Property and the unstoppable VR Headset Hype

Once considered the realm of Sci-fi movies, and although still very much in its infancy, property developers are now looking for ways to capitalise on a technology that is sure to have a huge impact on the way we purchase off-the-plan and new property. So what’s all the recent hype about?

There are some high-quality immersive virtual reality headsets hitting the consumer market for the first time. These devices could end up having a societal impact as substantial as the introduction of smartphones.

The biggest challenges working with such new technologies in the Real Estate industry is getting the consumer experience just right.

The questions we must first ask, does Virtual Reality add or improve the sales process?

This is the fundamental question when looking at any technology. If you can realize an ROI – it’s worthwhile. If it’s just for a gimmick, the money may be better spent elsewhere. Of course that gimmick might be the reason the prospect walked into your display suite, and met with your sales agents rather than a competitors display suite, but the question is will it help make the sale!

Will a prospect still feel the property is a spacious 67sqm two bedroom apartment after they’ve seen the living room packed with furniture in a render that looks a little too crowded?
LumaOculus_Unit-e1425588061948-620x353
We use VR technology extensively in our touchscreen and App solutions, with Augmented 3D buildings and virtual walk through of apartments being very powerful sales tools.

We believe the best use of VR headset technology at the moment lies within visualisation of large masterplanned communities. It is a very effective means of ‘virtually’ standing on the front lawn of a future home, taking a peak at what afuture neighbours house will look like or for going for a stroll through the community facilities. This is now perhaps the best way to explore / visualise these masterplanned communities, but do require extensive 3D rendering of course so it is still costly.

So in conclusion what do we think about VR? We love it and already use it extensively in our Apps and touchscreens. Watch out however for the gimmicky VR Headsets and new technologies that are launched as the overall technology evolves. Most of the VR Headsets that we are seeing now will be gone relatively soon as the technology rapidly evolves. Like most new technology we can expect a rapid period of technologcal explosion followed by a period of consolidation as it matures. It is at this stage that readily available and commercially viable VR Headsets will become commonplace.

Check out Microsoft’s Hololense – this is really exciting new take on VR Headset technology and we think going to be a big hit!

Do your emails look great on every device? Responsive Email Design is the answer!

Header Image_Responsive Email Design
Tablet, Laptop, Mac
PC or Phone? How are your emails being read?
Without looking over the shoulder of your recipient’s or loading a virus to take over their digital world there’s no way to know until your email is sent and gone.

But . . . using advanced CSS in the HTML code of your emails we can now detect the type of device that is viewing your email and have the email content dynamically displayed so that it’s unique and optimised. PC or Phone, your recipient’s get the best view every time.

Don’t believe us? Click here from your Phone and then PC to check out a recent responsive email we sent to our clients. You’ll notice the difference straight away!

So what is it? It’s Responsive Design!
Those of you that read our blog will know that responsive design is something that we have been talking about for some time now.I can hear someone asking right now “so what’s the big deal?”

Well the big deal is that the vast majority of email is designed to be read on a PC. Yet statistics overwhelmingly tell us more and more people actually read their emails on their phone and their tablets.

Below are some stats on the different email clients people are using to read their emails:

Email Client Pie Graph
Email has left the desktop & gone mobile.
Here is an example of the difference between responsive design and desktop design.
Responsive Design Desktop Design
Responsive Email Design Desktop Email Design
The differences are significant and the user experience vastly superior for the mobile phone user.

If you’re serious about making your emails more successful then you need to
start talking responsive design today!

Real Estate Open Homes, Botox & Luxury Car Test Drives – A Winning Sales Combination . . . . ?

The other day an interesting article came across our desks here at the Brightfox office courtesy of Real Estate Business Online.

Free botox, test drives to lure agents to listing

According to the article an ingenious, for want of a better word, Californian Listing Agent  has teamed up with his local Audi dealer to provide prospective sales agents the opportunity to test drive the latest range while attending open houses for the agent’s multi-million dollar listings.

Traditionally a nice spread of good food was enough to seal the deal, but with competition growing he wanted to push beyond this approach.

. . . “We look at ourselves not just as agents, but as promoters, and want agents from Malibu to Palos Verdes either attending this event or at least talking about it,” he said of the US$8.495 million Beverly Hills-based property.

The offer includes $300 worth of free botox and a test drive of an Audi, and comes as the US property market continues to flatline . . .

