Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a law ﬁrm found itself in hot water for using location-based marketing around hospitals. They had geo-fenced a Hospital Emergency Department, allowing them to target advertisements toward patients’ phones for their personal injury litigation services. I’m sure someone thought it was clever marketing to a bunch of semi-qualiﬁed prospects.
Technology continues to enable us as consumers and professionals in ways we might never have imagined ﬁve years ago. It has given us tools to know who we market to with astonishing clarity, target customers with a laser focus and take advantage of non-traditional revenue streams. But there is plenty of potential for the best-laid plans to go pear-shaped.
Let’s unpack some of the tricky topics.
Would discrimination creep in?
Most of the industry has cottoned onto the fact that you can micro-target buyers (and sellers) on Facebook through advertising matching personal characteristics with property features.
Recently the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ﬁled a complaint against Facebook, saying it’s not cool for landlords and home sellers to limit the scope of buyers or tenants who will or won’t see ads based on their race, religion, sex, disability or other interests.
HUD’s Assistant Secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, Anna María Farías, said, “When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face.”
We’re taught discrimination is bad in the workplace and in other areas of life – but, playing devil’s advocate for a second, isn’t that exactly what we’re taught is the right thing to do in terms of targeting the ‘right’ market for a product or service?
In an episode of Netﬂix’s Black Mirror (Nosedive) we see protagonist Lacey trying to rent an apartment in a community where a high social score is needed to apply. In some respects, it sounds great, but in others is downright scary. With housing the touchy social subject it is, what really deﬁnes discrimination and to what extent is it okay?
Beacon of hope… or ﬂames?
Proximity marketing or location-based marketing, as per the hospital example, has been around for some time. For the uninitiated, a physical ‘beacon’ is installed in a location that can send consumers push notiﬁcations to their phones within a marked radius. Retail stores have been using them for some time via their apps to let you know about specials when you walk into a store.
On the surface, proximity marketing is a great solution to build your database, but you have to remember those names belong to real humans.
It’s already in real estate too. US ﬁrm Compass recently ‘reimagined’ the real estate sign to connect with passers-by.
They say, “We see [it] as a part of a connected ecosystem of devices managing the sale of homes in the future. Everything from open houses to digital lockboxes.” And, if you have the Compass app on your phone, guess what – it will send you a push notiﬁcation asking if you want more information about a home. The sign can connect agents to potential buyers through Bluetooth, and it can also help direct buyers who may not be near the home through a navigation system similar to Google Maps.
As with the emergency department example, proximity marketing gone wrong has the potential to upset a few people as it pertains to property. What if you had a beacon in one of your listings in close proximity to a competitor’s listing? Would it be ethical for you to send push notiﬁcations to people around (or in) your competitor’s listing to divert their attention to yours? And then what goes through the mind of the customer who might be feeling as though they are just being ﬂat-out stalked – is it really the experience you want to leave a potential customer with?
Whose data is it anyway?
Who out there wants to share data? Not many of you, I’m guessing, once you’ve worked hard to acquire it. Plus, with Privacy Laws and GDPR in the EU, and the fact that nobody here seems to want to share their health records, you would be forgiven for assuming nobody wants you to share the data you have about them, either. But that may change.
A couple of years ago, I interviewed Matt Kuperholz, PwC’s Chief Data Scientist, on the topic of personal data, who owns it and how it gets used. His view on sharing data: “People, when presented with something that they value, are quicker to disregard intrusions into perceived privacy than when you don’t offer them something of value.” Meaning if I get something of value as a consumer from you for giving you my data, I’m going to thank you rather than think you’re annoying me with your irrelevant marketing.
When you order a Domino’s pizza you’re asked if you would like to opt-in to travel, insurance and other offers. If you were ever wondering why Domino’s are able to deliver pizzas as fast and as fresh as they do for that low, low price, it’s likely these adjacent revenue streams are part of the reason. And maybe I do want cheap insurance with my pizza… so permission granted.
A couple of years ago in our report ‘Get ready for 2020’, one of our participants suggested a similar thing might occur in real estate. Sell a property at zero per cent ‘traditional’ commission, but with the new ‘commission’ of sharing names (with permission) with adjacent service providers. I remember jaws dropping at the suggestion, and even as I write this now the thought still seems radical – but not impossible. Would you like a lounge with that?
None of this applies to me
Technology as a business enabler makes prospecting/ﬁnding new customers and developing new business models easier than ever before. But its implementation has to realise a valuable win for all parties.
The names you are collecting belong to real humans. What is the advantage to them for giving you their data? And how will that outweigh the cons of a new age of interruption marketing?
The answer is to build trust by providing not just value, but signiﬁcant value.
Let’s now reimagine a consumer holding your beacon-enabled real estate app. The app provides plenty of other beneﬁts; for example, walking them through a quick Q&A of information about the neighbourhood, collaborative offers and discounts from local businesses, easy to access information on the property, easy ways to contact the office that links into any rental ledgers or outstanding maintenance requests, information about the environmental features of the property and estimated running costs. Maybe it also offers an easy way to track sale and settlement between all parties; the list goes on. I think I kinda like this app; has it been created yet? And yes, I would happily hand over my details in return for the ability to use it.
There are plenty of shiny tech objects out there for you to test, and there will be plenty more on the horizon. But with great technology comes great responsibility, and you must remember to use your new magical powers for good.