Mobile technology is changing the fundamental interactions between business and customers in meaningful ways not foreseen a decade ago. Even a traditional business model, like car rentals, has been disrupted by a rapidly expanding company with what seemed a niche idea, due to the flexibility that mobile technology gives consumers.
Why can’t the same principle apply in the home rental space?
Homes.com is part of the fifth-largest real estate listing portal network with over three million homes represented in the United States and that’s the question that they asked us at Shockoe.com.
Since then, we have been working with Homes.com to enchance their collection of iOS and Android apps. One of the first joint projects was released on October 16th to great acclaim. Homes.com’s industry knowledge guided the thoughtful design and solid codebase that Shockoe supplied and the brand new Homes.com Rental app is averaging 4.9 out of 5 in the Google Play Store and 5/5 stars on the iOS App Store in just a week’s time. And as a recent study showed, app ratings are now more critical to rankings, thus exposure, than ever before
So how did Shockoe and Homes.com do it?
The new Rentals app was built with today’s sophisticated renter in mind. The app is the first in the market to offer current commute times for points of interest such as user’s place of employment, gym or shopping, tailoring the app to today’s ever busy consumer. This of course hits the three keys to mobile real estate: geolocation, geolocation, geolocation.
Now, on-the-go consumers can easily browse an expansive database of rental listings on the Homes.com app, which has built-in extensions to Homes.com’s sister site ForRent.com. ForRent.com is the exclusive provider of apartment listings on the Rentals app. Homes.com developed the smartphone app for effortless use on both iOS and Android devices and included iOS7 features such as natural navigation gestures.
“With year-over-year rental search traffic growing on Homes.com by more than 514 percent on mobile devices, our first priority in designing the rentals mobile app was to create an optimal shopping experience for renters,” said Brock MacLean, executive vice president of Homes.com. “The new app allows consumers to customize searches, instantly view and save listings, and connect with agents or property managers. Whether a renter is searching for a place to celebrate, create or unwind, the place to find it is Homes.com.”
The mobile app enables potential renters to tap into current listings filtered by user preferences. Filters run from standards like price, size and type of residence to many extras like fireplaces, parking or (a mobile first for the industry) pet-friendly rentals. Map searches are made simple with slide and tap navigation, all while referencing a geo-targeted map for an easy view of points of interest throughout the search experience.
How did Shockoe create this for Homes.com in such a short timeframe?
From the beginning, Dominion tasked Shockoe with building the revisions in the Appcelerator Titanium codebase to create an amazing user experience across multiple operating systems and devices while improving overall app performance. Rebuilding a unified codebase for Homes.com within Titanium offered Shockoe.com a chance to make big changes to simple usability and interface aspects of both mobile app experiences. For example, the older version of the mobile app made dynamic selection difficult in the area overview map.
Due to past experience, the Shockoe development team decided a whole new map design was necessary since the map function is a crucial. While it sounds daunting, we know it would end up being a major time saver since the redesign would be built just once in the Appcelerator Titanium toolset. The new map function would then be instantly reflected across both iOS and Android versions for multiple form-factors and the functionality could be re-used and applied to other projects down the road for Homes.com.
Shockoe has been a longtime partner and evangelist of Appcelerator. The cross-platform nature of Titanium enables us to meet deadlines and budgets that would be impossible had we designed for each platform separately. Our experience with Titanium makes an already accelerated schedule even shorter.
We at Shockoe look forward to collaboration with Homes.com and their sister site ForRent.com in coming up with new and interesting ways to help the companies enhance products and tie themselves together in the mobile environment. With an economical foundation on which to fortify their ability to acquire and cross-sell their customers in the mobile space, look for many more good things to come from the teams at Homes.com and ForRent.com.
How can Shockoe help your business take a great idea and make it a disruptive force in your industry?
