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Digital and Big Data – What Do They Really Mean?

THERE ARE TWO BROAD CONCEPTS which we need to understand to follow what’s occurring in real estate and other industries right now. Samantha McLean of Elite Agent Magazine starts by defining the terms and explaining their significance.


‘Digital’ means different things to different people. For some it’s purely about technology; for others it is a broader means to engage with customers. For the disrupters it may mean a completely new way of doing business.

But in the main there are three things you should be thinking when you hear the word ‘digital’.

  1. Creating value in new ways through connection – for some agencies this might be about developing new revenue streams in related categories, such as mortgages or removal companies, while for others it might be about offering new services, like concierge services.
  2. Creating value in improving the way customers are served – this includes understanding every step of the customer’s property journey and then developing efficiency, speed and flexibility to deliver those moments that matter.
  3. The ability to be fast and agile – using data to make faster and better decisions, releasing the resources your business needs and when, and learning how can you best encourage another generation of new ideas from your teams.


When we first started this project, I asked Kylie Davis from CoreLogic to simply define big data for me. She said, “Computers and televisions are made up of millions of dots, but you don’t look at the dots, you look at the big picture.

“Think of it as a big spreadsheet of numbers sitting somewhere in the universe. To use it you don’t need to look at the spreadsheet,

you don’t have to memorise the numbers; you just need to look at what is new or different.”

Even when you think you know everything there is to know about your customer or your market, big data completes the picture with elements that you weren’t aware of. What percentage of your market likes fine wine, how many of them have children, who has pets, when do significant life changes happen for them that might create an opportunity to upsize or downsize? This information can be gained from data outside of the real estate industry.


Data created outside the real estate industry is very useful to us. Take a mobile phone base station as an example. That mobile base station (assuming you own a mobile phone) tells the telecommunications provider who owns it how much to bill you for the calls you make and the data you use. But that mobile base station can also geo-locate the user, where they are in their day-to-day life, what type of job they are likely to have, what stage of life they are at, their probable income level, and so on. So the mobile phone base station data over time is useful to all different types of service providers, particularly when joined with other data sets from other industries. This is how big data works.

Big data is no longer just for big business with big budgets. There are a number of ways that the real estate industry needs to embrace and use the power of data; both our own data and the data created around us by other industries.


Data has no expiration date and it can’t be consumed. But it has no value without analytics.

Where there is a lot of value in data is to elevate its use ‘beyond the transaction’ or the price of the item (in this case a property) over time. Many other industries, such as finance, health, banking, insurance and more, are taking advantage of data outside their own systems right now.

Last year, in our Get ready for 2020 report, we suggested that big data could lead to non-traditional revenue streams; for example, providing leads for adjacent services to real estate, such as mortgage broking, removals, connections, home wares, trades and more. In addition, we saw various projects that were of interest to the industry, such as overlaying pre-approved mortgage data with locations so you could tell by address whether there is a pre-approved mortgage or not. Last year our panel came up with the possibility that over-50s looking at investment properties might also like a holiday in Fiji or a golfing membership, and there would be an audience for this segment. This is yet another example of how the same data has usefulness across many industries.


The solutions we discussed in our industry roundtable allow real estate professionals to streamline, automate and optimise workflow. By watching technology shifts in other industries, both here and overseas, agencies can learn about the possibilities that now exist in the real estate industry and prepare for a future with smarter prospecting and better value solutions.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.