Digital Marketing for Real Estate Companies – Key Takeaways from ET conf.


In a recent report by Assocham, it was reported that Real estate firms throughout India spend about Rs 2,500 crore annually on publicity across different media and digital marketing apparently accounts for about 25 per cent with a share of about Rs 625 crore. In our experience, this percentage is much lower and is in single digit percentages. That being said, it is on the rise. For instance, Tata Housing expects online home sales to make up for 30% of total revenue over the next 3-5 years.

I recently spoke at ET conference on Digital Marketing for Real Estate Companies and below are they key takeaways from the day long conference that was held in Delhi.

Vikas-Chawla-ET-Real-Estate-Digital-Marketing-Conf-Delhi-2014

The Indian home buyer has changed over the year’s – younger, tech savvy but still carry out extensive research

Jogy Thomas, the CEO of real estate firm ATS Greens was on the panel with me and he had interesting insights on how the consumer has changed over the years. 25 years back when they started, the average buyer’s age was over 50. Of course, the financial markets and availability of loans was not easy then and hence the buyers needed a lifetime of savings to buy a house. Fast forwarding to today, the fastest growing segment of buyers is between the age of 30 to 45 and some even in their mid twenty’s. Easy availability of loans and with the ability to pay over a course of 15 or 20 years has driven consumption.

One thing that has still not changed is the fact that home buying is a family decision and not an individual’s impulse decision. Most buyers carry out a lot of research and consult family and friends before taking the big decision of buying a house. This means, it’s a very social process and real estate companies need to take into the mind of the lifetime value of their previous customers and how their social circle can be impacted by the experience they had.

Digital is being used by more than 50% of home buyers

Guneet Singh, Head of Consumer Marketing for Google India pointed out a recent study by Google and Zinnov which showed that more than half of home buyers are influenced by their online research, so it’s not a segment that can be ignored. Another interesting insight from Jogy from ATS Greens was about their affordable housing projects which range between 7 to 12 lakhs. He pointed that more than 50% of the buyers for this project interact with them over email. So, the question real estate companies need to ask themselves is which medium – digital, OOH, TV or print gives them better ROI .

Manish Vij from SVG Group who was also on the panel with me has had experience in ecommerce and media selling. He pointed that the biggest benefit of going digital is the ability to target the right audience and measure the impact. So, depending on the project, one can identify the right digital channels and target the right demographics to get results. So if it’s a premium project maybe Linkedin and display ads across business news sites (Money control, Economic Times) might be more relevant.

ROI can be in the form of lead generation or brand building

Since real estate companies have always spent on mass media, they have never had a ROI approach to their marketing. On the other hand, digital marketing is driven by ROI. As Sachin Kapur, CMO of Groupon pointed out during another panel discussion, culturally Indians have a trust deficiency compared to the West. This means, that ROI cannot be just about lead generation. While digital can give 2.5x to 3x better ROI (read our previous blog post on this), brand building needs to be an important goal for the digital marketing efforts.

Companies need to build a community on social media to create the trust. For example, project updates to showcase that the timelines are being met can be a great way to build trust with existing customers. A 360 degree walk through of the project on the other hand can be a good way to build trust in prospective customers. While consumers research online, they do see reviews of previous customers and this is when online reputation management becomes important. Another insight from the Google & Zinnov study was that many consumers pointed at the lack of accurate, in depth and updated information on the developers and aggregators. Companies need to use their website and social media to communicate the right information on a regular basis to tackle this.

Analytics can make or break the sales funnel

While digital is more measurable than any other medium, it is important for real estate companies to use the analytics for key actionables. For example, using sales and marketing automation systems, the real estate companies can identify what the top leads that the Pre Sales team can follow up with. Analytics tracked over a few weeks (or months) can throw up data on which source of digital marketing is working better for which projects. This can be then be used to take decisions on marketing spends for future projects. In the absence of analytics and data points, it’s difficult to optimise campaigns. Real time tracking now helps in taking quick decisions which can impact the sales funnel.

Messaging needs to vary depending on purpose of home buying

While there are no readily available stats, but home buyers in India can be split into buyers who want to move into the house after buying and buyers who are using in an investment. The kind of messaging and digital channels required for these two would be very different. While a home buyer might need a more emotional messaging of buying a dream house, an investor mindset requires messaging which showcases that it makes business sense to buy the house.

If you are interested in knowing more about how digital marketing and social media marketing can help your real estate business, please contact us.

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