The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry

 

Archive for the ‘Online marketing’ Category

18

Was that house sold or withdrawn?

Posted on: April 16th, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing, Website news

istock_000006201683xsmallThe realestate.co.nz website is a medium for the advertising of properties (commercial and residential) for sale or rent – that is the principle and since the start of the site back in 2006 we have actively discouraged (physically removed) any listings from agents that try to use the service to “advertise” a SOLD property in an effort to secure new listings.

This principle has been adopted to support what is in our belief the fact that buyers only want to see listings in the site that are genuinely “on the market”.

Now a smart real estate professional in Hamilton by the name of Greig Metcalfe posed the question to me the other day of “how do people know what happened to a listing when suddenly it disappears from the site whilst they have been tracking it?” – he rightly went on to say that people may wonder – was it withdrawn?, did it get lost and slip off some database? or was it actually sold?

This got me thinking and in the case of Greig – got him blogging – why not seek input from the public as property seekers and the industry to share their thoughts. So here is a concept to discuss – something I would really appreciate some feedback on to generate some valuable discussion.

To help clarify exactly what this concept is let’s say we, when notified by the listing agent that the property has sold (gone unconditional) we mark the listing with say a red banner as per this mockup and have it on the site for a period of 5 days after which it disappears. The listing will still appear in the search results in exactly the same position based on listing date.

sold-property

0

Smart online advertising is worth celebrating

Posted on: March 18th, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing, Uncategorized

I was impressed the other day to see a great example of engaging advertising on our website. The advert for Westpac demonstrated that flashing banners is not the only way to achieve impact – their approach courtesy Saatchi & Saatchi DGS, is far more engaging and to my mind memorable.

The technique they have deployed as shown in the screenshots below is what is termed an expanding skyscraper – when you hover over the vertical advert the “dream bubble” expands over the listing photo of one of the listings on the site – thereby creating a warm and engaging dream of a new home for the characters in the sketch advert.

Westpac online advertising on realestate.co.nzgreat online advertising for Westpac on realestate.co.nz

This is in my judgment contextually relevant and put a smile on my face.

The fact is that more and more advertisers are moving their advertising budgets online. The final quarterly survey from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) showed that online now accounts for 8% of all advertising spend and in the last year online grew by over 42% to $193m Рthe growth of of over $58m coming from other media as the total spend for all media showed  no appreciable growth.

Clearly for a site like realestate.co.nz advertising is an important and growing part of our revenue, it is great to see the innovation in creative being applied to the medium. I also understand that the client is delighted with the performance of this advert as judged by the click through rate which is one measure of the success of such a campaign – ie. the nmber of people who have clicked on the advert to take them to the websites of the advert – in this case Westpac.

6

Is there a new way to market property for sale?

Posted on: January 21st, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing, Real Estate Industry

Raffle or lottery for a house - a new way of marketing properties?A Christchurch real estate agent is reported to have been formally notified by Internal Affairs that a proposed online auction was illegal under the Gambling Act 2003. The agent was endeavouring to sell the property through what they considered was “a new sales method they hoped would catch on“.

Clearly media coverage attracts attention to the idea or concept of raffling a property – not in itself a new concept internationally, however the question is naturally asked as to if there is a really new means of selling property as stated by the agent in question.

The sale of a property as with any major financial transaction needs to be seen in the context of a seriously considered purchase with appropriate levels of due diligence undertaken utilising appropriate research on the property and the local market as well as relevant legal issues.

Whilst the current state of the market has been and continues to be challenging for sellers and their agents, there is no silver bullet which will suddenly and miraculously stimulate this property market. A raffle or lottery for a property is first and foremost a lottery with the prize being the house, this concept has been undertaken a number of times legally in NZ by the NZ Lotteries.

The way forward for the real estate market is to utilise appropriate marketing principles to attract the appropriate target group of prospective potential buyers. These principles seen as the 3 P’s -the right product (the home presented in the best manner), the right promotion (advertising in target media – online and offline) and the right price. In today’s market probably the most important is the price, pricing correctly to the market level to attract the right group of prospective potential buyers is critical with so many properties for sale competing for attention.

