There were optimistic outlooks for the property sector this time last year...but politically and economically things have changed drastically during this time. Throughout the year we knew about policies such as Right to Rent and the stamp duty changes at the start of 2016. No one, however could have predicted a leave result for Brexit in June, which led to a slowing down of buying amongst first time buyers and next steppers, requiring estate agents to think outside the box! In fact Hometrack reported sales slowing by its lowest rate in over 3 years. Post Brexit we had the pleasure of working with a variety of ambitious estate agents from startups, to franchises looking to grow and open more branches as well as long standing family firms in need of a refresh!
In 2017 we may see the market pick up but with the impact of Brexit yet to be fully realised and spending power down across the board it’s time to stand out amongst the crowds. There’s also variations in what experts are anticipating, with RICS predicting prices to rise 3%, Nationwide a more conservative 2% and Saville’s suggesting it’ll stay the same. It’s good for the regions this year though as they collectively agree we’ll see rises in Manchester and the wider North West area, along with the West Midlands.
Wherever in the UK you’re based though we know that one thing that isn’t changing in the property industry is the focus on web technology and digital growth.
Here’s 3 few things you can do to ensure you thrive rather than just survive in 2017:
1. Have a great website
Potential buyers increasingly search for properties online first and whilst they search via some of the popular portals such as Rightmove they will then land on your website and expect to navigate in a timely and fuss-free manner. Your website is effectively your online shop window and in a competitive and tough playing field you need to remain one step ahead at all times. Singularly online estate agents are now responsible for 5% of all UK property sales so for hybrids (those on the highstreet and online) it’s critical to maximise on the benefits of an online offering, whilst maintaining customer service. Help customers through the buying process with strong messages and cleverly positioned call to action points and conversions throughout the site. With two thirds of adults now owning a smartphone and those smartphones being responsible for nearly 40% of internet access in the UK it goes without saying you’ll be missing a trick if your site is not mobile responsive!
2. Ensure your brand is strong
During tough economic times it’s more important than ever to offer customer reassurance, particularly when making such a big purchase, it’s critical to show customers you can relate to them, be trusted by them and offer the expertise and guidance they need. Last year with consumer confidence at an all time low we found more estate agents starting to think strategically about their brand, questioning whether their logo, corporate colours and visual language really encompassed everything they wanted to communicate about their company and to the right people. Word of mouth is still key for estate agents and brands that trigger a higher emotional intensity receive three times more word of mouth referrals than less connected brands. With this in mind it’s worth asking if your brand really is connecting to the right people in the right way.
3. Live chat - real time customer service
Like many in the marketing world we predicted in our recent blog that video would come into its own this year. Features and website add-ons such as ‘live chat’ respond to customers need to instant engagement and response, many customers want the same in-store experience online. When surveyed 44% of online customers say that having questions answered by an online person during an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer. When that purchase is potentially the biggest of their lives you see the potential for real time, on demand communications to heighten the customer experience.