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Winning Today’s Connected Consumer 3 Trends and 9 Tactics to Help Brokers and Agents Thrive in a Multiscreen World

Connected consumers – those who drive their home search through a combination of mobile and desktop tools – are the most valuable: ZipRealty found that they are six times more likely to request a showing, and four times more likely to purchase a home. In order to win today’s connected consumer, brokers and agents must engage this valuable client segment at the very beginning of the sales cycle across multiple screens, and all the way through to purchase (and referral). By acting as a trusted resource for consumers during the initial discovery stage of the sales cycle you not only build consumer confidence in your brand, you are also able to gain insight into the consumers’ interests and provide timely, customized service. Drawing on lessons from inside and outside the real estate industry, this white paper will cover three key trends and provide you with nine tactics to help you win the connected consumer and succeed in the digital age.


TREND #1

Smart Brands Capture Consumers’ Activity on Mobile and Web; Respond with Targeted Actions Consumer behavior during extensive research period indicates who is likely to transact, and when Before ever stepping foot in a physical store, dealership, office, etc., consumers are increasingly researching purchases from their smartphone, tablets and laptops, often for months at a time – particularly with purchases that involve a high degree of financial complexity and planning. This is especially true in real estate, where the digitization of listing data has rapidly moved the home search from the car to the couch. A recent study by Google revealed that during the research process, 64% of home shoppers rely solely on the Internet, and 90% use it at some point during their home search. Furthermore, nearly 50% of people begin that search on their phone1.

WHITE PAPER | Winning Today’s Connected Consumer

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Are You Missing the Critical Opening Act? Your brand must be present during the period of deep initial research for two reasons. First, while home buyers and sellers are exhaustively researching from multiple devices, they are also deciding which real estate brands to trust. By the time they want to visit a home in person or book a listing appointment, the brands that they have been relying on to gather information in the digital realm are likely to have more and more influence over who will win their business. Second, by being a trusted source of information during the web and mobile research phase – in other words, being a source that consumers regularly return to during their home search – you will be able to understand consumers’ activity and gain meaningful insight into their actions. This knowledge will allow you to understand how and when to effectively engage them.

Sales Cycle for Real Estate Searching via web and mobile and gathering information

Discovery

Reading reviews; gathering peer opinions; looking at market valuation tools; registering on one or more sites to save personal search preferences

Consideration

Requesting service or additional information

Intent In-person activity such as touring a home or getting a listing presentation

Engagement Choosing to buy or signing a listing agreement

Purchase Referring friends and family

Referral

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Next Up In Your Sales Funnel: The Millennial Generation (If You Do it Right) In order to sell anything – especially a home – you need to know to whom you are selling, what they are seeking, when to reach out to them, and what to say. Meet the Millennial Generation: today’s largest segment of home buyers4 . This generation already lives in wealthier households than Baby Boomers did at the same age, and are positioned to have greater purchasing power (because of their education) and significantly more influence (because of their numbers)13 than any generation before them. Millennials do not use technology to replace human insight; rather, they use it to gather multiple opinions so that they can make the best decision. They view technology not just as a device or platform for communication, but as a means to improve their life and make better choices13. Engaging this powerful consumer segment in the “discovery” phase is imperative for success, and to do so brokerages must demonstrate local expertise early, often and across multiple devices. By the time Millennial home buyers or sellers request a home tour or a listing appointment they are already armed with a significant amount of information, multiple and sometimes conflicting opinions, and want to interact with an expert who knows more than they do about issues such as location trade-offs, property value, and market conditions. If they encounter a real estate agent in the course of their online research who has provided that kind of insight, they will likely reach out to that professional directly7.