2

The first of the major franchises forgoes the allure of TV for the power of online

Posted on: January 14th, 2009 | Filed in International, Online marketing

Century 21 TV CommercialCentury 21 – one of the largest global real estate franchises has announced in the US that they will redirect investment in TV advertising to online marketing.

Century 21 has a franchise network in NZ of 60 offices, but has not undertaken any TV advertising for the brand here in the last couple of years.

This decision, one of the first by a major group is likely to be a common theme of the future marketing plans for real estate companies as faced with the contraction of the market and a growing appreciation of the role of online for real estate search, they will be keen to ensure more accountability for all marketing investment. Here as in the US the web is now by-far-and-away the most utilised and most intuitive way for property buyers to search for available homes to buy.

The trend away from newspaper advertising as evidenced in 2008 and reported in the US figures; was matched here in NZ with the local launch and closure of the aspiring NZ real estate publication “Property Book“. These facts further demonstrates how sensitive the print media market is to influence of advertising spend of the real estate industry. This must be of concern for all of the major publishing firms who have become so reliant on real estate adverts as a core staple of the advertising income of most papers and have yet to secure an online income of similar scale.

In the US last year further key events underlined this trend – most noticable being the closure by the LA Times of its real estate supplement and on a broader level the filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by The Tribune Group of papers of which the most famous would be the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times.

11

Does the closure of Ferrit provide any insight for real estate?

Posted on: January 12th, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing

ferrit-web-trafficThe announcement by Telecom today of the decision to close their ecommerce site was long anticipated in the industry.

Many had predicted that the departure of Theresa Gattung would herald the demise of the site, however under the stewardship of the new CEO the site survived to see another Christmas.It seems somewhat ironic that the best month for traffic to the site actually was last month 377,000 unique browsers – the question would naturally be – how many sales were converted from that traffic and how did that compared to the operating overhead of the company (easily $1m per month)?

As to the reasons for the closure – I am sure their will be much conjecture and opinion flying around. Suffice to say the heart of the problems with Ferrit stemmed from the beginning. For this was their golden opportunity – just when the market was ready for a single portal for new items (remember “Flying Pig” before Ferrit) and consumers were educated to online transactions. However this is when from all accounts the site failed to deliver the user experience; matched with a lack of a compelling reason to want to use an online store – it was only in the past 2 years that free delivery became part of the mix, and sharp pricing was offering a reason to go online – something Amazon learned a decade or more ago.

Many tens of millions of dollars have been poured into Ferrit largely focused on advertising the brand which to me always felt like taking a sledgehammer to “tell” people to use a site that of itself lacked a deeply engaging or memorable experience.

This web closure follows just 2 months after the closure of the allrealestate.co.nz website, itself another significant website (250,000 unique browsers) – does this somehow demonstrate a diminishing appeal of websites?

No! – far from it I believe there are a couple of key points common to both sites:

  1. Online is a tough market. The early days of the web saw the only time when anyone actually “browsed” the web – nobody browses the web nowadays. People use the web to find answers and to be effective online you need to have a website that provides value – it must answer a need or question fast and better than anyone else, because there are plenty of competing sites eagerly waiting to “eat your lunch”.
  2. If people can’t find you – you will struggle. Ferrit and likewise allrealestate.co.nz (to a lesser degree) spent a lot of money on mainstream media hammering home the message of the brand. However not everyone is hovering over a keyboard when advertising images appear. Whereas by comparison when you are on Google and the #1 search result is your website then you get instant result – measurable and contextual. To understand the power and influence of search engine marketing in both natural and paid search form is fundamental in today’s business world.
  3. Web businesses require a culture of lean operation matched to fast learning. The web is a dynamic medium and needs to be constantly evolving, I think neither of these 2 websites operated in that style, rather they reflected large corporate structures (reported at 24 full time and 12 contractors for Ferrit) which burden the innovation and creativity required of the web. I heard only today of the “2 pizza rule” – never have a development team who you cannot feed with more than 2 pizzas at lunchtime.

I think the summation is we are seeing natural “Darwinian” evolution at work – aided by the current economic climate no doubt.

