Many industries in the UK are currently facing a tumultuous time as the great unknown of Brexit looms on the horizon and consumer demand eases.
The property industry is no exception to this, with the market slowing down as property owners debate whether it is the right time to list their homes on the market, cutting off the supply of new properties that estate agents require to entice buyers.
In this time of challenge, one thing is clear - property companies must ensure they are doing everything possible to convert home owners that browse their websites into leads for valuations and potential customers as a result.
One tool being used by many companies to turn their website visitors into sales leads is automation. For example, Connells, one of the UK’s biggest estate agent groups, recently worked with us to develop an automated customer service function on their website to support visitors with either live chat with customer agents or registration forms when outside of operating hours.
This system ensures that potential customers visiting the company's portal can receive online support or register for a call-back and further assistance. Since implementation, Connells has reported that more than half of the leads coming through the automated customer service system represent new business prospects.
Automation in itself and by itself is not a cure-all, however, and aggressively sales-orientated property companies need to beware.
We’ve recently done research into lead generation for a range of retail organisations, including property firms, and our findings showed that the same triggers that can increase lead generation can also hurt it.
A scattergun approach to lead generation with customers visiting a website being randomly targeted can reduce conversions by disturbing customers that are not looking for an interaction and find the intrusion ‘pushy’.
In our research, we explored how more than 1,000,000 website visitors reacted to targeted and untargeted automated chat messages on a series of sites we were monitoring. We created three sample groups. The first group encountered chat conversations that were initiated at random, the second had chat initiated by an AI system and the third was a control group.
We found that the group that received random chat messages saw conversion rates decline by over 7%, while visitors selected and targeted by AI saw an increase in conversions by 6.6% in comparison to the control group.
These results demonstrate something that we instinctively know, that the same treatment applied to every customer will not always get the same reaction.
Not every customer wants to be interacted with - we’ve all had occasions where we’ve been in a shop and just want to browse. If a salesperson cannot read that situation (and a chatbot is effectively a salesperson for your organisation) they can drive the customer out of the shop (or off the website).
Although studies show that automated chat has a positive impact on visitors in general, our research shows that if automated chat is paired with an effective AI system, conversion rates can be boosted even higher.
Each visitor can be recognised and treated as an individual, improving the chances of securing valuations with customers that are considering selling their home and protecting estate agents’ bottom line.
*Ville Rissanen is chief executive of Giosg