In the real estate world, digital technology is helping facilitate engagement with clients and build value as the trusted expert. CEO of First National Real Estate, Ray Ellis, has been doing just that with automated Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts.
“It’s automated so each one of our offices around Australia and New Zealand can upload local content, local information and national information on a regular basis with little involvement from staff at the local office,” he says. “Local staff provide the content, but it’s automated by the technology.
“We’ve built the technology ourselves with our partners in the United States; they provide the hardware and we provide the mechanism for making it happen.”
While the technology saves staff a lot of time in keeping conversations happening on social media, it’s the content that is most important, Ellis says. Every post must show the real estate group has a genuine interest in what’s happening in the local community, as well as educating people on real estate matters.
Since First National began this social media strategy about a year-and-a-half ago, it has seen an almost 200 per cent increase in social media engagement with its clients, Ellis says.
“An email inbox has now become a cluttered space. There’s a school of thought that email is becoming passé, and perhaps it is for under 25-year-olds as it’s been replaced by Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and so on,” he says. “We have to engage in that format.”
CIO of Ray White Group, Tony Carroll, is also looking to better engage with clients and is developing the real estate’s ‘Research Bar’ iPad app. The iPad is embedded into a table so people can sit and play around with the app while waiting to see a real estate agent, for example.
The app uses Google Maps to search all the Ray White properties for sale in the local area. Users select a property and get an idea on what the average repayments per week would be over a certain period of time if they were to buy the property. The iPad offering has been deployed in select offices so far.
“We have a lot of people coming into the office to pay their rent, looking for rental properties and properties to buy. People might come in saying ‘I’m paying say $500 per week in rent, but for $500 per week I could buy this property’. So it might help start a new conversation and get people thinking differently,” Carroll says.
“Instead of saying ‘give me your email address and I’ll send you a market update every three months or inspections for houses’, we want to look at how we can better engage with the community and provide information that may be able to help them in different ways.”
Embracing mobile technology
Ray White Group is developing an app that uses beacon sensors to alert real estate agents when a particular potential client enters a property open for inspection. The client downloads the application on their phone so they can be attended to promptly whenever they go and inspect properties.
“When you come into the property, instead of having to sign in, you would be picked up on that local proximity area network by the sensors through your app,” explains its CIO, Tony Carroll.
“It automatically registers you and then it alerts the sales person inside the property with an instant message that John Smith has arrived.”
Carroll had also trialled an augmented reality app. This allows the user to point their smartphone at the property or sign board, which recognises the image of the house and displays information about it.
“Like most organisations, we are almost becoming a technology business that sells real estate. For the real estate professional tomorrow, if they are not across technology or not using technology, they will be left behind by their competitors,” Carroll says.
“We have probably doubled our investment in technology over the last two to three years.”
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