The web is used more and more by more people, more of the time – over half a million per week looking at real estate for example. To be successful you have to have relevant well presented, rich content; you have to have an intuitive and easy to use website that people talk about and refer – far more so than endless TV commercials or newspaper adverts.

2

Foreign buyers clearly recognise the leading website for NZ property

Posted on: January 12th, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing, Website news, Website searching

The online landscape for New Zealand property has radically changed in the space of a month with realestate.co.nz now firmly established as the most popular and most comprehensive website for overseas buyers.

With the closure of allrealestate effective 1st December and all referrals re-directed to realestate.co.nz the outcome was fairly certain – the scale of the visitors viewing NZ property from overseas was surprising. December is normally a much quieter month as people interest tends to turn towards holidays, families and Christmas.

International web traffic - NZ real estate Dec 08

A total of just under 113,000 unique visitor checked out properties on realestate.co.nz during the past month – some 80% more than the #2 site of Trade me property.

Source of international web traffic realestate.co.nz Dec 08The largest representation of visitors from among the 113,000 was from Australia closely followed by the UK and the USA, overall some 235 countries visited the website in the month. In total over 2.7 million pages were viewed by foreign visitors in the month across the 114,000 listings on the site.

4

When is a property listing – not a listing?

Posted on: December 15th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing

no-photoWhen it has no photo !!

The issue of the best way to present a property for sale or rent on this website (or any website) has been the subject of many previous blog posts. In running the website I still find it surprising that some agents send through listings to us that have no photos.

What is equally surprising is the fact that these listings are the for someone’s house someone who has engaged a real estate agent and contracted them to market and sell or rent that property.

Surely as a property owner you would want to ensure your property has the best presentation on a website given the critical importance of the web in advertising property for sale or rent.

To prove the importance of photos with listings we have analysed the statistics of the website over the past 3 months and discovered these interesting and relevant facts:

  1. Property listings without photos are likely to only receive a quarter of the viewings of a listing with just 1 photo

  2. Property listings without photos are missing out on over 8 times as many viewings as a comparable listing with a dozen photos

  3. The more photos a listing has the more viewings it receives – listings with 20 photos get 20% more viewing than ones with 9 photos

more-photos-more-views

The graph above tracks the relationship between number of photos and number of views. The scale of viewing is based on an index of the median number of photos where 8.7 photos is 100. The graph has an overlayed trend line to show the relationship more clearly. The steep rise of the graph through the range of 1 photo to 6 photos conclusively shows that more photos generate more viewings and that is what prospective buyers want.

In analysing this information I was interested to look back 2 years ago when we first launched the website, by comparison to today the average number of photos back then was 4 whereas now it is 9. Equally back then nearly half of all listings had 4 or less photos; by comparison today that number represents just 17% of all listings.

It is also interesting to note that this phenomium is not limited to NZ – this recent blog post by Jay Thompson a popular and highly regarded real estate agent blogger in the US speaks to this self same issue, titled Real Estate Listing Photos. Or not. From the “I don’t get it” files, it is as interesting for the rich comments posted by agents who themselves are mystified at the same problems over there. However on reflection it is not surprising that they are surprised – clearly the agents listing properties without adequate (or any photos) are not likley to be reading blogs or evaluating their own and their competitors listings on this website, as they clearly do not fully appreciate the power of the web for real estate listings.

6

Take a home for a “test drive”

Posted on: October 23rd, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Online marketing

It’s entirely logical – you are prepared to spend $35,000 buying a new car so you take it for a test drive – for an hour or even a day, in that time you get a feel for it and can get comments from the family and friends, you can see if it fits in your garage and how it looks at night and during the day.

So, as it has been asked so many times – why when you spend $350,000 on a new house can you not take it for a test drive?

After all you are going to spend far more time in the house and own it far longer than the car.

Well needless to say some innovative UK house builder has cottoned onto this idea and thanks to Mark Brinkley a property blogger in the UK- the author of the House 2.0 blog I can share this with you.

