Climbing the digital property ladder: Helping real estate brands move with the times
The real estate industry is transforming and there are a host of opportunities that brands in the sector can grasp to stay ahead of the competition.
A friend recently told me: “I’m only looking for flats in this postcode, because you can get Deliveroo.”
This tongue-in-cheek comment holds more than a grain of truth. The pandemic has fundamentally changed people’s attitude towards their homes, and technology is fuelling the transformation.
The result? Adaptability, multifunctional space and lifestyle choice are replacing kitchens and driveways as priorities for purchasers who are ‘moving with the times’ rather than on the lookout for ‘a home for life’.
A full-scale re-evaluation of the selling and aftercare journey for digital marketers is gathering momentum. To succeed in this new world you need to have one eye on evolving customer behaviour and the other on new market entrants eager to consume any gaps you leave unfilled.
Key drivers in your strategic plan should revolve around four key tactics.
1. Move customer need to the centre of your search strategy
Search has started to flex. Hybrid working has meant that the desire for more space and all-round experience have shot up the list of requirements, whilst commuting times and transport links have become secondary considerations.
There’s a shift to city dwellers moving to peri-urban zones, slightly further from work but with more space and in closer proximity to family and friends. Others have moved further out to find a place by the sea, or with space for a home office.
The broadening of the ‘search circle’ means your search criteria need to become more nuanced. Plan beyond the single data point of a postcode or location to keep sight of people as they move in and out of the boundaries of their local area.
To ‘manage, monitor and move home’, disruptor brand Twindig enables buyers to track the property of their dreams before it comes onto the market. By exploiting the power of data, its customers can ‘find and follow any home’, whether currently available or not. This extends Twindig’s presale pipeline and gives them earlier engagement with future buyers than their competitors.
Similarly, PropertyHeads is a new intelligence-led platform that also tracks the status of properties and encourages users to find out more about a location by ‘asking the neighbours’. All before someone has even decided they want to move.
2. Embrace the hybrid viewing experience
Lockdown accelerated buyers’ appetite for virtual tours. They swiftly adapted to using the digital journey for research and initial selection. This hasn’t, however, replaced their desire to step inside a property before buying it. At this stage, the digital opportunity shifts to the potential up- and cross-sell of associated products and services and more enriched experiences, for example by enabling them to visualise their own furniture in the rooms.
When designing the user journey for your brand, therefore, think about houses as repositories with multifunctional assets. New player Boomin’s ‘playground’ has capitalised by adding ecommerce to its site, so buyers can add new sofas, beds and designer furnishing options to the sell.
3. Focus on customer lifetime value
The ‘pre-search to aftersales’ journey is cyclical and can happen multiple times in one person’s lifetime. Zoopla acquired Yourkeys to digitise the sales process and manage the sale of new-build properties, streamlining the journey from reservation through to exchange and completion.
Other new entrants are looking to put the power squarely in the hands of the consumer by delving into NFTs (Propy.com), developing blockchain mortgages (BlockFi) and, in the case of Apartment Ocean, introducing AI-powered customer service representatives.
4. Strengthen your foundations
With this relentless drive to meet new customer expectations and ‘fill the gaps’ with digital, how can you keep up? It’d be naïve to suggest staying ahead of the curve is simple. In reality, many real estate brands are sizeable organisations with centralised HQs and large teams in the field. The technical changes required to deliver more joined up experiences can be a blocker.
But existing platforms, whether off-the-shelf property specific or not, can become a piece of a broader solution, like that offered by the Kentico Xperience Platform. This robust and secure digital experience platform (DXP) combines content management, digital marketing and commerce under one roof.
Joining up the data points to improve the customer journey can still remain a logistical challenge for digital marketers. There’s a growing movement to digitise much of this journey and maintain a connection point with a buyer via branded portals or partner solutions.
But the gaps are still wide open. By pulling data from every source into a single aggregator and aligning your architecture and data via a customer data platform (CDP), you’ll start to gain a true end-to-end understanding of your customers’ pain points – and then focus on how to solve them.
Kate Fitzpatrick is a senior strategist at award-winning agency unrvld.com – famous for their work with Winkworth, Barratt Homes, Carter Jonas, McCarthy Stone, Safestore and other leading brands in the property sector.