alerts can also be setup in such a way that they are sent out only when the client is in a particular room or next to a particular piece of furniture.
For example, if an interested couple is standing in the kitchen, which has been remodeled recently, the beacon can transmit a message along these lines: The kitchen was redone last year and is equipped with the latest gadgets. This top of the line fridge is worth $4,000!
Mobile apps that integrate iBeacon technology are an excellent way to show large houses and at times when the broker cannot be present to give a tour. When combined with keyless lock systems, iBeacons can eliminate the need for staff to be present when doing open houses.
A realtor can develop a mobile app that is integrated with iBeacon and provide virtual guided tours to prospective home buyers.
For Sale Signs
The “Home for Sale” yard signs can be replaced with beacons. Or realtors can just stick beacons to the existing yard signs.
The yard sign outside a house recognizes that a user is nearby and instantly displays the property details on his handset. This can include information such as price and floor space, upcoming date of the open house among other details.
This gives brokers the power to send messages to potential customers the moment they drive by a listing. The notifications received can also direct the users to the realtor’s website or app for more information.
Home buyers can also setup real-time alerts for when they pass by a new listing. The realtor can also give information about not just that particular property but also nearby properties that he believes matches the user’s preferences.
iBeacon based mobile apps can help realtors tap into the benefits of mobile technology and give them a powerful marketing tool.
Other Potential applications in the Real Estate Industry
Real Estate Offices
Beacons can also be placed in real estate offices so that when the brokers and office staff are busy, the clients that come in still get information about the properties.
Events and real estate related trade fairs are still important in the industry. Realtors can have beacons in their kiosks which can be used to send out information to the people attending the event.
Commercial Real Estate
Realtors and property developers can also integrate this technology into commercial buildings such as malls, airports, and office buildings. Beacons in these buildings will increase the property and rental value.
iBeacons – Myths and Reality
There are also a few myths related to developing iBeacon based solutions that need to be dispelled.
Myth: Consumers believe that they will be spammed by advertisements once businesses start using ibeacons.
Fact: iBeacons operate on the principle of push notification. A user cannot be “spammed” unless he allows the realtor to access to his phone. iBeacons are 100% opt-in.
Myth: iBeacons send content to the phone.
Fact: iBeacons cannot send content. They can only send push notifications. For content, the user needs to download the realtor’s app and access it via Wi-Fi or a mobile internet data plan.
Myth: Installing iBeacons involves creating a special system and app.
Fact: Businesses can integrate iBeacons into their existing app and enhance it. There is no need to create a new, separate app just to use iBeacons.
Myth: Beacon devices are battery drainers
Fact: The beacon devices operate on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) which means that batteries last for months and in some manufacturers’ products for up to 2 years.