A quick look through your social media feeds or the apps on your phone would tell you that shopping habits have changed significantly over the past year. From the way we order groceries through our phones and have them delivered to our house to the way we research and buy everything online now — even homes. The homebuilder industry hasn’t exactly been known to be at the forefront of technology and innovation, but over the course of the pandemic, the industry has been forced to adjust to meet the new consumer buying journey. A journey that will only continue to evolve digitally.
You see, it wasn’t the pandemic that prompted these changes, but it has accelerated what was already happening. Over the last decade, more and more home shopping activity has moved online. Luckily with a little know-how and hard work homebuilders can navigate, adjust, and embrace the new digital future to find greater success than ever before.
Here are four of the most important home builder marketing tactics for a digital future:
For many years, homebuilder sites have essentially been online brochures. Here’s the story, our communities, and what we build. There was little opportunity for a customer to have an interactive or personalized experience. Enter live chat – a simple, and very effective, way to enhance the online consumer journey.
Before going further, it’s important to highlight the difference between automated chat and live chat. Automated chat (or a bot) is a series of questions that a user is prompted with, and then offered a set of responses to choose from. Live chat, on the other hand, is the opportunity to speak with a real, human, representative. Homebuilding is a complicated purchase for most buyers, so providing consumers with convenient access to an expert that is ready to help throughout their home buying journey is key – and this includes online.
As more buyers move more of their home research and buying journey online, it’s essential to give them a good experience and provide what they are looking for. If you don’t, they’ll find someone who does. Live chat is a manageable tool to immediately enhance user experience at little cost. Depending on the service, it could be managed by a series of individuals, or one, and there are often lots of options to set hours and turn it on and off.
Having virtual tours of models or available product is really tables stakes in today’s digital world. This isn’t because of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, this is because buyers expect it and prefer the convenience of shopping from home. Remember, if you aren’t providing it, they’ll find someone who is.
Virtual tours do not have to be expensive or overly complicated but should comprehensively show all the features and highlights of the home model. There are many photographers or videographers who offer this as an add-on to their photography and videography packages. Talk to your regular photographer or do a quick online search to find one near you.
Remote access tours
What was thought to be a service offering that was years away from being accepted by consumers, hit the industry by storm in 2020. Remote access tours have taken off, and this new home builder marketing tactic is all about providing buyers with access to show homes or spec homes on their terms. Through a few available technologies and companies, it’s easy to set up remote access to a home through your website.
Thanks to on-demand food deliveries, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, today’s customer wants convenience. They aren’t interested in rescheduling their day around your show home hours –they want easy access that can fit seamlessly into their day. Remote access tours provide exactly this, allowing buyers to book a tour when they want. The process is pretty simple but depends on the service you employ.
Typically how it should work is that a potential buyer goes onto your website, finds a showhome or spec home they’re interested in, provides some information, books a time, and is then sent an access code to use at the home. It’s a great way to provide today’s buyer with a better experience and to open up to a wider range of customers.
When evaluating providers of this service, it’s important to think about the experience:
- Is it easy–both for the buyer and for your team?
- Is it fully automated or do you still need to talk to someone?
- Does the service help the buyer find their way? Does it provide mapped directions?
- Is it easy to access the home? A code or the door or a hidden key?
- Does the service remind the buyer of their appointment and follow-up after to see how it went?
- What are the security process and liability terms?
These are all important questions to ask when evaluating providers and thinking about adding this service to your website.
Marketing automation and customer relationship management
In terms of home builder marketing tools, these are a must. Think of this combination as the site foreman, coordinating all of the efforts of your online marketing.
Let’s start with what they are and what they do:
- Marketing Automation is just that, it’s the simplest forms of marketing automated to provide customers with a better, often more customized experience. It can be everything from automated emails to targeted online ads.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a tool to manage and organize customer information for the purposes of tracking their journey or analyzing data.
These two tools combined can do wonders to take the small tasks off your to-do list, as well as make the little things far more impactful with buyers. HubSpot is a great example of a tool that does both really well for home builders. Using HubSpot on your website will give you invaluable data for sales teams as it can show what a user is looking at on the website. When used to its full potential, a salesperson can look on HubSpot prior to a sales meeting and see that the buyer has visited pages related to a certain home model and they can customize the buyer's experience around this. HubSpot can also automate workflows to send follow-up emails to buyers and even the sales team.
This comprehensive tool can even help to tie the missing link between marketing efforts and revenue attribution. Integrating a new CRM and getting automation set up can feel daunting, but when it’s done right, it will make your organization function smoothly and deliver impressive results.
The digital future is here and it’s about providing buyers with a better, more customized, experience. Is your organization set up to capitalize on it?
If you’re interested in learning more about any of these home builder marketing tactics, connect with me on LinkedIn or shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. Want to learn more about other homebuilder marketing tactics you can use for the digital future? Join our upcoming webinar!