Many industry players are still reluctant, and there is a widespread view of the future of the sector which is overly conservative. The customer is their “property”. He must be protected from competitors, and channeled into closed and value-destroying solutions. It is time to encourage the development of an ecosystem built on open and interconnected platforms. That is where the value lies. That is where the real estate of tomorrow can be found.
I was talking recently with the head of a large group in the sector, about the difficulties he was experiencing in digitising his company. No fewer than 10 systems (CRM, ERP, etc.) were being used in the company without any interconnection between them. None internally and none externally either. A customer could have ten separate identities without any information being shared. You can easily imagine the profit opportunities being missed in this situation.
There is an urgent need for real estate professionals to stop using systems that no longer meet customer requirements. There is no point hiding behind issues such as confidentiality or data security that are no longer valid. Whatever solution or system is chosen, it must be open. That is now a prerequisite.
Open and customer-centric platforms
Customers have changed. They are not a captive audience, or anyone’s property. Their only requirement is to find the right answer to their needs and to enjoy a smooth and efficient user experience. In real estate perhaps even more than elsewhere.
The customer needs to be at the heart of your strategy. Rather than trying to keep them captive, companies need to understand their needs and adopt the best position in the value chain. Using open platforms, interconnected with complementary services and products, alongside competitors. Using an open platform is an opportunity to benefit from others. That is my value proposition that keeps me going and enables me to differentiate myself.
An inspiring example is Salesforce, which has allowed the emergence and development of a new ecosystem where complementary and competing offerings are found together. Are you using the Salesforce CRM and want to carry out a survey amongst your customers? Dozens of partner solutions are available in one click. It’s up to you to choose the one that suits you.
Furthermore, customers have changed their habits, notably the way they go about house hunting. They want more autonomy and to only talk to a salesperson and answer questions when they want to, and not the other way around. They already have all the information: 85% of real estate searches start on the Internet. This means putting the customer at the centre of our focus and providing him or her with expertise and personalised advice.
Transparency is key
And that means transparency of information. The only story the customer is interested in is their own. We can see this in today’s communications: where four years ago we were talking about architecture and facilities, today we are talking about square meters and life experiences. The customer also wants to plan his or her future purchase, especially in new build real estate, which by its very nature does not yet exist.
Habiteo was also born out of an observation: it is difficult to sell off plan. 3D allows you to appeal to the customer’s emotions, help them to fall in love with the idea, and to immerse themselves in their future home.
At the end of the day the customer wants customisation and tailor-made solutions. Whether you’re buying a car or a pair of shoes, brands offer you a personalisation experience. Not just a trend, this has become a must-have. Responsiveness and customer knowledge are also major differentiating assets, especially in new build real estate.
Innovation is everywhere and in everything, but it is ephemeral, and over and above technological innovations it is business innovations that the real estate sector needs. Simplifying access to information, to future homes and making life easier for all those in the chain from developer to builder to sales team; and making tools collaborative. This will help support the digital transformation of the sector and meet all its needs.
Time for a true shift in the sector?
In real estate there are a number of solutions emerging now. A property developer, for example, can now be assisted end-to-end on his project: from the identification of the site to the construction phase, from the first visit to the handover of keys or even marketing of add-on services (insurance, maintenance, legal documents, etc.). His sales and marketing teams communicate, sharing their knowledge about the end customer, and the marketing process is managed from end to end thanks to open, interconnected, personalized solutions, guaranteeing complete confidentiality and security.
While much remains to be done, many real estate players have understood the importance of this transformation. Believing that a customer offering from one company can enhance the solutions offered by others, and that strength lies in unity, startups and established players in the sector have joined together in the French Proptech movement, to imagine and build the digital and open real estate industry of tomorrow.