Some years ago, talks about digital technology disrupting the property industry was the main discussion at conferences. Back then, there was a constant increase in the number of estate and letting agents working with technology to drive their business growth.
Today, it’s no different, as agents continue to employ more efficient digital methods to establish their influence in the industry. This includes the use of apps, hi-tech websites, and online portals which have advanced at high rates. The disruption in the property business is indeed going to grow further.
Many agents are embracing these smart websites and types of software to draw new property investors, buyers and tenants. They also make use of digital technology to manage their clients’ needs.
This trend isn’t exclusive to agents. Many businesses in other industries, especially across retail sectors and across Europe, offer more than one digital platform to interact with their clients or customers. People like the instant response and convenience that digital technology brings to them. Everybody uses an app for something, be it for entertainment, networking or purchase. We are, undoubtedly, living in a digital age.
Agents are finding out that they have to adapt and blend in with their customers’ ever-changing attraction to digital technology, or risk the chance of losing them to more tech-savvy competitors.
These developments in the property business occurred quickly and spread far–facilitated by digital-based companies such as LetMC and Reapit. These companies offer software technology and apps with industry-specific attributes aimed at helping agents improve their services to customers. It has also been observed that creative agencies with a focus on property markets are becoming popular.
However, this digital expansion isn’t only being noticed in the sales markets. Agents are more and more adopting the use of technology to manage clients already existing in their networks and also improve the services that they deliver.
A sales director at Fixlo, Jon Chapman, admits that digital technology is surely driving the property business forward. According to Chapman, in the lettings industry alone, technology is allowing agents to deliver easy and convenient services that are centralised on client and customer needs. This has led to the simplification of procedures, enhanced efficiencies and better communications, all of which enable agents to expand their businesses.
By discussing innovative communications with their clients, some agents have discovered that tenants and property buyers enjoy the convenience with which they can connect with them using digital technology. Their experience can also be enhanced further by giving them the option of talking directly to an operative when the wish to. This puts the customer at the centre of digital, online and phone communications with the agent.
No doubt, the typical house auction with well-off property agents roving around buyers seeking for a better bid is being challenged. Prospective buyers have often complained about how uncomfortable is to have an agent distracting you while you are bidding. In modern auctions, nobody can work the crowds anymore.
Buyers are happy to communicate directly with the sellers of a property.
Three groups of property sellers are influencing the disruption;
A majority of buyers and sellers now would rather go online as the transaction is totally peer-to-peer and digitized. A recent study showed that about 86 per cent of people go online to find their next property and a majority of agents advertise their available properties on online property magazines and blogs.
The online portal preference is a global phenomenon, and technology experts agree that the global property market will soon experience a rise of fixed-price, without commission and greatly automated peer-to-peer websites. Online auctions are now common as a result.
Online websites and portals are making use of 3D rendering to sell their properties. Some are also using aerial photographs, taken by drones, of their high-rise properties.
However, there is only so much the automated portals can do. The property portals cannot completely replace what an agent can do, including giving you a more personalised tour of a property. There are many homebuyers who would rather be shown around a property and have specific details explained in a face-to-face meeting. In such cases, these people go online to search for available properties and conclude their purchases offline.
It is not surprising that most of those who conclude purchases at the house are buying it for personal or family occupancy. These buyers are usually more sensitive to the conditions of the property. Conversely, organisations that buy properties for commercial reasons or with the intention of re-modifications are not usually particular about house tours. It is therefore these group of people who often participate in automated auctions.
Digital developments can be used to inspire clients and improve their user experience with the agent using software technologies such as apps and online portals. In some cases, where agents are busy, they can direct a customer’s call to an on-desk operative who responds immediately. That way, customers’ inquiries are replied by a real person.
With the existing trends, the digital arm of the property market is poised for rapid growth, but the right mix of digital and direct communications will give clients the best of both worlds.
Additionally, technology provides opportunities for agents to grow their customer database so that they can understand customer behaviour in more in-depth ways. This will enable them offer more personalised services for their clients and build loyalty.
As the saying goes, it is easier to retain an existing customer than get a new one. The expansion of the technology and use of innovative tools are helping agents proffer services that appeal emotionally to their customers and strengthen their relationship.
Property agents should continue to devote more resources towards identifying and adopting better technology to serve their clients, because when the client wins, so do they.