Introduction and market overview
What a day of insight and where do I start other than Damian Wild, Editor of Estate Gazette’s market overview.
Damian cited weaker investment overall, a High Street in crisis, weakness in the Prime residential segment and a burgeoning build to rent market. He also spots that technology is starting to change the industry and that people seem to be more of the focus in marketing, rather than just the buildings themselves.
The day then focused on trends and how marketing can help a customer’s lifetime experience, which is a posh way of saying that property marketing has got less self-centred. It’s not about the places or the bricks and mortars, it’s more about the folk that will make the community and what they will be able to do there, other than just rest of a night.
The shape of things to come
The next speaker was Paul Smith, a Marketing Consultant and author who broke down a Situational Analysis of the marketplace looking for trends.
Political trends include the two most divisive dinner party topics of Brexit and GDPR and how they impact the economy, the housing sector and marketing.
Paul then explored economic trends and identified a new wave of would be homebuyers looking to be mortgage free and tired of having a location locked property and the prospect of being locked in jobs for their lives. Build to rent was not necessarily an effect of an overheated property market, but more a lifestyle decision that can be exploited with a heady rise in its supply.
It was then mooted that data is now more valuable than oil; so Paul posed the question as to how can a business leverage it? There are digital disruptors entering the market like Move Bubble and NEXT who are doing just this with user centric apps.
The rise of AI and automation could see 20-30% of jobs no longer existing by 2030 and Universal Basic Income being proposed by some as an answer to stave off human obsolesce. People may decide to go down to working 4 day weeks, we might see more of a return back to single income families wanting to live a life in a community and not be a slave to a wage. A real paradigm shift if ever there was one!
Paul then discussed social trends whereby we are turning into a world of device junkies, with shorter attention spans and less of an interest in what really matters, just realities within games, social media and reality TV – ok so maybe that’s just me…
The Presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy in the 1960s was marked as a time when leaders had 42 seconds to get key messages across to voters. Fast-forward to Obama and it was down to 12 seconds, whilst Trump had just 4 seconds to convince a nation, so ‘MAGA’ was born.
Vote Leave’s own call to action of ‘Take Back Control’ worked equally well because of the lack of clarity from Remainers other than complex economic arguments, which whether you believe were right or wrong, were not able to be encapsulated within a 4 second sound bite. Wow, the fate of a nation boiled down to whether we can hold interest for 4 sec…
Paul noted that we simply don’t have the time for long-winded messages and we are visually driven too. That’s why video has such great cut through on social media.
The speaker also proposed a future that includes increased co-living, smaller residential units being required, and the return of older people living with families having freed up equity early. Renters also want the flexibility of shorter rental contracts to fit with their transient lifestyles. I myself would add in that once we have self drive cars turning up on our doorstep, what happens to the archetypal garage and driveway in new homes? Does it give over to more living space, a larger garden, or does the curtilage just shrink, giving more opportunity to build in higher density? All things to factor in on strategic schemes now perhaps…?
So considering these social and economic trends combined, future residential developments would need to be a blend of leisure and retail.
Finally technological trends now include AI and Super AI and the law of accelerating returns. So could this be a robot concierge, facial recognition to enter the home, customer service run by bots and homes connected by the Internet of Things (IoT). Be afraid, be very afraid – Sentient Fridges are coming!
VR & AR were named as enhancing the customer experience and this is already breaking through into property marketing, especially for off plan or off site sales. Furthermore, Marketing Automation can be used to study click behaviour or digital body language to gauge how to communicate with customers next. So different visitors would get different emails and messages to match their personalised needs and behaviours. All clever stuff!
Paul went on to conclude by noting that Amazon has ruled over the likes of House of Fraser, M&S and Poundland by constantly asking itself how can we help customers and how can tech help us to help customer? Housebuilders should be asking these sorts of questions too. He surmised that the winners would integrate tech to improve Customer Experience like Amazon has.
Placemaking in Bracknell
This best practise in placemaking has parallels with work Ferrier Pearce Creative Group has done with Basingstoke, as well as placemaking projects that Key has undertaken too.
Legal & General and Portland Design combined to ‘Create Connections’ at Lexicon in Bracknell. This £240m regeneration of the town centre included a retail and leisure destination. The area was in dire need of an evening economy and a heart being placed into this original ‘new town’.
L&G opened an information centre to raise the profile of the scheme, which was in the centre of the town as part of a wider public outreach. It held evening community forums, organised school visits to site and created connections and a latent demand to identify with and use the new space.
They positioned this as a place to create memories and gain experiences and this installed a real sense of pride in the place. The project continues, but has seen a massive upturn in fortunes.
Understanding the customer of today and tomorrow
Then there was a panel discussion between representatives from Conductor, Silk Road and We Work.
Once again, they spoke about the need to focus on the residents and the people, not just the buildings and were worried by a lack of customer insight and future trending on design of products in the housebuilding industry. They felt that product should be marmite, not vanilla. People will buy something they love, not like or feel is ok.
Prerequisites in new communities should include Fibre broadband, convenience for the collection of deliveries for example and they questioned how do major macro trends impact on the resi market? They felt that developers need to be smarter with the products they design and the segments they go after.
They too felt that new lifestyles are making build to rent more competitive. Gone are the days of build it and they will come, developers will need insight as to what people actually want. It would therefore be interesting to see public engagement on this footing, not just to combat NIMBYism and to get planning, but to actually see what homebuyers want. Be careful what you wish for as the great British public does have previous - Boaty McBoatface!
The panel compared the slick and customer friendly car dealership to the sterile and identikit experience of a property sector marketing suite. They also spoke on a trend which we have ourselves coined as New Ruralism, whereby there is a call to nature, open spaces, community roots and they have dubbed this Re-wilding.
