That said, to remain relevant and on-trend, innovation, tinkering and diversification are needed to ensure a brand doesn't become stale, complacent or left behind the times. But when you're innovating you need to bear in mind the latest market insights and trends to ensure you are meeting the demand for the right new products and services.
So, innovation is crucial, but it needs to be carefully thought out, reactive and providing solutions to issues rather than just being there for the sake of it.
This applies to well-established estate agents as much as it does global chocolate brands. You need to move with the times and evolve to remain the go-to authority in your area. You need to innovate and diversify to win over new customers. But at the same time you need to keep the core ethos of what made you an established brand in the first place.
Adapting to a changing marketplace
Continuing the theme of innovation, Nathan Anderson-Dixon, managing director of Midlands-based estate agency Adobe, has been in touch to tell me how his firm is adapting and enhancing its model to meet with the changing marketplace.
He’s run his traditional model estate agency for just over 15 years, with a small chain of showrooms in the Midlands. In recent years Adobe has begun centralising many of its processes, things like sales progression and admin to start with. Now it has many other sales-related touch points and processes being handled from one central office (although Nathan is reluctant to use the word ‘hybrid’).
He said: “We have embraced technology to improve customer service through things like offering sellers 24/7 access through our site and automated a lot of our contact and communication.”
“One thing we found when trying to get into other territories without a bricks and mortar office was that customers did not know who we were, and didn’t trust us," he added. "So using our VR technology we have created a VR property viewing experience. It’s essentially an estate agency branch, open plan in the middle of the busiest shopping centre in the area. Customers can visit us here and view our homes in VR. They can book viewings, valuations and take away literature. It has proved a huge success and we have been listing like crazy since launching in April.”
“We have also been staging events in the space which prove very fruitful. And we have created an automated work flow that sends buyers a text with the VR on it after they view. We also give them a free VR cardboard headset to view with. They love it!”
Digital transformation and Mr T
I pity the fool who didn't make it to Leicester for the latest Mortgage Advice Bureau conference, I pity the fool. If you're wondering what the hell I'm banging on about (even more than usual!), the Mortgage Advice Bureau's annual conference took place in Leicester last week and included an '80s-themed do in the evening, where a Mr T lookalike was on hand to represent The A-Team. If you now have The A-Team theme tune playing on a loop in your head, I'm not sorry!
Below is a picture of me with the man himself, plus Josh Rayner and Mark Manning of Manning Stainton.
The conference itself was as well-organised and interesting as usual, focusing heavily on how the mortgage industry is reacting to digital transformation. We recently saw the first online mortgage deeds registered by the Land Registry, so how best to combine mortgages and innovation is an increasingly important topic.
Held at the state-of-the-art Curve Theatre, the day's agenda was a busy one, with a morning and evening session bookended by exhibitions. More than 50 exhibitors were at the conference, including Together, Paragon, Tesco Bank, Legal & General, NatWest, Post Office Money, Virgin Money and Scottish Widows.
The morning session included an audience with Peter Brodnicki, CEO of the MAB, a talk on the potential of data and a session entitled Trains, Planes...and Toilet Cleaners!
After lunch and a chance to wander around the various exhibitors, the afternoon session included a mini awards ceremony (The MABS) and talks called Digital Darwinism, The Real Good Life and Life is a Gamble so Let's Roll the Dice. All led throughout by host Jez Rose, a broadcaster, motivational speaker and award-winning author.
A lot of effort goes into making the MAB conference one of the standout events of the year, and they pulled it off yet again. From the speakers to the after-party, everything was spot on.
GDPR has lift off
Unless you've been living in a cave or the middle of the Amazon rainforest recently, you won't have been able to escape the introduction of new data protection rules. GDPR (or the General Data Protection Regulation) finally came into being last Friday (May 25 2018), leading to a flurry of emails from all manner of firms detailing their new privacy and cookies policies and their data protection strategies.
As the bedding in period begins, GDPR Weekly will be on hand to answer any of those burning compliance issues, with our experts able to keep you up to date with the latest GDPR news.
While you might have received a million and one emails about GDPR and be a bit fed up of hearing about it, complying with the new rules is vitally important and an ongoing consideration that must be treated with the utmost gravity. For agents and property people – more likely than most to be dealing with large volumes of personal data – it is, whether we like it or not, something that we all need to get to grips with.
This witty tweet may also make you laugh, looking at how the big jolly man in the red suit may be in contravention of GDPR.
Retailers continue to feel the blues
Following on from my piece about agents bucking the high street downturn, the woes of major retailers continue apace, with M&S announcing the closure of more than 100 stores while Carphone Warehouse is set to close 92 of its stores this year. New Look, Mothercare, Carpetright and burger chain Byron have also announced further store closures as consumer confidence in the high street dwindles.
Promisingly, though, agency continues to buck this overall trend, with high-profile acquisitions taking place (luxury holiday firm Natural Retreats taking over well-established Humberts, for example, Zoopla's huge sale to Silver Lake expected to complete in the third quarter of this year, Hunters expanding into Wales and innovative PropTech startups raising large sums to launch or grow their initial offerings).
That’s that from me…Until next time.
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.