Property & The Internet of Things
When it comes to property marketing, I’ve long ago lost track of the number of times that I’ve talked about and written about the importance and impact of location. It’s the foundation of why any property either appeals to a particular buyer or it does not. It’s something we all understand.
However, almost three decades since the arrival of the internet, I wanted to update myself about the equally profound impact the internet has on almost every aspect of property marketing. Perhaps that would be better phrased as having an impact on every aspect of property marketing.
It’s a fact born out in a KMPG report that quotes fully 97% of real estate firms see digital technology impacting their business and that includes 45% who see technology-linked marketing as a challenge.
The topic also has me wondering about the role real estate agents play and if possibly one day we might become redundant, perhaps replaced by a very sophisticated level of artificial intelligence.
This is an area where it’s literally possible to ‘drown’ in statistics and endless analysis and while, there are a few notable numbers I’m more interested in exploring some of the reasons why the internet has had such an impact on our industry, and why it will continue to do so.
But first, a few steps back, well a few big steps actually to 1981 when newspapers were the go-to source of information for any property buyer.
At the time newspapers were bulging with property advertising. These ranged from very modest classified or lineage content, to large bold full-pages and ranged across special property sections to lift-outs.
Newspapers were a great media for property. However, what might well have been a pointer to the future, was the second most influential being the role and influence of family and friends.
Today, newspapers still have a role, but the impact of the internet is impossible to ignore. Depending upon what research you read fully 92% to 99% of all residential property buyers start their buying search online. It’s a reality of the market that took hold very quickly and has become a foundation of marketing now for at least the past decade.
The numbers are astonishing and it’s perhaps easy to understand why the internet and online marketing works so well for property, although there are still some other interesting factors I’ll return to.
However, what is it that potential buyers so like?
There are a few obvious points and if you’ve ever woven your way through Sydney’s weekend traffic some, you’ll immediately identify.
Again, there’s lots of research to pick through, but generally as a means of searching for property the internet offers convenience, it’s also very easy to make price comparisons (which all buyers rate), it saves a huge amount of time, helps anyone avoid crowds at opens and perhaps above all the net un-locks a huge amount of information that potential buyers need and value.
They might all read as obvious points, but each has a big impact on the marketing effort for individual properties and are motivations to keep in mind when planning today’s marketing campaigns.
From a very practical point of view when we think about each of these motivations when searching for property, I’m reminded of what are the key factors that we need to address.
As potential buyers use the internet in the ways described, how do we as property marketers need to respond. Here again there’s lots of evidence to drawn upon. The main aim is to help buyers make a purchase decision.
The very first rule is that online material and content needs to be up-to-date, it sounds simple but is often overlooked. Old information will soon discourage even the most active of potential buyers. This is more important when it comes to social media.
Earlier I made mention of the fact that back in 1981, right after newspapers as a trusted source of information for property buyers came via personal recommendation, today we’d call that social media.
Today the importance of social media for real estate really can’t be overstated. A majority of projects and many individual real estate agents actively use social media in some way.
Social media can be an absolute goldmine however that’s assuming a concrete social strategy, that’s up-to-date and relevant.
Another big factor in the use of internet marketing is to use a variety of content; quality photography, short informative videos, virtual tours and easy to digest written content and don’t rely upon simply attaching a PDF to your website or listing.
Another really big factor is to make sure that your content is 100% mobile friendly. If for example a potential buyer drives past a project and is attracted by a big impressive sign, and then does an immediate search on their mobile but cannot access details, even a phone number, then you may have wasted your time and lost a potential sale.
Agents Clinch the Sale
To finish this very brief look at a very big topic, I’d like to return to the role of agents in the buying path. While it’s possible to attribute a lot of credit to the internet as a marketing tool, it is estate agents whom still have a central role to play in the final sales path.
While it’s clear that as many as 99% of some buyer groups lead by millennials, use the internet to search for a property, a majority quoted at around 88% by most research, still deal face to face with an agent for the final property choice and purchase.
That’s further reinforced by figures that show around 50% of buyers do find their purchase online buy still 28% us an agent to do the search for them.
Reasoning why agents are still as vital to buyers as the use of the internet is, I think can be easily figured out.
Generally, when consumers by on-line they avoid buying what might be considered as ‘high-risk’ purchases. Consumers for example avoid buy perishable foods, cleaning products, pet food and auto parts.
However, while these products are very different from property, they do to a big degree involve a high level of trust, or a need for general comparison and safety. Auto parts for example need to be suitable for purpose and reliable, if you buy the wrong part it can damage or car or create more problems.
The internet has had a big impact on property, extending well beyond marketing to now include conveyancing, finance and even the administration of real property title.
However, while there are many new innovations to come, personal service and the role of agents remains central to the property purchase path. Charles Darwin said: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change’. To date I think the property industry has done this with the use of technology and the use of digital marketing however, it’s an ongoing journey.