Download the new Homes.com Rentals apps – [Google Play] [Apple App Store]
As one of North America’s top online real estate destinations, Homes.com® Rentals inspires consumers to dream big. From affordable houses to luxurious estates, condos, apartment rentals and more, Homes.com features nearly 3 million property listings and a user-friendly format, making finding your next home easy. Visitors to the Homes.com blog will find a collection of rich content and posts on DIY projects, painting, organization tips and more, providing the ultimate resource for everything home related. From finding your first apartment to buying your first home, upgrading, downsizing and everything in between, Homes.com is an inspiring and engaging partner in every phase of the home buying or renting process.
Homes.com is a division of Dominion Enterprises, a leading marketing services and publishing company headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. For more information, visit www.dominionenterprises.com.
As one of the nation’s leading online home search destinations, ForRent.com® inspires renters to discover their next apartment, loft, townhouse, or condo. ForRent.com features rental listings in a user-friendly format, making finding your next home an easy exploration. Visitors to ForRent.com’s apartment living blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and Pinterest boards will discover relevant content and can join the conversation surrounding their home decorating style, rental tips and more, serving as the complete resource for renters in every part of their living experience.
The recent launch of Apple’s new iOS7 has many talking about how the new version of the operating system was the final death knell of Apple’s skeuomorphic roots, but beyond the style and sleekness of the upgrade, the enterprise should see the feature dense iOS7 as a major force in driving enterprises to mobile.
Security has and will continue to remain a major concern for the enterprise, but as Q2ebanking.com’s CSO Jay McLaughlin recently stated, the iPhone is by far the most secure device to try and integrate into the enterprise — as long as users aren’t jail-breaking the device.
“iOS 7 presents new vulnerabilities in the fact it contains new code, technology and features,” McLaughlin told TechRadar.com. “Once discovered, you’ll see new exploits created – many of which would be used for jailbreaking purposes – which inherently breaks and destroys the strength of Apple’s underlying security model for iOS. […] Historically, Apple has tightened its security within iOS with each subsequent release, adding stronger encryption, Data Execution Prevention, ASLR and the new A7 processor’s ‘Secure Enclave.’ As such, when in a non-jailbroken state, the iPhone is one of the most secure consumer devices.”
Here is eight features of Apple’s iOS7 that will change the business world for the better:
Stronger Security through TouchID & Activation Lock
One of the biggest drawbacks of extending the enterprise to mobile is the multitude of security threats to which mobile devices can expose an enterprise. TouchID made news when in less than a week a computer club in Germany demonstrated there are ways to bypass the TouchID system.
Even so, ComputerWorld’s Michael deAgonia writes that it is still a groundbreaking advancement for mobile.
“I’ve already decided [TouchID] will be a game-changer. In concert with new Activation Lock features in iOS 7 — GPS tracking can’t be deactivated and access to the iPhone is blocked without entering your iCloud username and password, even after a device wipe! — it’s hard to see this as anything but a major win for security.
The hoops someone would have to jump through to hack into the phone — lifting fingerprints, making a fake print using latex — are complicated, if they even work at all. For me, this doesn’t change its usefulness; it’s just a reminder that no security function is 100% foolproof.”
Weak passwords, disabled security locks and misplaced devices are what keep security-minded companies up at night when thinking about extending mobile in the enterprise. While not perfect, fingerprint-based authentication in concert with the Activation Lock and device wipe capabilities can allow companies to quickly intervene in a potential security violation before sensitive data is compromised. Better to wipe a $200 smartphone quickly than expose a business to tens of thousands, or even millions of dollars to a potential data breach while a would-be hacker fiddles with latex fingerprint molds.
Simplicity With Enterprise Single-Sign-On
For the busy folks on the front line delivering packages, checking manifests and entering patient data and all the while jumping between programs to do so, the repetitive authentication for each transaction can become major deterrent in the use of the products, or at the very least the secure use of them. What if that worker could log into a CRM app and then jump into an order-tracking app without another sign-on? iOS 7 allows users to take their corporate credentials across apps, even including apps from the App Store. This reduces the need to remember and enter a number of different passwords while also keeping data secure.
