By Jay Goenka
Real estate developers have historically relied on traditional media – print and outdoor being the preferred forms. The arsenal of real estate marketers and salespeople contained the usual weaponry: full page newspaper adverts and numerous hoardings, coupled with distribution led efforts with channel partners, internal sales teams and institutional brokerage houses. However, times are now different.
Digital media has now become the mainstay of real estate marketers. This is because of a number of reasons, which have been accelerated by the onset of the covid-19 induced pandemic. With newspapers and other print media currently operating with limited circulation and people confined to their homes, the reach of traditional print and outdoor media is not what it was. Digital media’s reach, on the other hand, has increased dramatically. With people spending more time at home – and therefore online – and targeted digital advertising getting more and more sophisticated, developers are now pivoting their marketing strategies towards digital platforms.
Social media has altered the consumption landscape across industries, including real estate. From advertising on social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to communicating with customers through apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and iMessage, the ways in which businesses communicate with their consumers have fundamentally changed. Developers today announce project launches through the company’s Facebook page and hold channel partner meets over video conferencing facilities like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Google Meets and Zoom. WhatsApp and / or SMS based communication (images, short videos, URLs, etc) is often sent to a wide user base, who are then engaged with digitally, either through the developer’s website / social media page, or sometimes through an innovative ‘Chat Bot’ which answers questions in a manner akin to a human sales representative. Since physical site visits are currently limited, developers use rendered ‘virtual tours’ of their developments and sample apartments. These are available to a prospective customer on her smartphone. Along with the above social tools, developers are investing in ‘search engine optimization’ (i.e. ranking higher than one’s peers on a Google / Bing search) and marketing through them, along with further remarketing.
Digital tools like the ones I have spoken of above have become a developer’s marketing team’s mainstay. The extremely low cost-based barrier to entry they offer (when compared with print and outdoor media) and the sophisticated targeting and analytics they allow for have resulted in a strong and sustained shift towards them. This shift is here to stay. However, marketing alone (digital or otherwise), whilst necessary, is not always sufficient. It has to be coupled with strong distribution, innovation, and strategy in order to achieve sales.
Developers have, recognising changing consumer preferences and a more competitive landscape, innovated in the way they interact with their customers. Strong distribution, strategic marketing and product design play a much more important role now than ever – customers demand more than they did before. Only those who earnestly respond to these demands will continue to occupy pride of place in the customer’s mind and be heard over the cacophony of disparate voices vying for it. Stellar service during the construction and handover period, smarter design and more efficient use of space, relevant amenities, and high-quality timely construction are basic necessities for a project and brand’s success today. The more digitised and interconnected the world becomes and the more ubiquitous knowledge becomes, the more important it gets for developers to engage with and respond to their customers and their needs. The covid-19 induced pandemic has accelerated the rate of this change. Developers are shifting towards new forms of media to market their developments, whilst keeping in mind changing consumer preferences in their basic product offering. Consumers, bombarded with content, expect and demand more from the people they purchase from – more engagement, more information, and greater service. This transformation has occurred over the past decade and is one which has fundamentally changed the way real estate is sold and consumed.
The author is director, Dynamix Group
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