Finally they saw social channels as being so much more than a way to push PR messages within property and actually connect with the buyers and create a great holistic customer experience. Developers should be seen as being enablers of human contact, rather than purveyors of soulless dormitories.
The Future of Estate Agency
This short presentation highlighted that Purple Bricks has now overtaken Zoopla and that they use online tech to get ahead of the competition. Whether this is in terms of searches, or listed properties, it was not made clear.
Zillow is a company that buys property and sells it on, so they break chains and this could be a model that comes more to the fore.
The greatest feature on Amazon, according to research, was the ability to track delivery, especially out of hours, so housebuilders could take this on board, or at least up their CRM game. Transparency is certainly the future.
Finally it was identified that the UK is behind the curve compared to other countries, for example Scandinavia has already ditched property portals in favour of social media advertising.
Creating a Social Buzz for Paintworks
Following a double win in last year’s Property marketing Awards for Key and Kolab with Crest Nicholson for Paintworks in Bristol, we were invited to demonstrate its success with an insightful case study.
Debbie Harvey, Managing Director for Kolab and Sandra Dixon, Sales & Marketing Director for Crest Nicholson South West demonstrated how the use of strategy and insights highlighted the audiences, whilst social listening found out where they were. In total 97% of advertising was conducted via social media and the use of social listening tools meant that influencers could be courted and the marketing became much more targeted and pro-active.
Tone of voice was important, as was setting out the customer care policy, but the autonomy and trust to deliver was key to the campaign’s success. The brand purpose underpinned everything that was done and the team sense checked all output against this core strategy to ensure metrics were maximised.
Sandra reported some compelling statistics including how Crest Nicholson saved 17 months of marketing spend on site to the tune of £0.5m. No small feat in times of rising build costs! Sandra qualified this by saying that the company usually sees around 10% of people through the door eventually go on to buy. At Paintworks, the actual hit rate was 28%, meaning that the leads were pre-qualified and the right people were coming to site. They also saw a 30% increase in £/sft in 2 years, 17% above the local base rate.
Click here for further information or speak to us to find out how we can help you make more of a social buzz.
Panel discussion – Brilliant Basics
The next panel discussion included our Founder Nigel Ferrier and he alongside representatives from Great Portland Estates and Flocker discussed how people now want experiences from brands.
Hannover Square was cited as a placemaking example whereby they had a consistent brand narrative or theme throughout the development across all touch points. This really is best practise, so long as the brand story is compelling and credible.
The panel discussed how marketing suites are key to the perception of quality, how the role of the brochure has changed from being the first sales tool to now reaffirming the sale with a more tactile experience that can’t be achieved online.
Social media marketing was the next topic, with quality not quantity in terms of content marketing being the order of the day and it not just being an extension of the sales and PR channel.
It was identified that content should be useful, not salesy and that help for first time buying is an underused content subject, so developers should create content to assist, not necessarily sell. The content needs to be interesting and engaging and opinion pieces are good practice.
Again this notion of a short attention span was raised, so readers need actionable tips. Developers asked that agencies be agile and responsive to work on the hop, as well as be authentic and have integrity. On the flipside, I’m sure agencies would like to instil more planning and structure to its clients.
Building your digital brand
Brand search is important and the presenter showed how the brand searches for leading estate agents were down across the board, whilst portals were increasing exponentially.
Google Trends can be used to establish a brand’s health and compare its search numbers to competitors. Google search console was also recommended, a facility that few people in the auditorium had heard of.
The presenters also spoke about PPC aggregating your brand better and the more you spend, obviously improves the click through rate, but it’s a numbers game. Some companies also bid on competitor search terms too.
It was suggested that content converts clicks far more than ads do and developers should be selling the dream with lifestyle images of people using the space rather than just having CGIs.
Branding vs Brand
The agency Circus presented about branding and commented on the importance of finding a brand purpose. The speaker recommended that a brand should be clear, focused, emotional and distinctive, with the following succinct statement that aligns with our own approach at Key:
“Great brands are built on compelling stories; stories which inspire and captivate internal and external stakeholders alike. They have an ideology that makes them distinctive and commands our attention. They build engagement through consistency of behaviour and experience.”
What is context around the story – ask yourself, what is shopping, what is a destination, what is a place? So therefore what would or could an experience look like?
Principles to inspire memory for strong brands inspire memory, they create a moment in time, they are focussed on their target market, rather than being too broad brush and they connect with the consumer, making the place and the space meaningful to them.
So placemaking is all about the memory of experience and to do this well, they suggest that developers should:
- Get closer to the consumer
- Collaborate with brands
- Create content that drives currency
- Put more into the proposition
- Amplify and monetise in new ways
- Be respectful of partners and consumers
- Imagine a different future and innovate
A Conclusion from Key
So lots of great insight from the day, from some of the industry’s leading lights and the main thing for me that came up time and again was the need to connect with consumers in a more emotional and less rational way. To put the homebuyer first and appeal to their wants and needs, rather than just push product down their throat.
It’s a complete step change for many developers, brands in their own right that most property purchasers have little knowledge of and not affinity to. It’s the place and the community that they’re buying into and it’s this brand that should be nuanced, explored, identified and promoted to provide the most credible, compelling and consistent brand story possible, so as to maximise returns.
Whether your audience is looking to buy via social media, online portals or through the local paper, it’s a blend of channels with a consistent message, not constantly changing for changing’s sake that provides real cut through.
As we learned today, be respectful of consumers, get closer to their needs and create relevant content. And when it comes to a destination and lifestyle focussed website that excites and engages visitors - build it and they will come!
Key Property Marketing went onto win the Grand Prix prize at the 2018 Property Marketing Awards, please speak to us about creating award-winning work for you and watch this space for further developments.