Opening Up on Managed Open-In
Would you like an employee accidentally tweeting the Q4 forecast numbers? Probably not. Thanks to Managed Open-In, companies can force their employees to open email attachments in specific corporate-managed applications rather than an app of the user’s own choosing. So, even without a containerization solution to protect corporate data, enterprise information technology departments can keep business data in business-related applications on the mobile device. The business can then dictate to the user the open in options by app or user account, providing a lot of management flexibility.
Private Server Conversations With Per-App VPN
Per-App VPN allows information technology departments much more granularity in access to back-end systems. Only specific apps can gain access to a corporate network, so unmanaged or unapproved apps can never gain access to sensitive data within the enterprise. As well this restricts the ability to remove data from unapproved applications thanks to Managed Open-In. This feature greatly improves user experience and firewalls privacy so that non-business data is unable to touch the corporate network. One of the major benefits to business? Since this can quickly create barriers between SAP and Facebook, Per-app VPN makes Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) a much more realistic goal for enterprise.
Mobile Device Management Software Made Simple
iOS7 includes a new MDM protocol to streamline third-party MDM solutions. For large businesses, the need to keep hundreds or thousands of users up to date with supported versions of software can be daunting without management software. Corporate-owned devices can be automatically enrolled in an MDM solution during activation, automating much of the custom commands, fonts and wirelessly set-up managed apps.
Giving iWork Mobile to Get
Microsoft made a kingdom into an empire by licensing their end-user productivity tools. Now, just like Google Drive did, Apple is giving away iWork with Cloud capability in their latest release. This move won’t push blue chip companies to defect in droves from Microsoft’s enterprise licensing program, but for smaller businesses this strategic investment on Apple’s part could help them justify the cost of equipping Apple devices while simultaneously extending on one set of productivity tools between laptop and mobile device.
Keep the “Property” in “Intellectual Property” Through App Store Volume Purchase Program
Enterprises can now buy apps and books for their iPhone and iPad-using employees and keep the to those apps or books to transfer them to other workers. For a handful of users, this might not seem like much, but those 99 cents start to add up quickly when it comes to thousands of users or expensive B2B apps or books or other such pricey materials. Previously, companies had to go through a painful process of buying redemption codes to hand out to employees to go out and download the apps on their own.
Microlocation through Apple’s iBeacons
Apple’s iOS 7 supports low-cost transmitters that can work with an iPhone or iPad to collect location data, even if there’s no location system installed in a workplace or other environment. The system works over Bluetooth 4.0 and can be used to interact with an environment just by passing through it.
Major League Baseball has been a staunch supporter of the practical for Apple’s new tech for a few years now, and they have been off and running with how to use the iBeacon technology since last winter. So far, MLB has created an experience to populate a ballpark guides stadium specific information and which prompts users with different results based on where they are located, be it prompting the ticket bar-code at the entrance for the ticket-taker or popping up a coupon for a free soda once one smells the aroma of hot dogs.
“We’ve been looking at customizing the app based on where you are within the stadium, but GPS is notorious for not working indoors, especially when you are in a building made of steel,” MLB iOS developer Marc Abramson told Mashable. “Instead, we are incorporating Apple’s new Bluetooth and iBeacon technologies for iOS 7 and couldn’t be more excited about the potential.”
“Essentially, we want to create micro-locations within the stadiums where you can get different experiences,” Abramson said.
On the factory floor or in a busy transit center this sort of device/environment interplay could change the way the user interacts and experiences their environment.
These eight features are just a few of the many advances that Apple has made with their revolutionary iOS7 product. Beyond what we wrote about above, there’s plenty more worth mentioning: Multi-Tasking APIs, AirDrop and PDF annotations are but a few.
The advance of mobile technology inside the enterprise will lead to major innovations for businesses and with the introduction if iOS7 large organizations have even less reason to put off extending to mobile.