Who is buying homes? Gen X

Millennials

(1965 - 1979)

(1980 - 2000)

30%

31%

Silent Generation (1925-1945)

8% 16%

14%

Younger Boomers (1955 -1964)

Older Boomers (1946-1954)

Source: 2014 National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, March 2014

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3 Tactics to Win Consumers Who Research On Multiple Devices: Tactic #1: Own the web and mobile real estate conversation from the start Traditionally, brokerages get in the game at the “engagement” stage of the digital sales cycle – when the home buyer or seller visits an open house, requests a property tour, or asks for a listing appointment. While this is still a valid way to acquire business, there is also an increasing segment of business that is essentially up for grabs during the research phases of “discovery”, “consideration” and “intent”. Action Items: Create consumer-centric content that search engines can find, and keep your content local, local, local, even when addressing broader subjects.

59%

of home buyers want to read about cities/ neighborhoods

45%

want to read about local market trends

Source: 2014 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey

Create consumer-centric video content on YouTube. As the second most powerful search engine in the world15, YouTube is a powerful channel through which to distribute your brand message and connect with the Millennial Generation. Encourage agents to have Yelp profiles. With an average 120 million monthly unique visitors14, a strong presence on Yelp will instantly help your brand gain visibility (and credibility) in the digital realm.

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Tactic #2: Project your agent’s local expertise online early and often As a brokerage, the local knowledge of your agents is a significant resource and asset, and by projecting that knowledge into the digital realm your brand has the ability to be a contender in the early stages of the sales cycle. Action Item: Encourage agents to post comments about properties they visit online. Ideally, you want to display those comments directly on home detail pages, as 65% of home buyers would likely contact an agent who left an insightful comment about a property the buyer was interested in touring6. If that technology isn’t available to you, the next best course of action is to have your agents utilize their existing social platforms to post about homes they’ve visited. 77% of home buyers report that their preferred social network is Facebook5, so that is a good place for agents to start. We recommend that agents post on their personal page since personal pages typically get more engagement than business pages17.

Tactic #3: Empower agents to deliver customized, tech-enabled service in-person Having a powerful website and mobile app is essential. But what happens when consumers who have engaged with your brand online meet your representative in person, and he shows up with a clipboard instead of an iPad? Or, instead of being informed and one step ahead, he has to play catchup with the preferences the consumer has established online. Your agents are your brand personified: make sure they are prepared to deliver on your brand promise and can “bridge the gap” between the online and in-person experience. Action Items: Provide agents with the mobile-optimized software so they can bridge the gap between the online and in-person experience. The more insights they have into what the client has been doing online, the better prepared they can be when meeting the client in person. Consider making a smartphone rule at your brokerage: if you want to work here, you must have a smartphone.

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TREND #2

Customization is King Consumers crave customization; brands that provide it are rewarded with their business (and their referrals) Mass production has given way to “mass customization” – allowing the consumer to “customize” certain aspects of a product or service. From the music on our smartphones, to the TV shows we choose to record on our DVRs, to how we curate our news channels such as Reddit, to actually being able to custom-design a car or a shoe, we are truly personalizing every corner of our lives. The digital world has opened up an immediate and direct line of communication between companies and individuals that has never existed before. Any company that does not embrace that connection will have a hard time surviving into the next decade. On the other hand, brands that recognize each consumer as their own market and provide them with customized products and services will be the ones who win that consumer’s business and referrals. Homes are intensely personal, and the concept of customization has always been a part of real estate. We often talk about “helping people find the right home for them”, and recognize that a real estate agent’s personalized service is an essential part of that process. However, because consumers have come to expect customization when they interact with companies and services in the digital realm, today’s brokerage must provide that same kind of service on both web and mobile – where your (hopefully) future clients are spending endless hours researching real estate. Allowing them to customize their home search in that early stage of research not only builds trust and engagement in your brand, it also provides additional insight for agents as to what the consumer prefers. By the time the consumer is ready for in-person service, the agent is prepared to address that consumer’s specific interests.