 . . . “I attended a few gifting suites last year for the Emmys and Oscars and saw companies giving away great stuff to [celebrities]. I started thinking about how I could pair businesses with agents and wanted my open house…to be more like…those gifting suites . . .

If this sounds like the winning edge you’ve been needing, give it a go and let us know if it works out for you!

To read this article in its entirety please visit Real Estate Business Online

Raine & Horne + QR Codes – An Evolution or A Revolution . . .

Some years ago on this very Blog we talked about QR codes and their possible use in real estate. Here in Australia they are finally starting to get a little traction (and I mean a little – the vast majority of Australian’s still don’t know what a QR Code is let along know how to use them).

Raine & Horne, a large real estate franchise group, have recently gone through a complete brand revamp, and as part of this have included the overhaul of all of Raine & Horne’s digital media platforms. An interesting inclusion in their new media platforms is the use of Quick Response (QR) Codes across their entire media.

What are QR Codes?

QR Codes were originally developed in Japan by Toyota to track vehicles through the manufacturing process. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background and were designed to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

Ver. 3 QR Code

QR Codes have seen wide usage across Japan, Europe and the U.S. with smartphone users able to take a photo of the barcode which is placed onto traditional static media such as flyers and billboards. Users are then typically directed to further interactive content such as a plain-text message, website url, video url, enquiry registration form or email address. Though not as popular in Australia at this time, many local media agencies are beginning to see the potential for the use of QR codes to not only interactively communicate from what was a traditionally static channel but to also effectively track these offline user interactions.

Where is the potential for the broader real estate industry?

The primary potential for this technology in the real estate industry is to provide prospects with the ability to interact online with property listings after reading a traditional mail-out, sign-board or window card. In this way multiple images or interactive tours can be viewed after seeing coming across a simple static advertising piece.

The typical usage scenario involves a potential purchaser driving through a suburb investigating different streets and neighbourhoods. After seeing a ‘For Sale’ or ‘For Rent’ sign the purchaser would normally have to remember the address (along with 10 others); visit an agency website and search for the listing from their phone (very time consuming); or call the agent for more information (which can be daunting). With a QR code printed onto or attached to the sign, the purchaser can simply take a photo of the barcode and be redirected directly to the property listing online or to an online enquiry form to submit their details or to ask more questions.

An underlying advantage to QR codes is in tracking consumer interactions with your static media. By utilising unique URL’s for the various static media types (eg. Flyers – estate.com/flyer; Window Cards – estate.com/wc) redirecting to the appropriate content, entry points can be tracked back to the offline media that directed the traffic. A much more accurate way of tracking user interaction compared to the classis, Where did you find out about us . . . ?

QR Codes; the next big thing?

Will QR codes be the next big thing in real estate? Probably not. But is there a fantastic potential for tracking offline marketing and greater consumer interaction – Definitely! Only time will tell . . .

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Impeccable Customer Service!

Not long ago we talked about the importance of implementing CRM systems. As a winner in your industry, I hope you critically analysed your own processes and the available products out there and took immediate action.

This week we will be following up on the topic and adding to it, just like a builder will add the walls on top of a solid foundation for a multi-storey building.

 Let’s take two stories as an example:

1. Buying a Luxury Car – When you go to test drive a luxury car, let’s say a Jaguar or something similar, a good salesperson will be asking questions to get to know you; to get an understanding of who you are, what you like and more importantly what you don’t like, so that he / she can utilise this knowledge to persuade you to buy that expensive but lovely car. One sales agent I know of asks the question: What kind of music / artists do you like? When you do purchase the vehicle and return to the dealership to pick-up your new car, a stack of cd’s with all your favorite music is waiting for you!

2. Le Meridien Hotels – one of the well known, luxury hotel chains, has a unique service to ensure their clients always return to their hotels, anywhere they go in the world. So how do they get their clients to be so loyal? When you first go to one of their hotels they ask you a bunch of questions, silly things like what kind of pillows do you and your partner like (feather, downe, etc), how you like your eggs, do you like orange juice or apple juice, how do you take your coffee, etc. Silly questions right? Well, should you choose to stay with Le Meridien again, no matter where in the world you stay, when you walk into your room you will have your favourite pillow on the bed and when you wake up, your breakfast in bed will consist of your eggs prepared the way you like them, alongside your preferred morning drink, etc.!

Now the simple question you may ask, as a fellow salesperson, is how in the world did they know all this information and remember it? I can’t even remember a person’s name, let alone his / her partners name or where they work, let alone their kids’ names!

