The way people make purchase decisions is changing. A luxury property search used to rely heavily on agents and numerous visits to unsuitable properties to find the right one. Both time consuming and expensive, this process had its downsides, but for such an important and expensive purchase, consumers would always invest that time to ensure they made the right decision.
But times are changing. The internet, and more specifically, social media, has brought with it huge changes to the luxury property purchase decision making process. While the need to be sure and find out everything about a property before purchase hasn’t changed, the way that people find the information out certainly has.
Remember the days when buyers would await agents’ new property lists, with details for each property dutifully printed out and posted on a weekly basis? The immediacy of social media now means that customers instead expect to know as soon as a new property goes on the market, and many will follow Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds of various agents to snap up the best properties as soon as they come onto the market.
If you aren’t set up to deliver with this kind of immediacy, your buyers will have gone elsewhere before you get a look in.
The Buyer Decision Making Process
The traditional process a buyer follows is this:
Need Recognition & Awareness > Information Search > Evaluation of Alternatives > Purchase > Post Purchase Evaluation
Social Media Use in the Property Information Search
Whereas the old search would involve lots of property visits, sharing up to date online property and area details online (always with loads of great photos) can now reduce the time spent doing this. For luxury properties abroad, conducting this stage online is essential unless clients want an excuse for many holidays!
Evaluation of Property Alternatives Using Social Media
Once unsuitable options have been eliminated, the evaluation of alternatives commences. This is where luxury property developers and agents can really stand out if they have a great online presence. Sharing high quality photos and videos of properties online through various social media channels (here’s how to choose the right channels for your target market) can not only attract buyers, but offer them the opportunity to share with and recommend links to their friends. Personal recommendation is one of the most valuable forms of marketing, especially if it is from a trusted friend or expert.
Social Media and Sharing – SEO & Word of Mouth Marketing
Always add sharing icons to all your pages – make it as easy as possible to share information about properties. Not only will online sharing help with your SEO and building your online profile, it will also encourage buyers onto the next stage of purchase.
In her blog on influencing the buyer process online, Rebecca Maher quotes Todd Wasserman’s article How Search Marketing’s Costs are Evolving in Mashable, “the full purchase path is now online.” She points out that “In the three to four years previous, consumers were searching for information on products and purchasing online, however the decisions were still made offline with influence from word of mouth opinions from friends and family. However with the rise of social media, “people are going through the whole process online” using the opinions of other online consumers.”
Social Media for Customer Engagement
Unlike a website, which is an information delivery channel, social media (i.e anywhere where consumers can interact with, share, and provide feedback on content online) also offers the opportunity to interact with your customers in a two-way discourse.
Not only does this allow you conduct free market research into customers trends and find out what people are saying to their friends about properties and locations, it also (for those who are savvy and use social media well) allows you to set yourself above your competitors in the quality and immediacy of your customer service.
Social Media and Customer Service
At the luxury end of the property market, and during the purchase stage of buying a property, customers expect the highest levels of service and attention from their property agents. Many of those customers will be time poor, so will appreciate the flexibility of response that social media offers. An integrated approach to digital communications, where customers can conduct their information search and evaluation of alternatives at their convenience and get a quick response to any enquiry, is essential for the luxury property market. Many property developers now offer apps to help with this.
Social Media and PR for Property Developers
Customers also look to social media for independent reviews. Luxury brand websites such as Adelto provide property inspiration and ideas. But note how the website is linked to numerous social media sites, where content is regularly widely shared by their many followers. Their Facebook page has over 16,000 followers and engagement is high.
Obtaining coverage and reviews on established channels will ensure your content is shared with a vast, highly engaged audience. While PR used to rely heavily on relationships with print journalists, the vast number of highly influential property, travel and leisure bloggers and online magazines can be a much easier way to gain free exposure online.
While luxury property buyers will almost always sill want to see a property in person before they buy, the vast growth in online information sharing and social media use over the past few years now means that they can really fine tune their search. Customers will share property details and ask their family and friends what they think too. And they will talk about what they like and dislike very openly on social media sites – so property developers are advised to make sure they are part of that conversation and can positively influence and contribute to those discussions.
A great digital strategy is now an essential part of the marketing mix for any luxury property developer. Developers who are not equipped to deal confidently and innovatively in the digital world will very soon be left behind.
Written by Jonny Ross who specialises in Social & Digital Marketing and Organic Search. He was a director of a small retail chain and national e-commerce site for over 13 years and has a proven track record in the field, this has brought him positive coverage by the press and the media. He now specialises in providing and enhancing social and Search services in the B2B and B2C sectors.