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James Dearsley: Carrying PropTech forward with visual stimulation

This week, it would be very easy for me to focus on the startling figures that easyProperty logged with Companies House last week

By traditional standards, it just doesn’t make sense that a new firm can stay afloat with a pre-tax loss of £11 million. However, it seems that easyProperty’s investors aren’t too concerned:  

“...at this stage of their lifecycle it is generating start-up losses as it uses working capital to develop the business.” 

These are the words of Rob Ellice, Chief Executive of easyProperty’s parent company, EProp Services.

It is true that the aforementioned traditional business standards cannot be directly applied to a 21st Century tech startup, where losses today can be forgiven if they’re paving the way for the profits of tomorrow. 

But even by today’s standards, these numbers truly are startling. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the coming years. 

Just consider that a lot of money raised by businesses like easyProperty are based on future revenue potential rather than current. Therefore, don’t be surprised if I’m reporting on significant fund raises in coming months. 

Investor appetite is currently moving towards an understanding that the current ‘traditional or high street’ model is in transition and they need a horse to back. 

But, as I say, there is already so much chatter about this that anything I write can only add to noise, so I want to focus on something different... 

Pinterest for Property

New York brokerage unicorn, Compass has announced a potentially game changing customer-facing search feature. They call it ‘Collections’ and, essentially, it’s ‘Pinterest for property’. 

Compass President, Leonard Steinberg, says that it: ‘allows consumers to create their own version of the Pinterest pin board for properties they’re interested in.’

The really exciting part of this, in my opinion, is the focus on sharing and collaboration. 

Collections allows homebuyers to view all of the properties they’re considering in one place. They can collaborate on their ‘board’, inviting their agent and their friends to offer their opinion of the properties via a comment tool. Users can also share availability updates and pricing changes. 

As President Steinberg says, it’s ‘the industry’s answer to the modern way people like to shop’.

Visual Stimulation

For real estate firms, the takeaway from this launch should be that property needs to become an even more collaborative, streamlined and customer-centric experience. 

For customers, personalisation, when done well, can make a service or product feel like a private, tailored solution. This is incredibly appealing; the sense that something was built just for you. 

As Steinberg says: “Collections helps the homebuyer feel in control of the process and makes searching for or selling a home less cumbersome and more enjoyable. Everyone loves a good mood board.”

I am also really interested in the focus that Compass is placing on visual stimulation. It’s an immensely powerful selling tool, allowing the property to speak directly to the homebuyer and reduce that feeling of being subjected to the ‘hard sell’. 

Because there are no words there is less pressure; it allows for customers to daydream, envision themselves living in the space. Imagery is a language that everyone speaks.

If property firms can make their search process visually creative, convenient, and collaborative, always with one eye on society’s adoration of social networks, the customer experience can be put front and centre, giving the properties more opportunity to implant on the homebuyer’s mind and thus work harder at selling themselves. 

Whilst the easyProperty results may give some further ammunition to question the current online/hybrid model, it shouldn’t change the easy upgrades we can make to our businesses today. 

Collaborative collections of our property searches are one way we can start to morph into a more customer-centric model focused on the here and now.

*James Dearsley is founder of the Digital Marketing Bureau and a PropTech communicator. To sign up to James’ Sunday PropTech Review, click here.

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