We wrote months ago that organizations who move quickly but cautiously will be the ones that reap the largest long-term benefit for their business. That said, Apple has addressed many of the major concerns for caution in the competitive marketplace with the introduction of technologies like Per-App VPN and ESSO. Extremely secure yet game-changing technology is now available to the enterprise and iOS7 has done enough that smart enterprises will use these security, locational and MDM advances to propel their business forward in the next year with the largest gain at a fractional risk.
Let me answer the first question first. Yes, your business does need a mobile strategy.
Does this mean developing an “app”?
App development can be expensive ~ $10K and up per app is not unusual. “Native” apps (apps that run directly on a mobile device and can run without a live network connection) typically cost cost more than a so called “web” app, which is often just a web-site designed to look good on a smaller screen. While native apps are much loved by users for their excellent performance and polished “look and feel,” sometimes the less expensive web app might be a better choice. As with any good business decision, making the right decision requires a thoughtful analysis of your target user group, your business goals, your budget, and the extent to which mobile technologies compliment your existing legacy systems and the data they contain. In the finally analysis, the decision to invest in mobile technology is a business decision and not a technology one, and all the rigors of good business apply.
Business rigor sounds, um, corporate. Bureaucratic. Stifling. What if I am an entrepreneur with a great idea for an app? Do I still need to get mixed up in all that blah, blah, blah?
Yes. You do.
Your app is not your business ~ your app is a business enabler. It is just one componant in a business ecosystem that you must rule. Just getting the app developed is only one part, albeit a key one, of your overall go-to-market business strategy. Creating the value people are willing to pay for is the superior goal, and that means being everywhere in your app’s “space” ~ blogging, podcasting, network marketing, affiliate marketing and all the rest.
Rule your space! If you don’t, your app will join the crowd of millions bobbing in a sea of app flotsam, waiting to be found. Good luck with that. You will have invested, but the returns will be meager.
So where do you start? I am old school in a new world order ~ I still believe in taking the time to develop a business plan, starting with your financial model. Model several different mobile monetization strategies ~ there are at least five that I know of. If your model, however tweaked, does not “Show You the Money,” then move on.
Need help with a business plan? All kinds of help exists, often for free. I steer folks to their local Chamber of Commerce or government Small Business Development Center. It is common for those organizations to offer business planning classes and even free business planning software. The written results don’t have to be an 800 lb tome, but the “back of the napkin” biz plan is a romantic myth. You get out what you put in, and you should at least have a one page executive summary of your business plan written out so that developers like us can “get it” with a five minute read.
OK ~ enough preaching for one day. We at Shockoe stand ready to help you, however you may need it, with services ranging from business planning to mobile development to backend integration. Whatever your mobile strategy is, get out there and rule!
If you were around then, you remember seeing them. Lonely kiosks, gathering dust, cast aside in the corner of a hotel lobby or government office, their one dead eye staring out dark and lifeless. The once mighty cyclops of the computing world, what IBM believed would be THE way the public gained access to electronic goods and services — rendered a corpse — and a grim reminder of what fate will befall your mobile app should you fail to heed the lessons of the lonely kiosk debacle of the 90’s .
What kills technology based initiatives? Two things: A failure to deliver value, and failures in usability. Kiosks that have survived into the present day deliver superb value and are superbly easy to use, and we use them all them time. The airline ticketing kiosk. Redbox. The ATM. But what about those goofy “info only” kiosks that gave us a map to a restaurant that closed six months ago? Or those whose UI made us want to smash them with a baseball bat like in the famous fax machine scene from “Office Space”? Cue “Still” by Geto Boys. Those kiosks died a just death, and rightly so.
History repeats itself, as they say, and so today we see mobile apps that make all the same mistakes of the 90’s. But this too shall pass, and those apps will too. In 20 years we will will look back and it will all make sense. Apps that survive, nay, thrive, will be those that deliver value consistently, reliably, and easily, and that are compelling and “insanely” easy to pick up and use. Thriving apps will enable those line of business services that are in the critical path of a company’s strategy, essential to its customers, designed for ease-of-use, and built to last.
The question is:: Will your mobile app be one of them?