Well let me tell you that this is where the best salesperson leaves the rest trailing behind.

Just imagine, you maintain as much information about your prospective buyer or seller and even if they don’t do business with you now, you keep in touch with them (via email marketing as discussed in one of our earlier blogs) and when they do come to discuss their options with you in a year or two, you’re able to say:

“Hi Paul & Wendy! How is [insert kids names here]? Are they still at [Name of school]? Etc. And did you get my [Birthday Card /Anniversary of Purchase Letter]? . . .”

If I talked to you like that, would you feel a rapport between us? Would you like to do business with me? I hope you say yes!

How do you achieve this in your business?

Step 1: Build a strong foundation for your business with a good real estate specific CRM system.

Step 2: Capture the Data! You will need a process where you are able to capture the required information while you are on the move. This can be achieved by a paper based form which you fill out as soon as you have spoken to a prospect (buyer or seller). This information can be entered into the CRM by yourself or by your PA so as to maintain the accuracy of your CRM system.

Step 3: Implement the process. Time and again we have seen many agencies implement a fancy CRM program and even design a very good system but do not follow through. This is where your CRM supplier has to play an integral part to coach / consult with you to ensure the implementation is successfully carried out over the first 90 days. As soon as the Agency has been using the system continuously for over 90 days, it becomes second nature and the chances of falling back to the old ways of doing business will be reduced.

A Quick Brightfox Plug!

Brightfox is one of the world’s leading providers of CRM software and online marketing solutions for the property industry. We have a suite of software applications to suit individual agents, small, medium and large agencies, multi-office agencies, property developers, investment networks and retirement village developers and managers. We would welcome the opportunity to show you how we can help your busines, so please do not hesitate to contact us.

Action Plan:

• If you have not finalised a CRM system as yet, please do so. And when you are talking to your supplier, please enquire on whether they provide a consulting / coaching system to ensure successful transformation of your business processes.

• Decide on what kind of information that you would like to obtain from your prospects (buyers / sellers) and put it in a form / CRM • Start collecting information today!

• Put a plan in action for sending cards to your prospects / clients for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

As always, please let us know your feedback on this or any other idea, as your feedback helps us to continuously improve these strategies. And don’t forget to pass these insights on to your friends / colleagues and help share the success!

Google Friendly Websites

Is your website a Google friendly website?
One of the most important things to consider when looking at your website is to determine how “Google friendly” it is.
If you want to rank better on Google, you need to make sure that you are “playing their game” and giving them the information they are looking for, so that they favour your website over your competitors.

Take a look through the simple tips below, and use this blog post as a checklist of tips for creating a Google-friendly site.

Make sure your site is easily accessible:

Build your site with a logical and usable menu structure. Every page should be reachable from every other page, by at least one static text link. This is normally done via the Navigation menu, but can also be achieved by adding internal links into your page content. Make sure to keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number

Also offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map has an extremely large number of links, you may want to break the site map into multiple pages. One great idea is to use a text browser, such as Lynx, to examine your site. This will show you how the search engine spiders see your site. If features such as JavaScript, frames or Flash keep you from seeing your entire site in a text browser, then spiders may have trouble crawling it & indexing it.

Give visitors the information they’re looking for:

This is probably the single most important thing to do. Make sure you provide quality content on your pages, especially your homepage.
If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract visitors and entice others to link them, thus creating a helpful, information-rich site.
You should aim to write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site, but within a natural flow of information.

Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.

Make sure that other sites link to yours :

Links help search engine spiders find your site and can increase the ranking in search results. When returning results for a search, Google uses sophisticated text-matching techniques to display pages that are both important and relevant to each search. Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote by page A for page B. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”
Keep in mind that Google can distinguish natural links from unnatural links. (Only natural links are useful for the indexing and ranking of your site.)
Natural links to your site develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and link to it.
Unnatural links are those placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines. Some of these types of links can be found via Link Exchange programs or on pages set-up specifically to attracts search engines (called ‘Doorway Pages’)

Things to avoid
Don’t fill your page with lists of keywords or attempt put up pages just to attract the spiders.

