As we start to progressively move out of the current restrictions and back to some sort of normality, the alternative mindset would be something like this: we know that the property industry has been dramatically affected by events of the last year or so, and possibly will never be the same again. So now might well be an optimum time to change our long-standing approaches and methods and adopt some new ways of working that might be a better fit with the new make-up of the industry.
So, where to look for inspiration first? Well, an obvious starting point would be to look at some of the biggest and most successful companies and brands in the world, and see what they have been doing in order to garner such a high level of success.
This is exactly why I have chosen to focus on the likes of eBay and Amazon for the purposes of this article. With a combined revenue of almost 400 billion dollars between them, they clearly know a thing or two about how to best market and sell.
So what do these brands do that has led to such a high level of success? One of the key parallels between these two global behemoths is that they have both firmly adopted an omnichannel strategy and mindset into their organisation, and they adhere firmly to the principles of this approach.
You may well have chosen to ignore possible strategies such as omnichannel up until this point, or perhaps this is the first time that it’s really come onto your radar at all. That’s perfectly reasonable too. Many people make the mistake of thinking that things like omnichannel only have relevance to e-commerce brands and organisations that are selling and shipping physical goods sold online.
But the fact is, that there are many principles and protocols from omnichannel that are completely transferable to any industry or business, and the property industry is no exception in this regard.
So I wanted to delve into some of these transferable principles that are the most relevant here, and discuss specifically how they might apply to you as a property agent.
Better customer service and user experience
It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, providing a better level of service and user experience to your customers has been universally proven to lead to greater success. With this in mind, as a property agent you should always be looking for ways to improve the level of service and experience that you provide to the buyers, sellers and vendors that you deal with.
Brands like Amazon and eBay really excel in this area. Everything they do is driven by the desire to provide a better service and user experience to their customers, in order to keep driving more and more sales and revenue.
So how do they do it? Well, one factor is that both these brands use omnichannel to help provide a seamless user experience to their customers. It underlines everything that they do in relation to customer service, and the data and insights that they collate in respect to their omnichannel model inform and shape many of their key strategic decisions when it comes to their customer service.
It’s not difficult to see how this kind of approach and mindset can pay massive dividends when transferred directly into the property agency space. Buying and selling properties can be a very emotional and often stressful experience for so many people, so anything that you can do as an agency to make that process smoother and more hassle-free will be very gratefully received by your ‘users’.
If you want to get serious about considering this approach, then key questions to ask yourself here would be things like what does each of your sales, marketing and customer service channels say about you and your agency, and is your key messaging clear and consistent across every single one of your channels?
You might also want to consider whether your potential customers are always seeing content and branding across all your channels in an order that makes perfect sense to them, and helps to progressively move them through the buying cycle? And are they always getting the information and answers that they need in a timely and relevant fashion?
If you feel the answer to any of these key questions might be a firm no, then this is one area where you would do well to follow the example of brands like Amazon and eBay.
On a more practical level, it’s useful to discuss how you might implement this within your agency. Well, the key thing to consider is that all of your communication with your prospects, leads and customers should be highly integrated and it should all work together in perfect harmony.
There are many new and innovative ways that you can engage with your customers and give them the opportunity to move further through the buying cycle, with platforms and channels such as Facebook Messenger, SMS, push notifications and automated email nurturing being just a few examples.
The real power comes not just from using as many of these channels as is required to achieve the greatest level of success, but having a system and processes in place that can integrate them all in the manner required.
Better use of data
Again, it really doesn’t matter what you are selling or what industry you are in, in this day and age, you’re going to be able to acquire lots of extremely valuable and useful data about your prospects, leads and existing customers. But the question is - how well do you currently bring this data together and use it to help drive more success for your business?
Big brands like Amazon and eBay are masters at accumulating massive amounts of data about their customers, and have sophisticated and highly effective systems and protocols in place for using all that data in a highly strategic way to drive more sales and revenue.
Why? Because this is an integral component of any omnichannel strategy, which is why it’s so important to them to make sure they get this aspect of their business right.
So how does this relate to you as a property agent? Well, you’re going to have access to exactly the same kind of data that the likes of Amazon use to drive such high levels of sales, so why not use it in the best way possible.
Think about it for a moment. Typically you know your customers' names, where they live, what job they do, how much they earn and who they work for. Add to this a whole range of behavioural data that can be quickly and easily collated digitally, and it’s easy to see how you can quickly build up an incredibly comprehensive picture of each and every one of your prospects and leads.
You’ll need to bring the data together in the right way, and be able to interpret it in the required manner. This might sound like a hefty task, but given the range of software and technology readily available in today's world, often at a feasible cost to any agency no matter what your size and budget restrictions, it’s probably much more easily achieved than you might currently think.
More innovative advertising and promotion
Whilst much of the emphasis with omnichannel is about putting the customer first and ensuring that their experience with your company and brand is as seamless and enjoyable as possible, there are of course many advantages to you as an agency trying to win business in adopting the same kind of omnichannel approach and mindset as brands such as Amazon and eBay.
One really key example of this that warrants mention in this article, is the more sophisticated and innovative sales and marketing campaigns that can stem from this kind of approach.
To explain what I mean, think for a second about the power of the kind of sales and marketing campaigns that the likes of Amazon and eBay run. If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly compelled to keep revisiting both of these sites again and again for a myriad of different reasons, and this is not just down to the fact that they have massive brand awareness, huge marketing budgets and a huge array of products to choose from.
It’s also because they are using the power of omnichannel marketing to its maximum potential. They are strictly applying the principles of this form of marketing in order to conceive and rollout better marketing campaigns that get more reach and have more positive impact than conventional campaigns.
One key reason why they are able to do this is again down to the massive amounts of data that they have acquired about their customers. Plus they have the systems and processes in place to manage that data and turn it into the kinds of insights that enable them to gain a really deep understanding of their users.
If you too can harness data in the same way and develop the same kind of understanding of your customers and what drives them, then you can also start to run the same type of sales and marketing campaigns within your agency.
Okay, it might be on a much smaller scale to start with, but the principle is still exactly the same. Take the time and effort to know more about your customers and their very specific individual needs and desires, and you can market to them much more effectively.
So many sales and marketing campaigns and initiatives from agents simply don’t get the kind of results that they warrant because there is too much ‘noise’ constantly competing for the attention of your potential customers, no matter what channel you are trying to engage with them on.
The obvious way to combat this modern day phenomenon is to gain a better understanding of your customers, and figure out the best time, platform and medium to engage and communicate with them through, no matter what stage they might be on your sales and buying cycle.
To get specific about this particular aspect of omnichannel for a moment, one of the key things that these huge brands do really well is to instigate customer interactions across a whole range of various channels and mediums, and really drive home key messages and highlight opportunities for their customers across all these channels in a highly integrated and strategic way.
Whether it’s email, SMS, push notifications, Facebook, Instagram or a whole host of other more obscure channels, they are giving their users the chance to engage and progress themselves through the buying cycle at exactly the time and location that suits them best at any given time.
And seeing as these days you can never quite be sure where your next customer is going to be hanging out online, this is the really smart and effective way of handling your sales and marketing campaigns in the modern era of smartphones and social media.
I hope that this has given you some food for thought when it comes to new initiatives you might consider implementing into your agency this year, and how omnichannel might play a part.
If you’d like to know more about omnichannel and how it can be incorporated into a property agency environment and workflows, then visit nurturingAI where you can access lots more information and book a consultation for your agency.
*Christopher May is Founder Director at Commercial People