When it comes to impacting human behavior, the internet has nothing on the mobile device, says John Lim. And he makes a good argument. In this exclusive interview, Lim, CEO of Life in Mobile, explains his ‘Human2™ Theory’ and how the firm’s new Smart Signs™ connect technology with basic humanity.
Maria Patterson: How has human behavior changed since the advent of the mobile device?
John Lim: Since the invention of the mobile device, expectations have changed. This change is more significant than the introduction of the internet because Google created the “I want it now” society and the mobile device has created the “I need it now” society. The innovation of mobile platforms has put the world at your fingertips for engagement at any time, in any place, providing people with instant gratification. This liberation has created a shift in human behavior. Humans expect information, products and services to be available instantaneously, from any location.
MP: Tell us about your ‘Human2™ Theory.’
JL: We have a fundamental belief that every human being has the ability to be two people at once: a physical presence in the real-world, and a virtual presence in the digital world. For example, a consumer can grocery shop while on an airplane, buy shoes while at work or buy movie tickets while waiting for a cab. With a mobile device, we can constantly multi-task. Mobile is your “sixth sense”—your proxy to the digital world, as my partner John Packes would say.
My Human2™ Theory necessitates creating an experience for the human behind the device, not the device itself, taking into account that the human is in both the digital and physical worlds simultaneously. The theory focuses on the fact that people are unique and are influenced by their surroundings and environment to behave differently. The weather, time of day, day of week, location and other factors have a profound effect on humans and how they act or react. Consumers are always in different places, affected by varying environments, not just behind their desk at a computer.
MP: Why is the human factor an integral part of your approach to developing mobile technology?
JL: As humans, our moods are directly affected by our environment. This is so important because it affects the mobile user. The mobile user is not a desktop user. When I’m physically outside on a nice day looking for a property or walking with friends to a restaurant, and I use my mobile device, I will engage more and buy more because my environment is elevating my mood. The desktop user is affected less, as desktop computers are typically used indoors, essentially in a controlled environment like an office. When you consider mobile, you shouldn’t think about the technology, but instead, think about the environment the human will be in when he or she is using it, and cater the experience accordingly.
MP: How have mobile devices specifically changed the approach of homebuyers?
JL: Because we are an “I need it now” society, we need the information immediately or we get anxious. Knowledge is power, but if you can’t react to the knowledge, it has an adverse effect. If I see a house, I want the information on it now. We can drive around and look at properties and get the information on that property immediately. We can also look at entire neighborhoods using GPS to show available listings within a certain distance. We no longer have to wait for a REALTOR® to return a call to set an appointment or open a door—all because of the mobile device.
MP: What impact has the evolution of mobile had on traditional real estate practices, such as the yard sign?
JL: Yard signs are one of the few marketing pieces that have truly withstood the test of time in technology. According to NAR, 100 percent of homebuyers start online, but if we were in just a technological world, we wouldn’t need yard signs. The yard sign is the most expensive traditional marketing piece for a property, so why would it still be used? Some say branding, but if it was just branding, you wouldn’t have a phone number or your website or riders on it. Yard signs are there to target market and engage people. The evolution of mobile can completely alter that.
MP: How so?
JL: As humans, we like being told what to do—we don’t think that’s true, but it is. It amazes me—a person who is going by a yard sign is almost guaranteed to have a mobile device in reach, yet we don’t have instructions on every single sign that says, “Do this to get info on this property right now.” But if the sign said, “To see pricing and details, text EXIT to 85377,” we’d be likely to do that. That, for real estate, transforms how quickly you can connect two people. Both the consumer and the REALTOR® are getting more information about each other. Every yard sign should have text instructions on it—the simplicity, low barrier to entry and massive installed base of texting technology makes it foolish not to.
MP: So the yard sign hasn’t lost its relevance in the mobile age?
JL: Signs haven’t gone away because of a basic human trait. As a REALTOR®, I’ve just spent my evening or weekend away from my family and went to a seller’s house and sold them on why they should use me and my firm to list their property and sell their biggest asset. They’re putting their trust in me. I leave feeling proud. The first thing I want to do is plant my “flag” and let the rest of the world know that I earned the right to list this property. Why not maximize that? I want the human being who most likely has a mobile device with them to follow the instructions on my sign. In a very smart world, our signs are dumb when they could be Smart Signs™, simply by mobilizing the sign with words. Not even technology, just words.
