Mobile

How Trulia turns ‘real estate porn’ into lasting relationships

Above: Kira Wampler of Trulia (left) and Heidi Browning of Pandora, onstage at MobileBeat.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat
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SAN FRANCISCO — Real-estate information service Trulia has seen tremendous success with its mobile app.

But the trick is turning people who are idle browsers of “real estate porn” into more serious, long-term customers.

At VentureBeat’s MobileBeat conference today, Trulia chief marketing officer Kira Wampler explained how she does just that.

For starters, Trulia’s mobile app is a huge asset because real estate is essentially a location-based business.

“Place is inherently mobile,” Wampler said, referencing the old cliche about the three most important things in real estate: Location, location, location.

Trulia has embraced that mobility with an app that focuses on delivering not just information but a “real estate experience,” as Wampler put it. The app provides readily-accessible information, mobile alerts (so you can find out when there’s a new rental or home for sale in a neighborhood you happen to be walking through), and has a prominent “more information” button that connects prospective buyers or renters with real estate agents.

Trulia makes money by charging agents for the privilege of receiving those highly-qualified leads.

The company also tries to capitalize on the fact that buying (or renting) a new home is a difficult process. It addresses that with an easy-to-use, beautiful app that makes the process somewhat easier.

“Consumers are going through a long, complicated process, they’re feeling a lot of pain, and they’re looking for a brand to trust,” Wampler said.

The company is doing well — it’s been publicly-traded for about two years (NASDAQ: TRLA, currently trading at about $41, slightly above the middle of its 52-week range), employs about 1,000 people, and had 51 million unique visitors to its web site as of May.

The trick is that, for many people, Trulia is “real estate porn,” as interviewer Heidi Browning, a senior vice president of Pandora, put it.

“I like to look,” Browning said, echoing many people’s feelings: She browses listings even though she’s not a serious prospective buyer.

So for Wampler, the challenge is to turn that idle browsing into a more lasting connection.

To do that, Trulia needs to use additional channels besides the mobile app to keep them engaged.

One way is through a weekly neighborhood update (via email) that apprises people of new listings in their area, as well as crime updates, school news, and more.

“It’s a really great way to keep people engaged after the process ends,” Wampler said.

Another possibility: Wearables. Trulia is building an Android Wear app that will let people get those localized new-listing alerts on their Android Wear smartwatches.

Trulia also uses brand advertising and direct marketing techniques to reach out to new prospective customers through mobile partners, such as Pandora.

Wampler’s advice to other companies that want to emulate Trulia’s success in mobile: First, she said, focus on making the app awesome.

“Build a great product,” Wampler said. If you don’t, nothing else you do to attract and retain mobile customers will amount to much.

Second, marry a deep focus on the consumer and what they want (a traditional “consumer product goods,” or CPG, approach) with a Silicon Valley “test, iterate, and scale” mentality.

And third, Wampler said, build relationships with partners who can help you achieve that scale — particularly partners that are willing to share data with you.

Corrected 7/14: Trulia actually employs about 1,000 people, not 7,000.

More about the companies and people from this article:

Pandora gives people music they love anytime, anywhere, through connected devices. Personalized stations launch instantly with the input of a single "seed" – a favorite artist, song or genre. The Music Genome Project®, a deeply deta... read more »

Trulia gives home buyers, sellers, owners and renters the inside scoop on properties, places and real estate professionals. Trulia has unique info on the areas people want to live that can’t be found anywhere else: users can learn ab... read more »

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