It takes but a mouse to sell a house

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on March 21, 2019

Godrej Platinum

Visual appeal: Project picture of Rustomjee Crown

A set of realty firms is showing that a good digital strategy can lead to conversions in property sales

As the home-buying season shifts into high gear, a slew of builders, developers and real estate firms are readying their marketing plans, with the help of digital experts.

It may sound counter-intuitive to sell real estate online — after all wouldn’t buyers want to check out places themselves?

But the category is seeing a great push. New tools like integrated AI and VR technology are helping give customers a complete experience of the property online, says Arvind Jain, CEO, NetBiz, a digital performance-driven agency that helps the 150-year-old Shapoorji Pallonji group promote its real estate offerings digitally.

Netbiz has used everything from Facebook ads and Google display as well as programmatic advertising to help popularise the construction brand’s three ventures — Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate; SD Corp, a venture specialised for redevelopment; and Joyville, which caters to affordable housing.

The case for digital

Though high-ticket real estate sales are not traditionally associated with online marketing, the example of how Mumbai-based Xanadu Realty grew online sales, from a near negligible contribution to over 15-20 per cent for their new real estate project, Ramrajya, has become a case study. The greenfield project spread across 100 acres in the Kalyan-Ambivli area, three hours from Mumbai, received over 4,250 applications spread across 19 countries and over 70 cities in just two weeks, making it India’s biggest real estate launch. The launch raked in revenues of over ₹1,000 crore by July 2018.

All the tools in the digital marketer’s book — from re-marketing to search advertising — were used. It used Google Ads to sell residences. Digital marketing firm Ethinos, founded by Siddharth Hedge, helped the firm in its marketing strategy. Ethinos has among its realty clients Ahuja Construction as well as Mahindra World City, among others.

Study findings drive home the point

At a recent event in New Delhi by search marketing firm SEMrush, and Colliers International, a real estate service organisation, the case for using technology to sell real estate was further reiterated. The agencies’ study on ‘Impact of Technology in Real Estate’ showed that over 1 lakh people are searching monthly for buying and renting houses and flats around India, and more than 9 billion (web) pages cater to these searches.

With the Indian real estate market expected to touch $180 billion by 2020, SEMrush’s Fernando Angulo, Head of International Partnerships at SEMrush, says industry players, such as builders, brokers, and aggregators, need to rely on data and analytics in order to capture a greater market share.

Shekhar Lele, Marketing Head at the Rustomjee Group, concurs with this view. While digital has always been an essential tool for prospect outreach, engagement, and conversion at the realty major, Lele says it has also been a powerful tool to generate quality leads.

“Digital has been an important customer engagement channel for us across our project portfolio ranging from ₹35 lakh ticket size to ₹15 crore ticket size. Our entire approach towards it is extremely data-driven, using the latest tools and techniques across key digital channels to contextually target our prospects.”

The Rustomjee Group’s digital strategy hinges mainly on Google search, Google display, Facebook and native channels like Taboola and Outbrain.

Lele adds the focus is on the performance aspect of digital marketing. “We also hear our customers on social media through advanced social listening tools. This helps us interact with our target audience on a real-time basis.”

The company is looking to invest time and effort on the next big thing — a programmatic, content strategy and AI-driven customer engagement programme. Godrej Properties, too, is using digital as a medium to connect with consumers.

Lalit Makhijani, Chief Marketing Officer at Godrej Properties, says it has invested in technologies that will enable the firm to analyse consumers’ online behaviour. “One trend that we have observed in the digital space is that the consumption of online videos has grown exponentially over the last couple of years,” says Makhijani.

To this end, the company has curated multiple online content pieces and digital videos for most of its premium projects. The CMO says these help in ensuring higher engagement levels with potential customers.

Godrej Properties follows an integrated digital strategy that includes Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), content marketing and even influencer marketing.

Breaking through clutter

Players like Xanadu have innovated with new tools to stand out. For instance, for Ramrajya, Xanadu used Countdown Ad Timers — that automatically add a ‘X days to go’ timer to search ads — to make sure the ads stood out and created a sense of urgency. With one home sold every two minutes when the campaign was at its peak, this was one of the fastest real estate sales ever. Google Ads directly contributed to 6 per cent of the overall value of sales made, representing more than ₹65 crore from an investment of just ₹61 lakh and a whopping 45 per cent contribution to the total sales made through online channels. The Countdown Timer helped pull in leads as the deadline approached, the final two days saw a 43 per cent increase in bookings, with majority of sales occurring in the last two weeks.

NetBiz’s Jain believes that platform-specific content helps reap rich dividends. For each platform, Shapoorji Pallonji has a different content. Jain adds that in today’s age, it is imperative for realty brands to consider new-age marketing techniques such as personalised content automation, content-based marketing, geo-targeting, virtual site-visits, etc, in their overall strategy. Such techniques help brands connect with a potential customer at the right moment effectively, creating better lead generation, he adds.

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Published on March 21, 2019
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