by Amit B Wadhwani, MD & Co Founder, SECCPL
From inquiries to site visits, documentation, and delivery, real estate developers have relied on technology to market and sell their projects in the last six months of lockdown in India. Digitization, which has disrupted industries across the globe has had little impact on the real estate sector in India until now. However, the scenario has changed since the COVID-19 crisis started spreading its tentacles in the country. The pandemic fright and the resulting lockdown has led to increased use of digital platforms in the sector.
While digital platforms and websites have been around for years, most of the real estate transactions happened offline. When buying a home, consumers prefer to visit the site, look at the property, the location, and sign the agreement face-to-face, in the presence of all the concerned parties. Websites and mobile apps, if used, were only to refer to photographs and videos of the project/ flat and get the seller’s contact information.
The dipping sales in the past few months have created pressure on developers, investors, and brokers. The key players have realized that to recover sales and to remain relevant in the new paradigm, it is inevitable to reinvent these methods. They are using digital tools to tip the scales in their favour after months of slowdown, to ease the process of buying homes, and hence increase sales.
Below are some features of digitization in real-estate:
Strengthening social media presence: Developers are realizing the power of social media in generating leads and converting them into buyers. Sophisticated and active Twitter handles, Facebook pages, Instagram profiles, and professional LinkedIn accounts are becoming a norm rather than an exception. To convert leads to sales, social media handles will have links to landing pages from where you can explore and eventually buy the property.
Digital lead generation: Developers are learning and adopting digital marketing funnel. Through the data generated, they are keeping a track of customers navigating the web pages. Properties are filtered as per the requirement to convert leads into buyers. This data is also significantly used to create value add in understanding the consumer needs better in relation to home buying preferences.
Personalized digital interactions with AI: Chatbots that offer 24*7 instant assistance, guide customers through the websites, and engage in meaningful conversations can be lead magnets. Developers are tapping the potential of chatbots to develop nurturing relationships with buyers.
Virtual walkthroughs: Young buyers are getting increasingly comfortable with property visits becoming e-Visits. The developers are enhancing their experience by finding innovative ways to simulate the physical experience of home buying online, using virtual walkthroughs and augmented reality.
Secure Post-sales online: Closure of deals, paperwork, and payments that have traditionally remained completely offline will move online and so will loan processing and payments. Developers will look for secure gateways and using video conferencing to ensure smooth transactions and enhance customer confidence and trust. Going forward we may have lesser paperwork, simple documentation when buying a home online.
Lastly, while the digitization will enhance transparency and sales, interpersonal relationships will continue to remain vital in the market disrupted by the pandemic, so human intervention cannot be ruled out. Thus, the future will witness real estate players harnessing the power of digital technology and human touch to gain an edge in the business.