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Major brands use “Mass Customization” to differentiate their products and service. Nike created NikeiD, which lets customers choose from dozens of colors, combinations and styles to create a personalized shoe. NikeiD now accounts for 20% of store revenue. Similarly, Levis created the “Personal Pair”: custom jeans to women on a mass scale. These custom jeans cost 35% more, but women saw the value. Over 25% of all Levis jeans sold to women became custom orders. Source: CBC Radio “Under the Influence”, Have It Your Way: How Mass Customization Is Changing Marketing, by Terry O’Riley March 1, 2014


The “Mass Customized” Home Search: Going Beyond the Basics Yields Higher Conversion Rates ZipRealty introduced mass customization into the real estate search by allowing home buyers to customize their home search beyond the basic “city, state, zip code” search parameters. Not only can home buyers customize their search by “price, bed, bath, square footage”, they can also customize by metro-specific items such as “pool, garage, outdoor BBQ, front porch”. Today, over 90% of the searches by registered ZipRealty users are customized, and nearly twice the number of ZipRealty buyers who customized their search request a home visit within a month (versus those who use a default search). Similarly, nearly twice the number of ZipRealty buyers who customized their search closed a transaction within a year, versus those who did not.

Customization Yields Higher Conversation Rates 2x

Default Search

Customized Search

2x

as many home buyers with a customized search request a home visit within a month

When it Comes to Service, Honest Experts Are Highly Valued

Finding a real estate agent who is an “honest expert” – someone who knows the local market and has the consumers best interests at heart (rather than their own commission) – is a top priority for home buyers and sellers8. Consumers are better informed than ever before, which places pressure on real estate agents to provide insider expertise that goes beyond what a consumer can discover on their own. Add to that the growing desire for mass customization within service: consumers don’t just want to know what the best products, techniques, and life choices are – they want to know what is best for them. In fact, when a home buyer or seller gets a personal recommendation for a real estate agent, 87% of them will likely look that agent up online before they contact him8. Why? Because they don’t just want to make sure that the agent did a good job for their mother/ coworker/ neighbor … they want to make sure the agent will do a good job for them. As a brokerage, this means that your challenge is not just to show up early and informed in the online world, but to also engage consumers on a personal level even before your agents have had the chance to meet them.

87% of consumers would look up an agent online who was personally recommended to them 43% 28% 16%

10% 3%

YES

Very likely

Somewhat likely

Not likely

Source: 2012 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey

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No


3 Tactics to Win Consumers Who Want Customization: Tactic #1: Don’t limit the home search experience Enable consumers to personalize and save their search preferences on your website and mobile app so they are seeing what they want. Action Item: Show more listings than just your listings on your brokerage website – in fact, show as many current listings as possible. Encourage visitors to customize their search, and register to save it. Allowing home buyers to narrow the results for themselves, rather than only showing them a segment of the market, will build trust and credibility in your brand.

Tactic #2: Recommend an agent based on a consumer’s customized search – before the visit request

64%

As a brokerage, you can get in front of consumers’ desire for customized, expert advice by recommending an agent to them based on their customized search. Think match making, but for real estate service: if a home buyer is searching in a specific neighborhood and price range, recommend an agent who has experience in that area/price range.

of home buyers want to be presented with several agents and have the option to choose the one they like

Action Items:

36%

Recommend agents to new leads rather than randomly assigning them. Do it before the visit request (when possible) so that the agent can build a relationship prior to meeting them and effectively bridge the gap between digital and human service.

want to be automatically matched with an agent that will best serve their home search

Show, don’t tell: display agent ratings and reviews from closed clients – either on your own site, on a third party site like Yelp, or both – and showcase the agent’s local activity online. Similar to agent comments, making these reviews an integrated part of the consumers’ digital experience that you deliver is ideal.

Source: 2014 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey

What kind of information will assure consumers that they’ve been matched with the right agent? Homes visited in my search area

27%

100% 75% 50%

Customer satisfaction rating

75%

25%

Source: 2012 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey

Homes sold in my search area

Years of real estate experience

39%

53%

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Tactic #3: Customize your communication with leads Alerts of new listings that match a home buyer’s customized search is the number one type of information home buyers want from a real estate agent5. Sending these alerts to home buyers via the mode that they prefer – be that mobile app push notifications, text notifications, or email alerts – is equally as important. Why? Because if you use email to communicate with someone who prefers texting, your timely, carefully curated content will get to them “late”, and likely won’t be valued at the same level as if you communicated it to them in the mode they prefer. Action Item: Set up communication with consumers on their terms: send them information that is relevant to them, and send them the information when and how they want it (text, push notification, email). Rather than relying on the MLS to send email alerts of new listings directly to clients, create branded listing alerts for agents to send consumers instead. That way, when the alert pops up on a consumer’s smartphone or arrives in their inbox, the communication is branded from your brokerage, building consumer confidence in your brand.

