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By Rob Davis

Marketing Director, Spark Energy

OTHER FEATURES

Is innovation the key to thriving in the property sector?

It’s a testing time for the property industry, amid Brexit fears, a slowing market and the looming tenant fees ban. 

There’s no doubt that agents are going to be looking for inventive ways to cut costs and increase revenue over the coming months. So, is it time to take a look at your own innovation strategy? 

Are you a reinventor or a practitioner? 

A study by IBM looked at the ways in which established businesses across the world are adapting and thriving in the digital age. They divided businesses into three categories: 

Reinventors – Organisations that pay close attention to people skills and encourage experimentation. They collaborate with customers and partners, and use the data to create compelling customer experiences.

Practitioners – These organisations haven’t yet developed the capabilities to match their ambitions, but are working on new business models to ‘up their game’. 

Aspirationals – These organisations have a way to go in both their digital journey and their ability to seize new opportunities. Their challenge is to get the right vision, strategy and resources in place.

The Reinventors, making up 27% of the total, report that they outperformed their peers in both revenue growth and profitability over the past three years. They say that their IT strategy is in sync with their business strategy and are confident in their capacity to adapt to change. 

Will technology replace real people?

This research indicates that reviewing your business systems, and aligning your practices to your goals is key. But property professionals may be concerned about technology replacing people.

This is an understandable concern, but there are many innovative new technologies that aim not to replace, but to enhance the agent-client relationship. 

A Deloitte study looked at senior leaders’ attitudes to new technologies across a number of sectors. It found that only 8% of executives think artificial intelligence will replace human interaction in their sector. The vast majority think it will complement it.

The bottom line is that we will always need humans. But by choosing the right technologies, we can support and enhance rather than deplete our workforce. 

Customer experience is the key

So you’re considering implementing a shiny new tech product to your workflow. How do you determine whether it’ll add value to your business? Working out how much time it’ll save you is step one. 

Add to that any additional financial savings you’ll make by reducing waste or replacing old systems. 

Then there’s the third aspect – will it improve customer experience? Though easier to overlook, customer experience should be at the heart of your decision making.

In a now-viral post, LinkedIn user Alberto Brea reflected on the downfall of the business world’s old guard: 

- Amazon did not kill the retail industry. They did it to themselves with bad customer service.

- Netflix did not kill Blockbuster. They did it to themselves, with their ridiculous late payment fees.

- Uber did not kill the taxi business. They did it to themselves, with their limited number and fare control.

- Apple did not kill the music industry. They did it to themselves by forcing people to buy full-length albums.

- Airbnb did not kill the hotel industry. They did it to themselves with limited availability and pricing options.

The post has been criticised for over-simplifying a more complex issue - clearly it wasn’t just late fees that sank Blockbuster, it was also the immense amount of choice that online platforms had to offer.  

But there is an important message here. That is that tech giants like Amazon, Netflix, Uber and Airbnb used emerging technologies to serve unmet customer needs.

Technology alone can’t change the face of an industry. But when you put customer experience at the centre of your business strategy, and capitalise on new technologies to meet consumer needs, you can.

New revenue streams

So saving time, saving money and improving the customer experience are important considerations for agents adopting new technologies and practices. But in an ideal world, wouldn’t it be nice if a piece of technology could increase your revenue too? This is something we’ve been working on here at Spark. 

In our extensive work within the property industry, we’ve long known that agents are keen to find new revenue streams. Our own research has also revealed that 78% of people would find it helpful to be able to organise their home services digitally and in one place. 

So we created Tili, our digital home move assistant. Tili offers tenants, buyers and sellers a way to set up all their essential home services in a few taps. We partner with agents to provide the service to their customers – and when the customer uses it, the agent earns revenue. 

Since its launch in 2018, Tili has helped nearly 70,000 people move. And over the same period, agents have earned over £4 million in revenue by partnering with Tili and Spark

Here’s to the future

Although times may be tough, innovative solutions can help property professionals stay ahead of the competition.

So now may be a good time to review whether your overarching goals are fully aligned with your ways of working, and to ensure that customer experience remains at the heart of your business.

*Rob Davis is Marketing Director at Spark Energy

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