MP: How has your firm created this ‘mobilization of the yard sign?’
JL: We actually started in 2008 with our brand Mobile Real Estate in creating text messaging lead generation. We started out not even thinking about technology. We started with, “there’s a sign, there’s a human, and there’s a phone.” We came up with unique text codes where you text in per property. This was great, and it worked. It’s brought in over 4 million leads since 2010, but we knew there was more we could do. The real estate sign had to be simplified. That’s when we developed Smart Signs™.
Smart Signs™ is one sign that you can put on every single property that’s for sale. By putting the same exact sign on every property, it allows consumers to text in and get all the information they want, connecting them to the listing agent who knows the most about that house. It simplifies the REALTOR®’ s job of hanging signs and administering technology, and streamlines the consumer experience by allowing them to text a simple word. It’s elegant and extremely effective technology, and everything happens in a matter of seconds.
MP: How does the Smart Sign™ work? How does it make things easier for agents and their consumers?
JL: EXIT Realty has a great initiative to make sure that every sign is mobilized by 2018, so I’ll use them as an example. When a consumer drives by a property with a Smart Sign™, they will see the words “Text EXIT to 85377 for pricing, pictures and more information.” The consumer can follow those instructions and immediately get a text message with a link to information on all EXIT properties within 500 feet of their location. They will also be given contact information of the listing agent who knows the most about the property. The listing agent will instantly get a lead alert containing the consumer’s mobile number so they can connect with the consumer directly—and immediately.
Agents don’t have to worry about any logistics. These new signs will alleviate the worry of putting the wrong sign on a property or ordering the right rider because the same exact sign can be used whether the agent has five or 5,000 listings.
MP: Why is the Smart Sign™ a good idea for brokers?
JL: For brokers, the investment is small—you’re buying your signs anyway, so why not mobilize the sign? The amount of leads you generate off that sign will make it the least expensive piece of your marketing. For the brokers and REALTORS® we work with, it has outperformed Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com®, and the website of the broker each time. In most of our brokerages, the Smart Sign™ has outperformed the three portals combined when used correctly…and by correctly, I simply mean used.
MP: What made this a good choice for the EXIT brand?
JL: EXIT is one of the most forward-thinking brands inside the real estate industry. They’re committed to making sure their agents and brokers have the best-in-breed technology without making their day-to-day life more complicated. Smart Signs™ fits right into EXIT’s formula.
Signing on for Long-Term Success
In keeping with its history of providing innovative, easy-to-use solutions for agents and brokers, EXIT Realty Corp. Intl. plans on mobilizing all yard signs by 2018. “The consumer wants transparency and instant gratification—Smart Signs™ provide both,” says EXIT CEO Tami Bonnell. “This benefits both the consumer and the agent, since the agent receives their contact information and can follow up immediately to answer any questions. The agent wants control of their business and more leads, and this generates leads straight to their phone, allowing them to be in front of more people.”
According to Bonnell, it’s a win for the broker, too, as Smart Signs™ provide consistent branding for the brokerage while offering the agent a competitive differentiator.
“Brokers want more transactions, as do agents,” says Bonnell. “EXIT provides this technology and Mobile Business Cards™ for all our agents in order to give them a unique marketing strategy that enables them to stand out from their competition. Technology is supposed to help multiply an agent’s efforts and increase their business, not bog them down. This is user-friendly for all.”
Bonnell adds that Smart Signs™ serve as a great recruiting and retention tool as well. “This technology attracts agents who want to make more money in less time and have a better quality of life,” Bonnell explains. “Everyone knows listings control the business. When you can go into a listing appointment and show the consumer how you can serve them better and generate more leads for their property, it’s a simple decision.
“At EXIT Realty, we believe it’s all about the human behind the transaction—behind the device. This is high-tech that gives you more opportunity for high-touch.”
For more information, visit www.lifeinmobile.com.