Over the past two months, we’ve been helping our clients in the property sector successfully work their way around circumstances - including the closure of marketing suites and an effective ban on all but essential travel - which no one could have foreseen before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
When the UK’s version of lockdown kicked in at the end of March, it meant a sudden curtailment of physical property marketing activity: suites and show homes were temporarily shuttered, viewings put on hold and house sales effectively frozen. Thoughts turned quickly to how digital media and marketing could be used to fill the gap created by the restrictions, with much attention centring on how to digitise the all-important viewing element of property sales.
We’ve collated the insights we’ve gleaned over the past eight weeks, reviewed the solutions that have worked best and put together these top tips for creating a great virtual viewing page.
Use visuals to your advantage
The primary experience a virtual viewing page seeks to replicate online is that of the marketing suite or show home. This, as we all know, is traditionally a very visual experience, often forming the first opportunity for a buyer to really visualise themselves living in a property. For that reason, it’s hard to overstate the importance of using all the collected clout of your visual marketing assets to your advantage. These can range from sophisticated 360-degree video, canvas photos and VR media through to more functional image galleries and sales videos. When it comes to content and layout, think about the experience you’re trying to replicate: what would someone see upon walking into the marketing suite? What things do people usually like to see; what questions do they usually ask? For the actual virtual viewing itself, it is best to keep things simple, lowering the technical barriers as much as possible. People now are more familiar than ever with video calls, so let them book one (more on which in a moment) with your sales team and view the property in more detail, while asking questions, from the comfort and safety of their laptop or phone.
Don’t hide behind data capture
You wouldn’t bar people from entering your real world marketing suite without handing over their email address and phone number, nor should you stop them enjoying the full experience of your virtual viewing landing page. While the temptation may be there to work an additional data capture moment into the sales journey, our experience shows that the introduction of the extra barrier is actually harmful to overall conversion rates. Instead, let people freely enjoy what your landing page has to offer - the 360s, the CGIs, the brochures and fact sheets - just as you would let them immerse themselves on a visit to the marketing suite. The best place to use data capture to your advantage is the point at which a prospective buyer wants to book a more interactive virtual viewing, or even just a simple phone call, with your sales advisor. Having a simple form, linked to an automated appointment booking system (one that provides bookable slots based on real calendar availability) used by the sales team, at this stage means you’re filtering and progressing warm leads in a way that is seamless for the buyer and your business, without unnecessarily putting others off from the page.
Keep it real
Our research and discovery process routinely finds that people crave authenticity in marketing experiences, and this is backed up when we look at the performance of different types of landing page content. Pages with video on them usually always outperform those without, not least as they allow the prospect buyer to start to form an emotional connection and understanding of the brand marketing to them (“people buy from people,” as the adage goes). Interestingly, though, it isn’t always the glossiest videos with the highest production values that have the best conversion rates. Particularly when it comes to the people featured in the video, we find that the more authentic the tone and content is, the better. Put your trusted sales people front and centre in video collateral: let them represent themselves and your brand in the way they normally would in a marketing suite. Simple intro videos from advisors is an easy way of communicating personality and building trust, and helps buyers feel more comfortable with a situation they might at first find daunting. Recent data from YouGov shows 43% of people think brands’ current marketing is inauthentic, so park any thoughts you had around hiring actors and investing in super glossy video content, and keep it real instead.
Follow up and integrate with sales
One thing that is sure to stand in the way of success for the virtual viewing page is if your marketing and sales teams aren’t joined-up and on the same page regarding the implementation and process surrounding it. This is worth workshopping by itself, early on, as the best-performing pages are those that integrate seamlessly with existing set-ups. Decide who will be responsible for what, and how things like the appointment booking system will work (whose calendar will be used for scheduling; where will a record of all enquiries be stored?) before implementation, for the best chance of success. Also make sure you use this part of the process to put in place a retargeting plan for anyone who visits and interacts with the page, but doesn’t fill in the enquiry form. Tag up your pages so that these people continue to see campaign messaging in the form of display advertising on their social accounts, and remember to review and refresh the way in which you use traditional means such as email and phone calls to nurture prospects who do enter the sales funnel.
Remember ‘The New Normal’
With even an optimistic reading of the current situation being that we are in it for the long haul, it is worth taking a moment to reflect. Post-Covid-19, whatever and whenever that actually is, there won’t be a sudden switching back to the way things were. Social distancing measures are expected to stay for a considerable time, and public attitudes are changing in line. The results of a recent online survey published by Statista found only 19% of Britons “will try to live their life as they normally do,” showing the extent to which the pandemic has the ability to alter behaviours. Meanwhile, data from YouGov shows increasing numbers of people are avoiding physical interactions outdoors, with more than half saying they will not touch objects outside the home. All of which has real implications for traditionally physical property viewings and sales. Implications which could last for some time. So if you’re in any way on the fence about digitising and going virtual, put the deliberation to bed and press ahead.
theEword has developed a service to make the process of digitising your viewing experience and integrating it with your wider web presence and sales function easy, taking the hassle out of your hands. Discuss the challenges you’re facing with one of our experts by calling 0161 848 4300 or leaving us a message.