If your site contains pages, links, or text that you don’t intend visitors to see, Google considers those links and pages deceptive and may ignore your site.
And do not stuff words onto pages in the hopes of attracting search engines, such as has been done under the footer, on this site :  Red Pepper Realty

Don’t feel obligated to use companies that claim to “guarantee” high ranking for your site in Google’s search results. While legitimate consulting firms can improve your site’s flow and content, others employ deceptive tactics in an attempt to fool search engines. Be careful, because if your domain is affiliated with one of these deceptive services, it could be banned from Goggle’s index.

Don’t create multiple copies of a page under different web addresses. Many sites offer text-only or printer-friendly versions of pages that contain the same content as the corresponding graphic-rich pages. To ensure that your preferred page is included in our search results, you’ll need to block duplicates from our spiders using a robots.txt file.

Tips on using Twitter for Real Estate

Have you taken the plunge & joined Twitter? Perhaps you have and you are not getting the results promised to you? Well, don’t worry – what you are experiencing is completely normal. Getting social media (including Twitter) to work for you is not an easy thing to do, so we have put together a few tips to help you.

1.    Twitter is not a competition

Do not try to get the most followers possibly in the hope that they will all be hanging off your every tweet, chomping at the bit to list or sell with you. You need to be conversational & let your follower count grow organically.

2.    Twitter is not a marketing medium.

At least not in the way you may expect it to be. It is a social medium, which means it works best when approached as a conversation.
Marketing is generally a one way conversation, where you share information about your services. Twitter needs both sharing AND listening.
Give updates and talk up your services. But also take time to respond to questions, or to join in a friendly conversation.

3.    It is not just all about your business.

When you tweet, you may be representing a brand, but you are a PERSON who is placing the tweets online. So act like a PERSON. Take the time to discuss things that are not just about your office or even industry. Share interesting stories, links or pics. They do not always need to be realestate related.

4.    Keep your re-tweets interesting & useful.

If you have found the Retweet button, then keepthe things you are repeating interesting. You could retweet local news, realestate stories or even cricket scores! Make your RT’s useful information-packed tweets for your followers. If you do, your followers will retweet them too, which helps attract new followers.

5.    Stay consistent.

If you are going to start, keep your twitter activity consistent. Don’t go crazy for a day or two, then share nothing for weeks on end.
Try to space tweets out throughout the day  or week, to reach the widest possible audience and so that your followers recall who you are.

So, give it another go, but just remember that Social media is not just a short term thing. If you want this medium to help enhance your business and create profits for you, treat it like any other business tool. Stick with it and pay attention to how you use it.

Your website is hurting you.

When is the last time you looked at your website?

I mean, really looked at it.

Not just opened a page with one of your listings, so you can get the link to send through to a potential buyer.

I speak with companies who have not touched their website since it was set up in 2004 or 2005!

It’s pretty much a given that most real estate companies, have had a website for the past few years or longer.

As you focus on the day to day activity of selling and listing, it can be easy to just take the attitude of “Oh, we have a website up and it is working, so I will leave it be.” The problem is, after a while a website, like many things in life, starts to look a bit outdated.

More importantly, your website can be hurting your business without you knowing!

You could be losing potential vendors to other local agents, simply because your website is not as nice as theirs, or because theirs has more information on it. Buyers may also not contact you, as they cannot find the listings that strike their fancy.

This is how your website can be hurting your business RIGHT NOW!

It is recommended that clients revise their websites about every three years (if not sooner).

I bet you are thinking that this sounds like a ridiculous and costly exercise.
But I can promise you that you will reap the benefits of a site revision.
To make things really clear & easy to follow, here is a list of straight forward reasons why you should look at revising or redesigning your company website.

  • A redesign can help to improve your website’s search engine optimisation
  • Believe it or not, a revamp of your online tools can actually SAVE YOU MONEY.
  • Google likes sites with new &/or regularly updated content. It ranks them higher.
  • Users expect to see location maps of properties these days. You can lose sales based on the lack of the ability to see where a property is located. This is especially important for out-of-area investors.
  • Google also prefers sites with maps in them, as the information is deemed are more usable and relevant.
  • Technology is changing so rapidly that you want to be sure your site meets the newer standards of web design and interactivity
  • Your website should be representative of your company in every way. If your website looks tired and outdated, what will prospects and vendors think about your entire organization?

Many offices tell me that they feel their website is not as important anymore, because most views of their listings occur via Property Portals sites, such as realestate.com.au, domain.com.au, etc.

Whilst it is true that the portals get exposure for your listings, your website is now more import than ever.

Your website is what potential vendors use to judge who to list with.

