Customer Lifecycle :
3. Thinking about buying
In our series on the new build property development customer lifecycle, we look at the impact of digital and how technology is changing the customer buying experience. We break down the customer journey and describe each step and how it may be supported using technology whether it is acquired or developed.
Table of Contents
The first step for home buyers is making the decision to buy and this may be for a number of reasons such as:
- First Time Buyers – moving out of parents or rental accommodation
- Upsizing – to get more space for the family
- Downsizing – to reduce home management and prepare for retirement
- Investing – to generate income
As the motivations for each buyer are different their specific needs are generally different (see our articles on buyer persona’s). However, when it comes to buying a new home the common reasons are ease of purchase (no chain) and reduced maintenance (through warranty periods).
At this stage, the goal for developers is to ensure that potential buyers are aware of properties the developer has to offer now or in the near future. Branding can strongly differentiate developers and help buyers to choose based on their own needs. ESG (Environment, Social, Corporate Governance) are starting to take increased importance, but quality, reliability and affordability still remain strong differentiating values.
Raising brand awareness had traditionally been done through listing with estate agents and advertising through print and media. However, digital channels on the internet are now the main customer choice to look for new homes. Creating brand awareness is not directly about promoting specific developments but about getting prospects to understand WHY they should buy from you. Hence, brand awareness campaigns promote the company values and success stories from satisfied customers.
Buyers will typically need to have seen your brand several times before they decide to engage with you. This is very much the kind of approach Amazon takes with products you browse. After an initial view, Amazon places ads for the product across sites you visit. This kind of approach increases the chances of buyers returning to your site or property listing.
Digital Platforms (channels)
The challenge with digital marketing is the range of options. For example, the table below lists just some of the formats and platforms that developers could use:
To be effective in these channels requires regular/consistent publishing of messaging and content. These platforms can also be used for paid marketing which can be more targeted than traditional media.
In addition to these there is search engine optimisation and search engine marketing to help prospects find developers again, either through content found by searches or by paid advertising.
Hence the role of digital marketing is not easy, it is multi-disciplinary (will be difficult for one person to be effective in all formats) and can add up to a lot of time and effort. The formats and platforms you support will largely be dependent on the skills/resources you have. There are social publishing tools like HootSuite that help with taking a single piece of content and publishing to different platforms. However, care should be taken in using platforms appropriately.
Aside from generating and publishing content, a skilled digital marketeer will be an expert in reviewing the analytics of how effective their campaigns have been, and adjusting content accordingly. The goal is to get strong engagement from your community and not just drive for numbers of views. Engagement drives “following” and advocacy, and advocates become free marketeers for you!
Sponsorship & Influencing
Aside from adverts, a traditional approach that is still effective, is to raise brand awareness by sponsoring events. This can of course be costly and is generally left to the largest of developers. However, smaller developers can look at sponsoring local community events. In the digital world another approach is through paying “influencers”. Influencers can be anyone from a TV personality to Sport Star or recognised expert in property like Sarah Beeny. Here, the approach is getting advocacy of your brand through these individuals.
“Engagement drives ‘following’ and advocacy, and advocates become free marketeers for you! “
The customer shift to online
The average prospect is now spending almost 4hrs a day on their phone, so there is a fight to get eyeballs spending time with you rather than competitors or businesses in other sectors like retail, travel, financial services etc. Time spent online is greater than time spent watching TV or other traditional media. Hence, it is imperative to develop the necessary digital marketing skills to raise brand awareness and be in the customers mind early, when they are only thinking about buying.
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