There is no question that new technologies have changed the world, along with the Australian real estate industry. Change is occurring at an exponential rate and, while new technology is exciting, an agent or office can be forgiven for being a little unsure which ones are worth investing in. Century 21 Australia owner and CEO Charles Tarbey discusses some of the technology and marketing ideas that have paid dividends.
A recent study by comScore suggested that US consumers now spend 60 per cent of their digital time on mobile, with only 40 per cent of their time spent on desktop usage.
Interestingly, the study also found that more time is spent on mobile apps (such as Facebook) than desktop usage or even surfing the web through mobile devices.
Virtual reality technology, such as Oculus (purchased by Facebook for US$2 billion in 2014), is no longer in the realm of fantasy or science fiction. Developers and agents across the world have begun using virtual reality to showcase properties – probably in an attempt to reach new markets while creating a level of experience superior to that delivered by still 2D property images or floorplans.
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, Century 21’s focus has been on identifying technologies and systems that, above anything else, make an agent’s life easier. That doesn’t mean helping them create more free time; it means creating efficiencies in the way they operate, helping them generate sales and creating new and heightened levels of engagement with the consumer.
We don’t do technology for technology’s sake. As a business run by real estate people, we look to identify, analyse, test and use technology that we believe may make our franchise owners more successful in their marketplaces by making their lives – and the lives of their agents – as easy as possible.
Here are some of the technologies and systems that we have proven effective in our Australasian network, and may give you some ideas on how better to use or develop technology to further your business interests.
LEAD GENERATION SYSTEM
Last year we had a bit of a ‘light bulb’ moment at Century 21 Corporate Office. We realised that most large real estate brands were in all probability reinforcing the same type of message to agents and offices in the field; namely, our brand delivers you leads on a consistent basis.
While that is likely the case, most, if not all, leads were probably indirect leads. They weren’t qualified, trackable and measurable, nor sent from corporate office to agents in the field.
We wondered whether we could fuse old and new technologies to create a system that delivered direct and qualified leads to our agents each day.
Many will have seen the luxury Sunshine Coast apartment giveaway that was launched in June by Century 21 and promoted by mainstream media, on social media, online and most recently, television commercials aired on Channel Seven (and affiliated networks) during their coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
To enter the draw to win the $400,000 apartment, people register their interest in transacting property through Century 21 and provide their preferred contact details. This creates a qualified lead that new Century 21 software automatically on-sends to the relevant Century 21 office, to be assigned to one of its sales agents or property managers. Corporate office also sees the lead and can tracks its progress.
The new technology has been an overwhelming success, with hundreds of qualified leads being sent to offices and agents across Australia and New Zealand in a short time.
This system would not have been possible without advancements in the online sphere and new technology – all coupled with a traditional ‘giveaway’.
The lead generation system aims to make life easier for our agents – and make our offices more profitable. By automating the system through new technology, we were able to remove much of the human costs that would be required to run an advanced system like this.
Advancements in technology have also made the world smaller and more interconnected.
There has been a shift in consumer attitudes towards buying goods online and away from international markets. Savvy agents have catered to this shift by becoming more global in their thinking and approach to real estate.
With over 6,900 offices in 78 countries, a number of years ago Century 21 invested large sums in better connecting this global network, launching century21global.com. This global platform allows users to search for property, agents and offices anywhere in the world, in over 16 different languages and using different currencies.
Properties that are listed through Century 21 in Australia are automatically promoted across the world through this unique platform and at no cost.
By thinking and acting globally, and utilising technologies that allow you to promote properties and attract buyers from different global markets, you are likely to impress vendors and cast the net as far and wide as possible to attract potential buyers and get a successful sales result.
Every agent and office needs to be supported by a strong CRM system. A platform that has been built by real estate professionals for real estate professionals will make all levels of a real estate operation more efficient.
Century 21’s eSales reporting system allows franchisees access to a wide range of information, enabling them to measure the success of their business. From true breakeven analysis to listing/sales ratios, franchisees are able to get real- time data on how their office is progressing.
Since 2004, the Seller Login component of the eSales system has been a simple and accessible way to keep vendors informed about the sales process, anywhere, at any time. More recently we have seen many other groups realising the value of such systems and implementing their use in different forms.
Century 21 launched its own EDM offerings to franchisees in 2002 and the team has continuously refined and developed this in-house technology over the years. This technology is free to use and saves offices paying thousands of dollars to external companies for the privilege of broadcasting EDMs.
The introduction of Google Analytics allows agents to determine the success of EDM broadcasts, right down to the number of times a potential buyer or seller has viewed property information. It also helps agents connect with consumers at the time they are in ‘real estate mode’.
The software is supported by a team of programmers and constantly revised to ensure it grows with our network and responds to new challenges and opportunities.
Outside of our brand, our CRM is the glue that connects our operations each day. I place enormous value in a strong CRM and would encourage all real estate operators to ensure that their system caters to their needs and is adaptable to change.
While one could talk at length about the benefits of utilising social media, online targeting and other new technologies, I believe that every agent needs access and support from a real- time CRM, a global platform to promote listings internationally and attract buyers, and a state of the art lead generation system – whatever form that may take.
These technologies won’t guarantee success, but they will make an agent’s life easier and give them the best chance to reach their full potential. This in turn may power real estate offices to new heights.
While the benefits of technology are real and known, I would also like to emphasise that I am a strong believer in many traditional real estate practices and approaches. Shopfronts, human to human contact, community involvement and public relations – all are tried and true approaches that I believe are as relevant and valuable today as they were for agents 50 years ago.
The key is to achieve the right balance between investing time and resources into developing and using new technologies, and investing in proven traditional real estate practices.
What is the right balance? That depends on you, but a good starting point might be to get in the habit of doing a cost benefit analysis on everything – you’ll very quickly get a picture of what initiatives are delivering the most cost-effective results and therefore what mix is right for you.