Over the past few years, Real Estate has been mulling about expanding digital capabilities, integrating more innovations across the value chain & incentivizing wider applications of technologies. Despite repetitive attempts, Indian Real Estate (and its global counterparts) largely remained offline, wherein face-to-face discussions & interactions with sales executive and site inspections remained a pivotal element. The digital initiatives mostly remained enclosed within boardroom discussions, yet seldom could they find a real-world application.
However, COVID-19 finally forced everyone to think digitally- as it is said that crisis is the mother of all invention. The pandemic is not just a medical challenge, but it is also going to drastically alter the way business is done so far. The mandatory lockdown in most of the parts of the world, including India, rendered existing marketing channels ineffective and there was no other way but to go digital.
Like other sectors, Real Estate also actively embraced the digital medium & started upgrading online capabilities. Most of the realtors used existing ingenious tools such as virtual meeting software, teleconferencing & webinars to market & sell properties. Though a knee jerk reaction in the face of the crisis, the endeavors were met with success. Probably the use of technology enabled some momentum & arrested any steep decline. This is further giving impetus to think & act digitally.
Time for Digital Transformation to take off
In a post-COVID world, as lockdown is suspended in most of the parts of India, things have gradually started coming back to normal. Yet, social distancing is here to stay. People would largely avoid crowded gatherings & physical meetings.
In such a situation marked by curtailing of physical interaction, digital would not just be one of the channels of marketing, but rather will be the prime channel to depend upon. Realtors are not left with any option but to adapt to the new normal where digital will be a crucial element to drive all the major interactions. It is imperative to fast track digital transformation & build the required infrastructure.
Immersive & Experiential Technologies will be the Key
In a post-COVID world, the focus can't be limited to just realizing operational efficiency but also on making bigger impacts digitally in a relatively shorter time. The winning mantra will be to build immersive technologies & offer powerful experiences. To put it straight, being virtual would not just focus on replicating a real-world experience but to offer a much larger value.
When it comes to customers, they always have inherent inertia. Consequently, they will be slow to ride the digital curve & adopt new technologies. To break this inertia & modulate wider behavioral changes, it is important to give them the magic moments & memorable personalized experiences. Only then a faster adoption can be expected.
To actualize it, realtors need to think a bit about the emotional dimensions as well and develop high value, original & engaging products and platforms. It is important to realize that Real Estate has largely been an offline business & to spur wider & faster adoption of technologies, it is essential to give customers magic moments & memorable personalized experiences.
For instance, take the case of digital events. Across the world, Real Estate events are a multi-billion dollar business. In a post-COVID world, major developers & advisories will take the event on a virtual platform to drive transactions and generate leads. However, can just going digital and conducting a vanilla type event to push sales serves the purpose? Probably not!
What is required is to build an online event platform that can offer a much better experience and render practical value to the customers. This will require progressive and out-of-the-box thinking to develop engaging user interfaces, easy navigation facilities, effective addressing of customer queries alongside offering actionable & transparent insights to make decisions. Only meticulous strategizing blended with an artistic touch can make it happen.
Online events cannot just be another sales tactic to create a unidirectional flow of information. Rather, it has to create an immersive and experience-based approach that can nurture deeper and richer interaction with customers.
The Strategic Implications
In devising the experience-based digital customer journey, realtors also need to think about the long-term strategic implications. The digital transformation, although having been expedited by the current COVID crisis, has a much deeper long-term undertone.
An intelligently designed digital journey can take customer engagement through the roof and hence positively boost the overall top line, profitability & brand visibility of the organization. Likewise, it can boost marketing, shorter the sales cycle & streamline the operational flow, thereby boosting sales without any increase in the overheads. However, to make it happen there is a pressing need to make captivating digital strategies and integrate them seamlessly throughout the customer life cycle management.