From digital viewings to simple online searches, the digital age is changing the house hunting process.
With all the buzz words tossed around in marketing, one of the most disturbing is "Digital Disruption". It has an ominous ring to it, but can often be disregarded in many industries that do not feel they should be affected by such "technologically" driven challenges. However, a recent study published by J.D. Power clearly shows that real estate agencies and agents alike are definitely threatened by digital disruption.
Digital Disruption 101
So what exactly is digital disruption? Digital disruption is caused as a result of emerging technologies that can affect your business model. Technology can often impact the value of some services, or at least the "perceived" value and in many cases (such as real estate) plays down the traditional role offered by certain business models. In the case of real estate a good example is the availability of listings online in hand with digital showing capabilities that are instant. Buyers no longer have to go to an agent first to look at homes.
Because technology can cause upheaval of business traditions, it is referred to as disruptive. It is important to understand what areas are being disrupted the most so you can update or even rethink your current business plan.
According to J.D. Power's findings there are some important factors that will continue to affect the role of an agent:
88% of home buyers will begin their own home search online before contacting an agent. There has been a steady rise in the number of people buying or selling their homes without an agent at all with 14% of repeat sellers and 9% of first-timers sellers and 19% of repeat buyers and 13% of first-time buyers going it alone.
People will select their agency based on reputation. It was noted as the number one reason both first-time sellers (44%) and first-time buyers (39%) chose their broker/agent. For repeat buyers and sellers, this is second on the list behind experience with an agent or salesperson as their main reason for choosing the firm.
Both buyers (47%) and sellers (55%) used social media to find agents and were highly satisfied with the results. Social media is also favored by first time buyers to find their home.
Not surprisingly customer satisfaction plays a major role in building loyalty. This is the main reason of course that people will use the same broker again with over 50% of recommendations from previous clients leading to new business for agents and their brokers.
Agencies and agents score higher when they provide exceptional service with quick responses, providing key information throughout the transaction and also actively sharing comparable properties with their clients.
Overcoming the Challenges
Taking these numbers to heart is the first step to looking at ways you can overcome the challenges of digital disruption. In fact, it might mean looking at the role you play in the buying and selling process a little differently. “The challenge for these companies is to consistently demonstrate and communicate the value to current and potential customers. Those who ensure trust and understanding are at the center of their client and customer strategies will truly differentiate from both traditional competition and those attempting to disrupt the industry,” said Craig Martin, Senior Director of Financial Services at J.D. Power.
As long as you are able to market your value proposition, success is always possible. However, that value proposition has shifted from being the first source of information for most people to that of a trusted advisor almost after the fact. The better you are at being ready to answer questions and provide vital information when buyers and sellers feel they have already discovered the basic information they need, the more apt you are to retain those people as clients and build your reputation as a trusted expert.
Stronger Online Presence
You stand a better chance if you are able to strengthen your online presence. It's not enough to have a basic website, and certainly not effective if your website is left for years without updates to meet expectations of new clients.
You also have to increase your efforts in the area of providing useful information specific to your area. Basic buying and selling tips are a dime a dozen, so adding community influences and expertise definitely helps you stand apart, while improving your SEO.
Blogging at least once a month and preferably biweekly or even weekly is also advised. A good strategy is to build up evergreen content (content that lasts and is not dependent on trends) over a few months with weekly posts and then you can lessen the frequency of your posts once your library is built up. This will strengthen your SEO so more people will find you. Then you can decide on your posting schedule be it bi-weekly or monthly. Also, make sure you do some newsy items to keep things fresh when it is suitable. If you hear something relevant about the area, the market or anything in the news that seems of interest, these posts help keep you current in the view of searches.
Your social media should also be active and engaging at all times. You can post your listings, but also make sure you are showing off your knowledge of your area, the market and even grassroots approaches that allow you to offer info that comes across as chummy and informative. More importantly, your social media pages must be responsive to comments, questions and likes from your followers as this adds to your level of customer service.
Being able to adapt to changing views of the value you bring to the table calls for new ways of presenting yourself and your services. The good news is that most of the focus is on what you do best - being an expert at buying and selling in hand with excellent customer service!