At this year’s International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Las Vegas, there was one theme we saw popping up constantly, whether the breakout session was focused on business, marketing or technology: Customer Experience (CX). As a branding and digital agency, we’ve already seen CX take hold in other industries we serve, but this was the first time we’ve noticed it really driving the conversation within the homebuilder sector. So what does that mean you can expect as a developer or real estate professional in 2019?
A shift toward off-site construction
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the home building industry is 3x less productive than other non-farming industries. Take a look at the example below of how the automobile industry’s evolution in off-site productivity compares to that of the housing industry.
The difference is striking. While car manufacturers have optimized their capabilities in building efficiency, home builders, for the most part, have essentially stuck to the same methods and models they’ve been using since in 1877.
According to Sam Rashkin, Department of Energy Chief Architect and past ENERGY STAR Director of New Homes, the largest disruptions in any industry have happened when ownership is removed from the picture. Airbnb, for example, caused a big disruption in the hotel industry by removing the need for travelers to pay for an expensive room while on vacation. And Uber’s colossal impact on society is still being felt as they have almost completely eliminated the need to hail a taxi. So how can builders follow suit?
Imagine a world in which the early stages of construction were moved off-site. What if home builders gave their customers the ability to construct a home online for delivery in a matter of weeks? This type of construction could introduce a new way to experience and envision a new home.
A demand for more immersive online shopping experiences
Want to hear a scary statistic? According to a study done by Builder’s Digital Experience (BDX), only a third of online community listings include a video tour. And on top of that, studies show that half of community listings have less than 10 images, the majority of which feature “lifestyle” photos completely unrelated to the properties or communities being marketed.
In today’s digital age, it’s imperative to have a robust online presence that not only clearly depicts your product, but reflects the values and differentiators of your company. Instead of telling prospects what a neighborhood will look like 10 years from now, show them. Virtual tours and interactive site maps are a sure-fire way to help customers fall in love with your product and visualize their future within your community. This year, we’ll start to see builders rely more and more on interior renderings, surface site plans, and custom photography (instead of stock) to create an emotional connection with online shoppers as they browse for a home.
Customizing the experience for different prospects
For some of the most common types of prospects, buying a home represents a new phase of their lives, which presents huge opportunities for marketers. As you develop your marketing and outreach approach, consider the mindset of your different buyers.
• Empty nesters, aged 55 years or older, are the most qualified to buy a home and often prioritize the needs of their children and grandchildren.
• Millennials, aged 23 to 38, are the most hesitant to buy a home and are more focused on spending their money on experiences over things. They seek out neighborhoods that foster a sense of community and offer regularly scheduled activities.
• Digital Natives, aged 18 to 22, have most recently graduated from college and value ownership and savings. Home buying is on their minds, even if the act of procuring one may be further down the line.
All in all? The future of real estate marketing is more exciting and digitally-focused than ever before. We can’t wait to see what’s in store next year!