Oakwrights – a Hereford based home builder (we are talking bespoke Oak frame homes – not the mass produced homes on faceless estates!) is offering a night in their showhome at a cost of ¬£150 per night (NZ$388). Available for Friday and Saturday this “Try before you buy” scheme is a massive hit with a future booking schedule with no vacancies for the next few months and as Mark highlights a house builder with a strong future order book.

I wonder if we will see such a scheme in NZ. It’s a smart way to not only amortise the costs of a showhome, but think of the marketing benefit.

8

Look at me ! Look at me !

Posted on: October 5th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Online marketing

The challenge for a property owner looking to sell in what continues to be a very tough market, is as ever the task of making their individual home shout out “Look at me! Look at me!“, as the cautious buyers out there scan the listings of this an other websites.

To get that compelling wow-factor that makes sure your property is seen by the best and largest audience is all about content and presentation. This is a subject that has been covered before on this blog – specifically “one relevant property picture is worth a thousand words“, “Thinking of putting your house on the market, don’t be afraid of being a tall poppy” and “Need assistance promoting your property for sale?“. What is interesting is the evidence of how critical it is to get the basics right.

From the US – one of the most actively used and popular real estate websites (Zillow) comes the amassed capability of their analytical team to share this information :

Listings with at least one photo were likely to be viewed 41% more times than listings with no photos

Even more dramatic, providing a full address increases your listing’s traffic by 271%

This data was crunched from Zillow’s 3 million listings over a 7 day period. It is also no surprise that these facts align directly with the research undertaken in NZ by Nielsen Online earlier this year that asked online respondents what were the most important elements required of listings on a real estate website.

There were 12 “wants” that scored over 70% in terms of useful or very useful. Of this dozen 3 scored over 95% !!

Accurate price range of properties for sale – 96%

large selection of images – 96%

Address of properties for sale – 96%

It stands to reason in this Google empowered world were consumers exoect to be able to undertake research on anything anytime of the day or night, real estate should be no different – so if you are a home owner looking to sell – ask your agent why aren’t you showcasing my property to make it shout “look at me ! – look at me !

4

Successful advertising of property for sale requires a mix of media

Posted on: October 1st, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Online marketing

There is no disputing the fact that the web has become the most trusted, the most effective and the most popular source of real estate research. The most recent NZ survey by Nielsen Online showed that as measured by the average time spent researching real estate in a week – specialist real estate websites were by far-and-away the most popular with 167 minutes per week (that’s close to 3 hours per week!). By comparison traditional print media was around 65 minutes (just over an hour).

However whilst the web undoubtedly delivers answers, real estate search and consequentially real estate advertising needs to trigger the head as well as the heart, for often it is an emotional decision. That is why in the same research respondents indicated that they used on average just over 4 types of media when looking at buying property. The list of media was extensive and covered specialist property magazines, community papers, real estate office windows, for sale sign boards and newspapers.

Given this clear view of the value of a mix of advertising material it would be alarming if a local authority policy passed in Brighton, England banning “For sale” boards in the city were adopted elsewhere. The ban there is up for appeal as the view of the local Estate Agents Association feel that the existing ban in the historical part of the city was extended as a function of somewhat misleading consultation.

What I found most interesting (and I appreciate the highlighting of this by Brightsale Real Estate company in the UK) who equally were somewhat surprising by the blog post made by a London real estate company who seemed to have surprised many in the industry by coming out vehemently in saying

“The world has moved on and there’s no excuse now for unsightly advertising boards with the internet as a major resource for buyers and tenants. In our view a blanket ban creates a level playing field amongst estate agents – and we fully support a total ban on agents’ boards in London.

Although considered a necessary “marketing tool” by estate agents in London, they are unsightly and detrimental to the environment”

Now I can agree with the view that “the internet is the major resource for buyers and tenants”, but to believe that it alone can provide the necessary breadth of marketing required for a property I think is a little hard to swallow. However on reflection I think their view may be reflective of the situation in the UK where the real estate sign is nothing more than an advert for the real estate company and with high density housing does end up creating visual pollution especially in the cities.

I think fortunately in NZ we have a better approach to For Sale Boards which are seen here more as an extension of the marketing of the specific property as they in the majority of cases provide photos & specifications of the property.

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