Building a data-driven property industry
Debbie Leo-Smith, head of product development at The Virtual Agent, and an ex-estate agent, believes that data analytics is about to drastically change the property industry over the next few years. Here’s why.
Property is one of the most lucrative industries in the world, and South Africa is no different. According to the Global Property Guide, South Africa was ranked as the 10th biggest real estate market in the world in the third quarter of 2014. It is something of an anomaly then that the real estate industry has been so slow to adopt digital strategies, compared to other industries.
Elsewhere, we can see how new technologies are significantly impacting businesses. From the way data analytics is revitalising the approach that retailers take with customers, to the disruptions that ride-sharing apps like Uber are having on the automotive industry, we’re living in a fast-evolving world. Thanks to the number of internet-connected devices, customers’ expectations are shifting, and moving into the digital space is becoming a competitive necessity for companies.
It’s inevitable that the real estate market will eventually feel the force of these game-changing technologies. One big change that is sure to make an impact on the market is the rise of data analytics. The property market has traditionally relied on manual information-gathering, but is now on the brink of a quantum leap forward in the way it manages data.
Into this landscape comes The Virtual Agent, a web based application designed to unlock the potential of data analytics in the property industry providing a one-stop solution to run their business. It couples a simple, user-friendly interface with a powerful backend algorithm, designed to bridge the gap between traditional realty and the digital world. In the course of 2016 a fully fledged app will be launched
Technologies that combine big data with an intuitive user experience have the potential to dramatically increase the reach of the agent to the consumer. The real estate agencies of the future will have the business intelligence to better manage their staff productivity, database leads and staff churn more successfully. In the long-term, it could even eliminate the need for physical real estate offices, as agents and customers are able to complete all property transactions entirely online.
A number of major property groups have already signed up to The Virtual Agent, something which we believe signals a sea of change in the industry. It shows that realtors are open to potential disruptors, shifting the realty experience from the physical to the digital world. They have recognised that digital technologies can provide greater insight into rapidly changing consumer behaviour and are ready to make the leap.
These data-driven technologies have the potential to change more than just the efficiency of individual agents. They are disruptive precisely because of the broader implications on buyers, sellers and the economy.
The evolving consumer
We have already seen the change that online property websites have had on the way that customers engage with the realty market. Today’s customers are more proactive when buying and selling property, due to the ease at which they can find the information they need.
This is only set to continue. Consumers want an ever-expanding virtual user experience, immersing themselves into the property from the comfort of their home. Today, it might just be search engines, but the future could bring scenarios in which truly interactive virtual showrooms are the main way to view and buy property.
In the meantime, many realtors are bridging the digital divide by deploying Wi-Fi into their branches, show houses and sponsored locations. This allows them to connect with customers through rich digital content, while developing a deeper understanding of their property interests.
As the real estate market becomes more data-driven and efficient, we should see positive knock-on effects on the overall economy. Property valuations, compliance and urban planning are all areas that can be improved through data analytics, and we should see agents play an increasingly value-based role in these areas.
The Virtual Agent is just the beginning. With the speed at which digital technologies are advancing, we should expect to see a radically different – and improved – real estate industry over the next decade or so. It’s clear that property will never be the same again.
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