What kind of emails do consumers want from an agent?

New listings that match my interests

82%

Info on a specific home I’ve saved online

43%

Alerts of upcoming open houses in my area

40%

Updates on local market conditions

35%

Monthly newsletter with seasonal tips, recipes and local market news

12%

Source: 2012 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey

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TREND #3

Connected consumers- those who engage on multiple screens- are the most valuable Being able to effectively serve the connected consumer is essential to success Today the average US household has 5 connected devices – and some have over 1510. This means that what used to be a single-mode conversation between a consumer and a business has swiftly changed to a multi-modal conversation. Real estate is no exception. During the online phase of the sales cycle, 78% of home buyers and sellers simultaneously use TV, laptop and tablet or mobile device to research real estate2.

70%

of all mobile searches result in action within 1 hour Source: Hubspot, 9 Amazing Mobile Marketing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know, Jeanne Hopkins, September 6, 2011

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The Mobile Train Has Left the Building – Is Your Brokerage On Board? Making your business mobile-optimized is no longer an option; it’s essential. From your website, to your consumer communications, to your agents, providing consumers with a mobile-optimized experience at every touch-point is imperative to keeping them engaged throughout the sales cycle. It begins with your website: when researching real estate 43% of consumers begin that search on their mobile phone or tablet, moving to a laptop later 2. If your website isn’t mobile-optimized, that means that consumers are bouncing – in other words, leaving your site – before you have ever have a chance to engage them. The high bounce rate a non-mobile optimized site experiences is problematic for two reasons. First, a clunky first impression does your brand a disservice, as it gives consumers the impression that you don’t care12. But even more detrimental is the fact that you are not able to get reliable insight in the initial, yet critical stages of the sales cycle.

48%

of users say that if they arrive on a business site that isn’t working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business not caring

79%

will leave a nonmobile optimized site and go back to search and try to find another site to meet their needs

62%

of companies that designed a website specifically for mobile had increased sales

Sources: Hubspot, 17 Compelling Stats That Make the Case for Smarter Site Design, by Rachel Sprung, July 21, 2013 and Search Engine Watch, 72% of Consumers Want Mobile-Friendly Sites: Google Research, by Miranda Miller September 26, 2012

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Meaningful Data is Only Attained by Gathering Consumer Activity Across Multiple Devices Technologically, we are at a place where everything is measureable; the digital action of both home buyers and sellers (regardless of device) can be turned into data. Gathering that data is necessary, but harnessing the usefulness of that data is where the magic truly occurs. By distilling the signal from the noise – in other words, locating the people who are most likely to transact – and enabling your agents to reach out to them intelligently, you are setting your brokerage up to succeed. We know that people use multiple devices when researching real estate; we know that nearly half start on a smartphone. If you only have insight into what they are doing on their computer, you are not getting the full picture – making it impossible to get reliable intelligence about them and to be able to serve them effectively.

Connected Consumers Are More Likely to Transact ZipRealty found that the most engaged home buyers – and the ones with the highest propensity to transact – drive their search through a combination of mobile and desktop tools. These “connected consumers” are the most dedicated to their home search: they are six times more likely to request a showing, and visit nearly twice as many homes with the same agent as those searching on a desktop platform alone. Most notably, ZipRealty found that connected consumers are four times more likely to buy a home than those who use only a website, and close (on average) one month faster.

