As part of my research into what’s happening (and, more importantly, what’s likely to be happening) in the fast moving world of property and real estate marketing, I spoke to Antony Slumbers who does “adventures in technology and corporate real estate” with initiatives such as Glasnost21 (CRM, sales pipeline and collaborative project management), CityOffices.net (construction news, analysis and tender opportunities service with information on developer led office construction schemes in central London, UK and European Cities) and Vicinitee (property management software and digital marketing services) http://antonyslumbers.com/
A sense of place – the digital layer
Whilst recognising that there is a growing awareness of the importance of brands and sense of community in the property sector, he recently wrote a blog about how the property industry was out of date with its “sense of place”.
He pointed out that these days people don’t just attend events – they record and broadcast them from their smartphones. People want information, especially local, in the palm of their hand, and physical space has a past, a present and a future. He argues that this digital layer (facilitated by AR and location-based social networking) is about unlocking this content:
- I am here
- What’s going on?
- What happened here?
- What’s going to happen here?
- Are my friends here?
- What did they like?
- What should I do now?
Experiential on-line marketing
Antony feels particularly strongly about how shopping centres need to improve their online web presence and support mobile engagement. He draws attention to how Westfield is taking the lead here – particularly with http://www.westfieldeditme.com/ which is powered by http://www.snapfashion.co.uk/ where shoppers can upload an image and see how outfits from the various stores might look and receive recommendations for matching accessories. There’s also a click and collect facility where there is a plush changing area where clothes can be tried on and a sort of electronic personal shopper service. Personally, I really like the interactive map consoles that help you locate stores at the centre and offer various routes to get there.
He thinks Hammerson (http://www.hammerson.com/property/shopping-centres/) is also a leading player, especially in the way they have built the technology to manage all their centres from one platform. So content can be distributed swiftly and efficiently to multiple centres and across desktop and mobile simultaneously.
He points out that many centres find that half of their traffic is to the jobs section and puts this down to dull and dreary content elsewhere on their sites. He says that shopping centres need to organise their content by interests and people, not information types. So instead of ‘Shops’ or ‘Food & Drink’, you build collections around Fashion, or Kids, or Families, thereby targeting their visitors rather than just displaying generic information. He is also baffled by the lack of shopping centre Pinterest boards.
He believes a sense of place will become as much a virtual experience as one defined by the physical environment, with area-wide wi-fi and a rich web experience incorporating videos, geo-mapping, multiple social media channels and information channels integrating recruitment, schools programmes, community projects, maps, transport information, events programmes and more, providing a digital layer on top of bricks and mortar.
He warns about building your house on rented land – where developers and landlords have relied on free likes on platforms such as Facebook only to find that the costs of reaching those followers has rocketed as these platforms seek to become profitable. He points out that the cost of a free website is that you are the product being sold.
Having been impressed with how augmented reality (AR) has been used with things like the viewing tools at The Shard and book promotions with Blippar (“a revolution for traditional media and advertising offering the power to turn every single piece of printed collateral or physical branding in the real world into an instantaneous, interactive experience” – it’s where the QR code is hidden in the display image) I asked Antony whether he thought it could be used in property marketing applications such as hoardings.
Like me, he sees great potential for using billboards around developments to use proximity technology and smart phones for providing video displays and interactive experiences, which would perform both community relations and sales functions.
He added that through his work on Vicinitee, smartphones can be used to make (local) offers available to workers in a building by property managers. His recent post on the need for smart billboards included the following:
“The commercial property world has to date barely engaged with social media and when it has done so the approach tends to be a bit stilted, a bit corporate. As with old school marketing the approach is very ‘Talk at’, very broadcast. Social though is ‘Talk with’; the principal is to engage with one’s audience, often on a one to one basis and in language that is real. If you can’t imagine yourself saying the words, then try again. Remember: your audience has in their pocket a computer of astonishing power. Your message should be aimed at that device. And the message should be human, useful and enticing”.
Watch out for further interviews with property marketing leaders. And get in touch if you have something to share that challenges conventional thinking in property marketing. These and other ideas will form part of my session at the EG (Estates Gazette) Conference Marketing Summit on 26th June 2014 http://www.estatesgazetteevents.com/marketingsummit2014