2017 Digital Marketing Trends for Homebuilders
By Tim Costello, CEO, Builders Digital Experience
Join Tim Costello on Day 1 (Wednesday, June 28) of The Re-Think Conference at 10:00-12:15 when he presents "Technology Trends: The Homebuilding Perspective." He'll also speak then with John Ellis to discuss the massive shifts that technology is fueling.
For many home builders, 2017 will be remembered as the year of digital transformation. But the question we should all be asking is why? Why do we invest time and resources on these digital strategies? Why is this important for business?
Digital transformation isn’t just about the cool factor. These technologies solve real business problems. Going digital is all about generating more leads, converting more sales, selling more options, and helping your employees be better at their jobs. In the end, it all boils down to dollars and cents.
Virtual reality, online visualization, and mobile technologies are just a few of the digital tools that can be integrated into an entirely new home buying process. Home builders can now enable a more compelling, vivid, and personalized experience than ever before. Let’s take a look at a few of the trends that we at BDX think will make a significant impact this year.
Virtual reality is projected to grow into a $30 billion industry by 2020—from nothing just two years ago. The New York Times says “This technology is expected to transform the real estate industry and, some say, make house-hunting more efficient.”
The expense of building, finishing, and furnishing model homes is no longer a barrier to showcasing all of a builder’s models and features in any community. The cameras, software, and viewing devices to enable virtual tours have become affordable enough for builders of all budgets to take advantage of this digital revolution.
Just imagine being able to engage visitors to your sales center in virtual tours of all of your model homes. They can take self-directed or guided tours. Visitors can interact with the spaces as they would in your model homes, experiencing the overall design concept, flow, room dimensions, and even the quality of construction. And unlike in a physical model home tour, they can customize floor plans, fixtures, flooring, and design options to their liking. Builders are also using VR tours as lead generation opportunities at events and online.
These VR experiences can range from simple tours viewed on Google Cardboard devices to more in depth and interactive gaming engine tours using technologies like Oculus Rift.
The bottom line? The future is now. Builders around the country are seeing the impact that virtual reality can have on their business.
Downloadable Applications and Interactive Online Content
Today, visitors to your communities may leave with a folder including your floor plans, listings of features, and a business card. Many builders are finding that downloadable apps and interactive content are converting a much higher percentage of visitors into buyers. These applications, which can be viewed on laptops, tablets, and phones, are able to create an immersive experience following the visit. From the comfort of home, your guests can view all of your available models, select their favorites, and engage with your rich media. That may include online virtual tours, interactive site plans, videos, photos, 3D floor plans, and more. They can also view collections of home features and design options for inspiration as they prepare for the next step—designing their new home.
Once buyers fall in love with a model, their experience becomes even more vivid. From here, they can choose elevation, design, and option choices. They can view maps of your communities and choose a lot, and they can use a financial calculator to get mortgage payment estimates based on the home price, down payment, and HOA fees.
While the buyer engages with the application, the salesperson receives alerts, enabling helpful and timely follow-up phone calls. The salesperson is informed about the buyer’s engagement and is prepared to answer questions and invite the buyer back in to finalize the process. The same experience can also be offered via a builder’s website—so that a remote buyer from 1,500 miles away can enjoy the same features, while the sales team benefits from a much greater degree of visibility into the buyer’s research.
Sales Center Self-Service Kiosks
A digital kiosk in your sales center can create the buying experience that today’s consumers have come to expect. Visitors can use the kiosk to explore the community, discover its amenities, and learn about the available models.
The kiosk can be as rich as the online experience, with videos showcasing your community’s amenities, virtual self-directed and guided tours of all of your models, and photos representing an unlimited array of design options.
Guests are prompted to provide contact and preference information through the kiosk. And most importantly, your buyer’s activities are easily tracked – something not possible with print collateral. Their engagement with the rich media tools can then be reviewed with analytics, providing valuable intelligence for follow-ups.
Sales center kiosks also help provide a consistent and perfected story about your community and business. This improves employee performance and insures greater control of your messaging.
Mobile and Location-Based Marketing
The smartphone has enabled so many advances in digital marketing for home builders. One of the most impressive is location-based marketing, which affords builders many options.
One option is that builders can work with local HBAs to organize virtual tours in conjunction with other builders, to cost-effectively reach more high value prospects. When home buyers check in at parade of homes websites, builders can reach them to drive online or in-person visits.
When these prospects get in their cars, location-based marketing becomes an even more powerful tool. GPS technology uses triangulation to locate and serve them with actionable marketing messages, while geofencing and beacon technologies deliver messages to people who enter a specified radius or pre-defined area, like a new community. These alluring messages welcome drivers to sales centers and invite them to tour homes.
Check out the other articles in our 2017 Trends Series:
For more than 15 years, Builders Digital Experience has been working on behalf of home builders to help them sell more homes. During that time, BDX has driven the use of digital marketing technologies in the industry to connect builders with buyers. Though we are technology-driven, client relationships are our first priority and collaboration will always be at the heart of our business.