Registration-to-Close Conversion Rate Connected consumers are more likely to buy a home

4x

4x Web Users Only

Web & App Users

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Agents Need to Be Mobile Over 40% of home buyers said that if they requested a visit via an app, they would like to visit the home within the day- and 13% said they’d want to see it within the hour. Source: ZipRealty Mobile app data and ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey 2014


3 Tactics to Win the Connected Consumer: Tactic #1: Deliver a mobile-optimized experience First impressions matter – again, recall that nearly 50% of home buyers and sellers start their search on mobile2. If your website is not mobile optimized, they will likely leave and go to another site16. If it is mobile optimized, they may not transact with you right then and there, but you are in a better position to have them find your brand again and to build trust with them. Action Item: Look at your website on your mobile device and ask yourself these questions: - How quickly does your page load? - Can you read the text? - Is it easy to navigate? If your website takes over 3 seconds to load or is difficult navigate, chances are your mobile bounce rate is high.

Tactic #2: Deploy a useful app Today, 80% of time on mobile devices is spent in apps11. If you do develop an app, make it specific to the mobile platform, utilizing the technology within the phone and adding functionality (and therefore, value) that is not available via the website or mobile website. Action Item: Instead of relying upon the Android and iPhone app store to get your app into the hands of your customers, promote your app within your website and email marketing. ZipRealty found that 43% of consumers who had downloaded the ZipRealty app learned about it from our website, not an app store9.

Tactic #3: Use software that connects and informs you and your agents Choose your software service carefully – it’s a decision you will live with for a long time. Make sure it has predictive analytics that you can leverage to improve your business in a tangible way. Your software should be able to indicate which consumers are more likely to transact soon and to relay that information to agents. Action Item: Read “Inside PbZ: Understanding the Cost of Lost Deals” to discover what you should be looking for in a software service.

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Conclusion Connected consumers are the most valuable, and engaging them early in the sales cycle is essential to your success. If your brand isn’t participating in the early stages of the sales cycle, you will be missing out on an increasing amount of business – and the ability to effectively serve the business you acquire later in the cycle. 9 Tactics to Win the Connected Consumer 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Own the web and mobile real estate conversation from the start Project your agent’s local expertise online early and often Empower agents to deliver customized, tech-enabled service in-person Don’t limit the home search experience Recommend an agent based on a consumer’s customized search – before the visit request Customize your communication with leads Deliver a mobile-optimized experience Deploy a useful app Use software that connects and informs you and your agents

The digitization of real estate provides visibility into the extensive research phase of home buyers and sellers, but harnessing that data and turning it into action can be a challenge. A CRM with predictive analytics (that is connected to your website and mobile app) will help agents contact consumers at the right time, with the right message – and enable your brokerage to succeed in the digital age.

Visit www.pbzsolutions.com or call 1-877-947-5005 to learn more

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Citations: 1. Google Consumer Surveys, August 2013, NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 2012 2. Google Consumer Surveys, August 2013 3. Google & Compete New Home Shopper Survey, 2012 4. 2014 National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, March 2014 5. 2014 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey 6. 2013 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey 7. 2013 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey 8. 2012 ZipRealty Home Buyer Survey 9. 2012 ZipRealty Mobile App Survey 10. Bloomberg, Average Household Has 5 Connected Devices, While Some Have 15-Plus, by Olga Kharif, August 29, 2012 11. Venture Beat, The mobile war is over and the app has won: 80% of mobile time spent in apps, by John Koetsier, April 3, 2013 12. Hubspot, 17 Compelling Stats That Make the Case for Smarter Site Design, by Rachel Sprung, July 31, 2013 13. The Next Web, Meet the Millennials: The consumers to change the marketing landscape, Jamie Gailewicz, March 29, 2014 14. Yelp, www.Yelp.com/about 15. News Journal, Don’t overlook the second largest search engine anymore, By Alexander Gould, January 24, 2014 16. Search Engine Watch, 72% of Consumers Want Mbile-Friendly Sites: Google Research, by Miranda Miller, September 26, 2012

© 2014 ZipRealty, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Winning the connected consumer  

Drawing on lessons from inside and outside the real estate industry, this white paper will cover three key trends and provide you with nine...

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