Driving Consumers on their Web Journey

Jeff McConathy, VP Engineering & Consumer Services, Trulia
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Jeff McConathy, VP Engineering & Consumer Services, Trulia

Traditional Web, mobile Web, mobile applications: For multiplatform companies focused on reaching and retaining consumers, product development is more complex than ever.

"We focus on several different consumer acquisition channels and attempt to ensure we are optimized for all in order to deliver a favorable consumer experience"

While the traditional Web is still critical, companies will be at a disadvantage if they are not-or don’t start- looking at it as part of a larger product system that ties content together from multiple channels, including mobile Web and apps. At Trulia, our mission is to make finding a home easy and enjoyable. We focus on several different consumer acquisition channels and attempt to ensure we are optimized for all in order to deliver a favorable consumer experience.

Typically, the consumer’s journey starts with the classic example: finding your website through a friend’s recommendation, some type of paid marketing, or through their favorite search engine. Once they visit your site, not only is it optimized to serve them, it also helps them remember they visited in the first place, prompting them to become a repeat visitor. In Trulia’s case, this scenario enables us to offer a very useful registration flow for home shoppers to sign up for free listing updates with just their email address.

The Key to Email Success? Mobile Web 
However, based on the current state of consumer behavior, email alone is not going to be enough to keep consumers coming back. The odds are quite good that when a consumer opens their first email from your company, it will happen on a mobile device. And since clicking out from that email into your basic desktop Web experience is almost guaranteed to cause abandonment, it’s critical to have an amazing mobile Web experience.

How you achieve that mobile Web experience varies, and I see benefits in both dedicated code bases and responsive design. In Trulia’s case, we use both, but strive to keep core content as similar as possible across both mobile Web and traditional Web. For more complex interactions such as search, we use dedicated mobile code, while we use responsive design for content such as blogs. Dedicated code allows us more flexibility for how content updates and how the experience animates. However, as CSS and JavaScript frameworks continue to evolve, we will be looking to use responsive design more in the future to aid in code maintenance.

The Path from Mobile Web to App 
Getting back to the consumer journey, once they’re visiting your amazing mobile Web experience, companies often take the opportunity to shove an interstitial on the screen, encouraging the consumer to download the app. While this strategy can be effective, at Trulia, we find that consumers want to evaluate the mobile Web experience first before deciding to download an app. Regardless of how good your desktop Web experience was for them, you’re back to making a first impression here, so I recommend investing heavily in your mobile Web experience.

Once the consumer does take the added step of installing your app, take full advantage of that through deep linking and push notifications. Deep linking allows you to connect your app user directly into the proper view of your app, straight from a Web link within an email. This creates a much better experience for the consumer; generally, app users show higher engagement so it’s the ideal place for them to land. Trulia focuses on creating top-ranked apps for iOS and Android.

With iOS9, deep linking into your apps has become much easier, but this requires alignment with special content on your website as Apple needs to verify the content there. You can check Apple’s documentation on Universal Links for more details on this. With Android, it’s also straightforward to use intent filters. A filter can intercept an email click on a phone, and translate that into an intent to drop the consumer into viewing the content in the app. Again, search the Android developers site for examples on this.

The Power of Push 
Finally, there is the push notification. More powerful than email but also more personal, it’s important to treat push notifications differently. While your emails may use a template to make them appear personalized, you need to work to try to ensure any push notification is based on truly personalized data. Similar to that first time Web experience, you get one shot at notifications before the consumer disables the feature, so put in the effort to ensure these are meaningful messages that will resonate. Similar to deep linking, using push notifications is a great way to keep consumers visiting your apps, where they are likely to engage with your product more.

Throughout this acquisition journey, the consumer really only needed to take a few steps to get from traditional Web, to your mobile Web experience, and finally to your app. To maximize your ability to connect with consumers as repeat visitors, it’s critical that all of the pieces have been thought through and implemented in a way that embraces today’s consumer behavior. We’ve spent significant time on this flow at Trulia, and our consumers respond by both demonstrating positive engagement and high product satisfaction when surveyed.

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