In the pre-COVID-19 days, real estate experts often used to make a point that virtual and augmented reality would never find any takers in this sector, because of the quantum of investment involved. The impact of Coronavirus on real estate has changed marketing in the industry upside down. Virtual site-visits, digitization and video walk-throughs are modern-day marketing terms that most of the real estate companies are riding on, to get the attention of prospective buyers. At the same time, buyers, many of whom are still scared to step out, are actively participating in the process, making these new forms of real estate marketing a massive success.
Coronavirus prompts digitization of real estate marketing
Social media comes to the rescue
While the primary source of information for home buyers has changed to the internet over the past few years, many real estate firms still relied on full-page newspaper advertisements and hoardings. With the lockdown forcing people to stay at home and spending more time on their mobile phones or on social media, the opportunity to garner this attention has been identified by a number of real estate companies. From paid ads to webinars, social media networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn have been flooded with content exclusively targeted towards people who still have jobs and may consider investing, with so many exclusive offers going on.
Developers adapt to virtual platforms
From drone shoots to virtual tours, real estate brands that have identified the scope of technology in real estate, have gained. While client meetings took place over Google Meet and Zoom, the only replacement for physical site visits was virtual tours, or video walk-throughs or a drone shoot. Many companies that had not shot such videos in the pre-pandemic days, got the shoots done hurriedly, to cater to consumer demand. Similarly, a number of companies built online booking platforms, to facilitate online selection and buying of homes at a token amount, to be paid through NEFT, RTGS or even UPI. This completely eliminated the requirement for face-to-face meetings to hand over cheques.
The impact of this digital transformation has been profound and we have managed to convert the negative effects of this pandemic into an opportunity that has reshaped the future of this industry. To facilitate the buying process and sustain the momentum of sales, we have employed 3D walk-throughs and VR and AR to introduce an immersive, experiential marketing. The decision-making process has been enhanced through the digital medium. Hence, even if one is abroad, one may experience the property and make a smart decision.
At this point, a number of real estate confederations and associations have also joined up, to conduct workshops and webinars in sales and marketing. Associations like the National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) and the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) are organizing workshops for developers, to guide real estate stakeholders to increase sales, considering the requirements of customers in the post-pandemic era.
The confidence of buyers has increased and their queries are also increasing day by day. Developers need to market their products properly and avoid over committing. We have to upgrade ourselves in this age of e-governance and social media.
Referral marketing in real estate amid COVID-19
A number of real estate firms or companies from allied sectors have also started referral schemes. As new customer acquisitions have dried up completely, getting referred by existing clients or renewing ongoing agreements were easier.
“We floated a mailer to our existing clients to refer their friends and family to us and get an assured cash-back on the deal closure. It took some time to catch up, since, initially, we were not equipped to fulfil the requirements, owing to shortage of labour. However, by around May-June 2020, our business increased by 20%, as more people started to opt for customised furniture,” said Ashok Gupta, owner, DI Interiors and Architectures, a firm based in Kolkata.
Festive season 2020: Discounts and freebies make a comeback
Developers have also resorted to tried and tested tricks, such as offering heavy discounts, to attract buyers’ attention. From cash discounts to refundable token amounts, builders also offered flexible terms and conditions, to make it comfortable for buyers to book homes during the pandemic. Their marketing pitch targeted first-time home buyers who were struggling in rented accommodations, as well as people looking for homes with more space following the lockdown.