Doug Hutchinson: How to make sense of Big Data

Big Data has been a huge trend in the real estate industry in recent years. But data is worth little unless you can make it talk and apply it to your business to produce results that matter. Barry Plant Chief Operating Officer Doug Hutchinson explains the group has recently partnered with a start-up to do just that and, in one case, unearthed a host of potential leads and is now analysing which are most likely to convert to sales.

Customer relationship management software across Australian real estate agencies is bulging with data.

Is this a good thing? Not necessarily.

For the past few years, it’s been all about collecting information – Big Data.

Every personal or online interaction has been about wresting precious contact details and preferences from people to put into a database.

We were told that data would be the lifeblood of our future – but in many instances, data has been like bitcoin; you know it has value but are unsure how to use it effectively.  

In the meantime, people move, change emails and phone numbers, change their preferences, or buy or sell through someone else, so all that precious data quickly becomes outdated, inaccurate, and worthless. 

We’ve come to recognise that databases need constant care and maintenance and that they need to be profiled and mined if they are to deliver the gold we’ve always been promised. 

To realise that potential, we recently partnered with Rebot, a start-up with a vision and know-how (software developers and data scientists) to build and deliver a solution to the problem. 

Rebot uses its smarts and machine learning to intelligently find and correct errors in a database (including detecting when someone in your database has bought or sold through another agency).

It’s a clever prospecting platform that will allow us to automate and truly personalise our marketing and communications to our customers.

We have introduced the platform across our office network, and we’re working closely with each office to customise the results to suit their business model. 

For instance, running Rebot across one office database located more than 1000 potential seller leads. 

How did they want to handle them? Outsource them to telemarketers for qualification, email the client or give the leads to the agents to follow up?

They decided to assign them to agents based on farm areas, so now the technology distributes their seller leads that way, but it’s also monitoring those leads to learn what makes one lead more likely to convert than another.

For our agents, it’s all about focusing their time and energy on those people that are most likely to proceed to market in the near term, and the technology is helping us to identify the best leads for our agents to focus on. 

Customer segmentation is also an important area we focus on to improve and personalise our customer’s experience. 

We’ve had to work with segmented databases in all manner of ways – A, B, C or hot, warm, cold listings amongst many other variations. 

In fact, we’ve found more than 15,000 different ways of classifying clients across our group!

But the beauty of our project is that every office will have its own unique categories mapped to a standardised set of segments that we’ll use to support our automated marketing and communication programs.

Why is that important? Well, offices and agents use all sorts of automated email and text-based communication tools to keep in contact with people in their database, but the effectiveness of these tools is heavily dependent on accurate customer segmentation.

What’s the point of communicating with someone as though they are a buyer or a seller if they have already bought or sold?

You’ll only annoy customers until they unsubscribe from all contact. It’s much better to shift those people to your long-term nurture program and focus your regular contact and energy on people you know are still in the market.

We have become early adopters of PropTech that fits into our long-term strategy.

We have a detailed map of our end goals, and what technology (or optimum functionality) is required to get there. 

We’re working directly with our tech partners to ensure that our software solutions interact seamlessly with one another to support our business goals.

We are constantly evolving and now looking to harness data science and innovative thinking to improve our customer experience and give our agents an unfair advantage in the market.

The future is limitless and so exciting in this space.

The triangulation of accurate, real-time data to provide solid predictions on client behaviour is just the beginning.

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Doug Hutchinson

Doug Hutchinson is the Chief Operating Officer of The Barry Plant Group.