If your house is anything like mine, the postman has a path beaten to your door over the last nine months.
In 2018, it was predicted by the US National Retail Federation that online shopping would exceeded in-store sales by 2024. Covid-19 has accelerated that pace of change.
And although there is light at the end of the tunnel on that front, the cat is now truly out of the bag in relation to online sales. Retailers that have a physical location now know they have to incorporate e-commerce.
And this is not just a local phenomenon, according to a UN report, the pandemic has forever changed behaviour worldwide.
UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, discussing the findings, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. The changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover.”
Technology hasn’t fundamentally changed, however, so why are retailers making this move now and not five years ago? It’s simple, because they felt like they didn’t have to. Customers were coming in the door, so there was no pain. “Why change when I don’t have to?”
Now, for many, it’s too late. Companies like Amazon are eating their dinner. In the last quarter of 2020 alone, the company saw its profits triple as bricks and mortar retailers crashed. Shops are playing catch up to simply survive.
Independent shop owners in particular now have to react just to keep the doors open. Hence ‘Click & Collect’, along with a host of other changes. But is it too little, too late?
If big brands like Oasis and Warehouse are closed permanently, what does that mean for local high street shops? It’s now not about growth, it’s about survival. Scary stuff, I’m sure you agree.
So, what do estate agents have to learn from this? Step back for a second and ask yourself what would you do as a retailer with 20/20 hindsight? Would you prefer to wait until a behemoth like Amazon came in and took your business, or would you have opened your online store before they had the opportunity to cash in?
Estate agents have the luxury that retailers never had. There is no Amazon of real estate, yet. But be under no illusion, one is coming. We may not know who it is, but rest assured we’ll know it when it gets here.
Existing estate agents have the opportunity to learn from the experience of retailers to introduce digital solutions proactively, not reactively. To build that digital experience and strengthen their business before it’s challenged.
The technology exists so independent estate agents don’t end up like independent retailers. And yes, buying a house is not the same as buying a pair of shoes, but the technology does exist to digitise the buyer experience. Everyone is familiar with brochure websites and virtual tours, so it’s a natural step to add the next stage of the journey.
Beagel Enterprise, for example, allows estate agents to create system tailored to their brand. The agency simply connects the system to their existing website, CRM or anything else they may be using. Once it has set this up, the rest of the process happens automatically. It’s technology for non-tech people.
Estate agents in 2021 have the opportunity shop owners never had. Will they take advantage or wait until articles are written in 2025 talking about the Amazon of real estate? Only time will tell.
*Healy Hynes is CEO of Beagel.io