There is no doubt in my mind that the property industry is realising it needs to shift its focus towards a customer-centric model.
You need only look at the likes of Broadgate in the City to see how important placemaking has become. Much like other campuses, its strategy is focused on the people that use it and creating places that they connect with.
Estate agents in particular have had to accommodate this shift more than others. This is because customers are demanding better service – instant valuation, real-time analytics and virtual or online tours, for example – and now have alternative options including online or hybrid models, which promise a better service.
So how do you provide a better service and set yourself apart?
One core differentiator is the use of technology in property, or ‘proptech’, which is frequently linked to words such as efficiency and transparency.
However, many businesses are hearing the word ‘proptech’ and want to jump on the bandwagon without proper consideration of the true benefits of technology – an approach that undermines a company’s ability to produce a transparent and efficient model.
The first fundamental question to ask is: what problem are you trying to solve? If you simply try to apply technology to a business process without understanding the true rationale behind it, then you could exacerbate a problem, or create issues that weren’t previously there.
Secondly, and most importantly, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we are in the business of people. Our ultimate aim is to serve the customer. Whether this is by using leasing and asset management data to understand a portfolio better, selling properties through an online estate agent or utilising virtual tours, ultimately we are trying to serve the end user, the people.
In Matterport’s sphere of influence, marketing is becoming a fundamental business tool. It is not just about technology, sales or the product for our clients, but about how you communicate and interact with customers.
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We work with leading property portals around the world such as Se Loger and Immoscout24 – companies that dominate in their sector because of their forward-thinking approach to customer relationships. It is not the technology that is making them stand out; it is the ability to harness it in order to connect to customers.
Find out more: Power of Proptech 2018: awareness of tech shifting
It is evident that consumers are becoming more demanding. As an industry, we can no longer fall back to thinking that something that works today will be effective in the future just because it has proved to be successful in the past. The customer’s voice is louder than ever and they are not willing to compromise.
If the property industry doesn’t learn that technology is only effective if it underpins your overall business strategy and doesn’t start to communicate properly with the end user, then customers will inevitably go elsewhere.
After all, a restaurant might have all the best ingredients, the best chef and beautiful décor, but if the customer doesn’t enjoy the experience they are unlikely to go back. The property industry is now a service industry – the same rules apply.
James Morris-Manuel is VP EMEA at Matterport