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Technology in the real estate industry

18 Mar 2014

South African businesses, and in particular the real estate industry, will have to start taking a real interest in technology to be successful in an increasingly competitive environment.

Keller Williams South Africa recently held a series of seminars countrywide for local estate agents. Johan Gouws, COO of KW South Africa, with international guest speakers Cary Sylvester and Stefan Swanepoel, Marco Coetzer, a local franchisee of KW SA, Carrie McCaslin (KWW USA) and Niël Cronje, CEO of KWSA.

Social media has taken over peoples’ lives and cell phones have become an extension of who we are. Business must utilise this to know more about their clients, which will enable them to sell more.

Stefan Swanepoel, a world renowned expert on trends in the property market, recently painted a  picture on the growth of social media, and its influence on business, at a series of seminars presented in South Africa by the international real estate group Keller Williams, which  recently established a presence in South Africa.

He says on Christmas Day last year worldwide:

- 17 400 000 Apps were downloaded;
- 900 000 000 FaceBook users were active;
- 2 500 000 000 texts were sent;
- 350 000 000 000 emails were sent.

A clip by Juan Claude van Dam on YouTube was seen by 72 million people, it was never shown on television, only on social media. If it was shown on television it would be the 4th most successful television show in the world!

Most of this exponential growth is driven by the explosion of the use of mobile technology and the technology that is available for it.

There are now more cell phones than people in the world. There are currently 7.1 billion people in the world and 7.3 billion cell phones in circulation. In over 50 percent of countries the number of cell phones exceeds the population.

Swanepoel says the average person checked his cell phone 150 times per day, which creates a tremendous opportunity to communicate with the client. People with tablets spend an average 90 minutes per day on it.

One third of households have ditched their landlines in the USA. The number of smart phones will surpass the number of computers in 2014. Not everybody has a computer, but most of them own a cell phone.

The latest cloud technology put tremendous power in people’s hands, but they do not optimise it because they do not know the technology.

Therefore it is imperative that businesses start taking an interest in technology. You must know how to use it to be successful with it. He warned, however, that technology doesn’t solve your problems it is only a tool to find a solution.

It usually takes one generation (20-25 years) before a certain technology will ‘explode’. In the beginning there is resistance, followed by pricing issues, and then people start to embrace it. When it happens like now with social media and mobile technology, the speed of innovation escalates even further. The world’s biggest real estate web portal has 55 million unique visitors per month, he says.

According to Swanepoel the real estate industry is one of the last in the world to be automated. What is currently happening in the United States will also happen in South Africa, as the local market is the most similar to the American market.

The biggest advantage of technology for the real estate industry is that it enables real estate agents to know more about their buyers. “The more you know about your buyer, the more you can sell to them.

“Customer retention management is imperative. The agent needs to know where his customers are, when are they there, what are they doing there, how frequently are they there and what will cause them to do it again? The right system gives the agents access to lots of this information at one place,” he says.

The worldwide eEdge-system that Keller Williams uses enables agents to link to the client’s Facebook and Twitter, and the information gets pulled through to the database. Hereby the agent gets to know more about the client without them telling the agent. This is based on public information and called ‘social intelligence’.

Swanepoel says one of the developments of the future is customised advertising. Information in an agents’ database about his clients, makes it possible to change advertising according to the public information that is available about that person seeing the advertisement.

Referring to the real estate industry, Swanepoel says the latest technology will allow agents to:

- Create a legitimate database to nurture- Stay in touch with their clients and business associates
- Follow up with their clients (They’ll be buying again in 7/8 years)
- Delegate tasks to their teams (Assistant)
- Develop an email marketing system

Cary Sylvester, vice president of technology, innovations and communications at Keller Williams Realty International, and Carrie McCaslin, director of Keller Williams Worldwide IT, explained at the same seminar how the eEdge system allows agents to build a relationship with their clients, knowing what their preferences are, keep track of the services rendered to the client and use the information to create action plans.

They said research showed that 67 percent of all leads went unanswered. Agents therefore need a system that can track what happened to a deal.

When the client visits the website, he can indicate what he likes or not and make notes about it. It automatically goes into the agent’s database and becomes his or her leads. The agent then knows the people he calls mean business and want to buy.

The system allows the agent to create action plans then prompts the agent what to do when, and it creates a record of service - what the agent did for this client.

The system also has an automatic marketing system that allows custom tags. If the client for example likes rugby, the agent can send specific marketing campaigns to all his clients that are rugby fans. A client can have more than one tag.

The eEdge system allows the agent to see what happens with his campaigns, his dashboard shows him who unsubscribed and which campaigns are getting click-throughs.

All agents have 30 gig storage and Gmail which allows them to work wherever they are. It even translates messages into other languages should an agent be servicing a client who doesn’t speak his or her language.

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