Mobile next battlefield for online property search

Mobile next battlefield for online property search

Summary: More people in Southeast Asia turning to mobile for property-related online searches, which is why it is vital for real estate agencies to develop a mobile strategy to address this trend, market players urge.

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SINGAPORE--The growing penetration of mobile Internet means more people will soon be searching for property deals on their mobile devices, and real estate agencies will need to develop a good mobile strategy to keep ahead of the competition and meet users' needs, market players say.

Bambos Kaisharis, head of consumer goods at Google Southeast Asia, noted that property-related searches in four Southeast Asian markets--Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia--have grown three to five times since 2009. This, he added, means consumer demand for such information is growing strong.

The executive, who was speaking at a press briefing here Thursday, went on to point out that between January and April this year, mobile-based search made up 22 percent of all online queries for property-related information in Singapore. Both Thailand and Malaysia reached 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively, while Indonesia was the highest of the four markets with 23 percent. This is because a lot of Indonesians access the Internet via their mobile devices only, he explained.

As such, real estate firms in the region that do not have a good mobile strategy will lose out in this fast-growing market, Kaisharis warned.

Singapore-based online property search portal PropertyGuru is one such company that has embraced mobile. CEO Steve Melhuish shared at the same press briefing that the company has developed 11 mobile apps targeting both consumers and property agents in the past 12 months, and these are available in four countries and in three different languages.

PropertyGuru also announced today at the briefing that it had received S$60 million (US$46.9 million) in investments from German company ImmobilienScout24 in return for a minority stake in the company. Melhuish revealed that with this equity boost, the Singapore company will be valued at more than S$100 million (US$78.1 million) and it has plans to go public within the next two to three years' time.

Need to push property advertising online
In terms of mobile advertising, Marc Stilke, CEO of ImmobilienScout24, the German equivalent of PropertyGuru, there is still a need to educate property agents in the region about the efficiency of the Internet as a channel for advertising. He noted that in Germany, property agents indicated that 70 percent of all their leads came from its online property search portal.

To convince more real estate agents in the region to embrace online advertising, the executive said the best way is for them to measure and feel the value of this form of advertising. This would mean tracking their online spend and how this correlates with lead generation, he explained.

Topics: Software, Apps, Browser, Mobility, Networking

Liau Yun Qing

About Liau Yun Qing

The only journalist in the team without a Western name, Yun Qing hails from the mountainy Malaysian state, Sabah. She currently covers the hardware and networking beats, as well as everything else that falls into her lap, at ZDNet Asia. Her RSS feed includes tech news sites and most of the Cheezburger network. She is also a cheapskate masquerading as a group-buying addict.

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