Your website is where buyers end up when they have done enough general looking on the portals and are at the purchasing stage.

Your website is what potential sales people judge your business on, when deciding if your organisation is the one they want to work with.

Don’t take your website lightly. Take a good long look at it today.
Scroll through all the pages.

  • Is it fresh? Is the content valid?
  • When was the last time you added something new about the company? A new photo? A press release?
  • Do your listings have multiple photos and maps?
  • Are there listing categories that you no longer sell in, still showing on the site?
  • Can users get automatic alerts about new listings?

In a tight market like the one that a lot of real estate agents are experiencing today, your website is the key to your company – as much as your sales and customer service staff are.
Treat it well and it will deliver the world to you.

Speak to a Brightfox website consultant today, and stop your site from hurting your business.


Mobile Phone Traffic Triples in 12 months

Ericsson has reported that mobile phone data traffic has tripled in the past 12 months. This is really demonstrating the move by consumers to smart phones and the increasing trend to access internet data on these smart phones.
We have for some time been raising the long term trend for smart phones to be used to access to the Internet. It is the most active ‘battleground’ for technology companies as it is a new and quickly emerging market place without the dominant existing providers that exists in the more mature technology markets (think Microsoft in PC land and Google on desktop search).

However just as technology companies are scrabbling to stake out their place in this new market, so should property companies. As more consumers use smart phones to access the internet, they will naturally be driven to websites and web applications that are optimised for the platform. This simply provides a much richer and user friendly experience so it is entirely natural. However the vast majority of property firms have no strategy let alone website or web application to target this market.

We rolled out the service R.E. Mobile around 12 months ago specifically to target this emerging market and it has proven a big success in providing a fantastic experience for accessing and searching for property listings, staff member details and general company information. For more information on R.E. Mobile visit our website here.

To read about the Ericsson report click here.

Real Estate Agents warned against breaching Spam Act in Australia

1

We have long advocated the use of opt in only databases used for email marketing. You simply can get far too much negative feedback, poor publicity and can even get blacklisted if your email marketing becomes SPAM.

Regardless of how you built your database, you simply must always include the ability to unsubscribe or instructions on how to unsubscribe. This is simply good business practice, and in some countries, a legal requirement. In Australia it has been law for some years now to include the ability to unsubscribe from any bulk marketing email and it is not starting to be rigorously enforced.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to an Australian Real Estate Agency for breaching the Spam Act. Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, breached the Spam Act by sending emails without an unsubscribe facility.

The full press release is provided below:

“Real estate agency breaches the Spam Act

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, following an investigation that found the real estate agency breached the Spam Act 2003 by sending commercial electronic messages without an unsubscribe facility.

‘This is the first enforcement measure taken against a real estate agent since an ACMA awareness campaign about unsolicited communications targeted at the real estate sector,’ said Chris Cheah, acting Chairman of the ACMA.

The campaign was held in response to the ACMA’s concerns about widespread non-compliance with marketing obligations by members of the real estate sector. The ACMA wrote to more than forty head offices of leading real estate franchisors and companies in 2009, informing them of key obligations and providing links to online training and resources to increase awareness of legal obligations and of the consequences of non-compliance.

‘It is disappointing that some real estate agents do not appear to have taken the opportunity to understand the requirements for complying with the Spam Act,’ Mr Cheah said.

The ACMA has a tiered approach to compliance and enforcement. While education is the first step, stronger enforcement action will be used if compliance is not achieved.

‘Real estate agents should consider themselves to be on notice,’ Mr Cheah added. ‘Members of the industry need to understand that, even when they are dealing with potential buyers on a one-to-one basis, these interactions are commercial and they need to comply with spam and telemarketing laws.’

Commercial electronic messages must be sent with the recipient’s consent and include a statement that the recipient can use an electronic address, provided in the message, to send an unsubscribe request. During the course of this investigation, the ACMA identified messages sent by Elders Real Estate Wollongong that did not contain unsubscribe wording to this effect.

The ACMA has taken a wide range of enforcement action against non-compliant ‘spammers’ in the last twelve months, including recent action in the Federal Court which resulted in significant penalties being imposed on both individuals and companies.

Under the Spam Act, potential penalties of up to $1.1 million per day may be imposed by the Federal Court for repeat offenders”

The simple rule is always include the following text or something to this effect:

Important Information: If you are not the intended recipient, please ignore this email. This communication has been prepared by . To unsubscribe from this email please reply with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line.