The ACE Punch by CorpGini in collaboration with Comezzo, Business World Wire, Elegance Enterprises and Go Smart Bricks was a power-packed webinar that brought together corporate heads and start-ups. The webinar brought to light some of the problems that the real estate industry might face in the post-COVID world and the disruptive technology solutions that could pave the way for a smooth transition; from the old world order to a new one built on the foundation of technology.
The panel speakers for the day included Vyoma Pandit, Chief Marketing Officer Shriram Properties, Bhasker Jain, Head – Marketing & Sales at the Wadhwa Group, Suresh Rangarajan, CEO of Co-live, Shashikiran Kalyanpur, Marketing veteran, Ravikant, MD, Elegance Enterprises, Bharat Gaddam, CEO Cognitive ROI, Dhruba Ghosh, Sr. VP – Marketing at Provident Housing (Purvankara Group) and the interesting group was moderated by Pawan Gupta, CEO and Founder of Comezzo. It was an insightful panel discussion where the panelists gave their views on ‘Re-thinking real estate marketing considering the current COVID situation’
The current market sentiment
The discussion started with Mr. Pawan Gupta referring to the McKinsey report, which states that the real estate landscape is going to witness some major changes against the backdrop of social distancing and work from home norms. “It is the time to identify the key drivers that will be the changes in this journey. The real estate landscape is undergoing significant changes due to Covid19 and many of the changes will be permanent… social distancing, work from home, will become the new norm. It is vital for the real estate industry to re-imagine current & post Covid scenarios that would influence the customer journey like never before… identifying the important changes in the journey (from discovery, selection to transaction) would be the key driver for communication & marketing strategies going forward.”, he said as he set the tone for the discussion.
The panel was asked to comment on the current business sentiment, to which a mixed response was received. Mr. Dhruba talked about the buyer being cautious right now while Mr. Bhasker mentioned that the buyers are showing affinity to certain kinds of projects right now, especially those that are nearing completion. ‘The market right now has two kinds of buyers. One who has the money to invest and is fishing for opportunities to get a good deal and the other who does not have ready money at hand and is thus going to wait’, said Ms. Vyoma.
“This lockdown has made people realize that in such a scenario the most essential element is a house. It could either be a rental property or your own property but we need to secure ourselves’, said Mr. Suresh. According to Mr. Shashikiran, with the job cuts happening it is more of a wait and watch scenario. ‘The market sure has some bargain hunters and people are now looking to even changing their rentals to match the 20-30 percent cuts in revenues and salaries”, said Mr. Bharat.
Is it the right time to spend money on communications and marketing?
How shall brands drive their communication during and Post Covid 19 was the next question posed to the panel and the panelists concurred that there is a need to change the way a company does marketing and communicates with the customers. ‘You can either say the same thing to a different customer base or say the same thing differently to the existing database’, said Ms. Vyoma. According to Mr. Bhasker, ‘the need of the hour is to optimize the budget and engage the customers. We must look at more B2B channels like banking’. Mr. Dhruba talked about taking a streamlined approach where the marketing funds are spent cautiously, going back to our existing customers, and being prudent about our choice of media. ‘We need to gain the trust of the customers and show them that we are there for them. It is the time for the CRM and sales teams to pull up their socks’, said Mr. Shashikiran.
Re-thinking Project marketing – Considering consumer new demands
‘Brands need to communicate, just like the PM communicated with the country and the CEOs are doing with their employees. The campaign does not need to be a lead generation campaign but it should be educative. It is time for great content to be in a place where the company is empathizing with the customers’, said Mr. Suresh. This point was taken forward by Mr. Ravikant who emphasized reaching out to the customers using the right media and platform.
How the Real Estate industry is re-aligning the marketing strategies
This question was answered by Mr. Bharat who laid stress on being visible. ‘We need to understand what marketing mix is going to work. There is a need to cut down after evaluating what needs to be cut. The marketing teams must engage with the analytics companies. To attract the people on edge, companies need to be at the top of mind for them. The marketing initiatives now should not be costly but should be interesting, educative and enabling’, he said.
Strategies for reaching out to target customers and scheme to attract them
The panelists were asked to share with the audience two steps they have taken to realign marketing communications and Mr. Bhasker shared the initiatives his team was working on. ‘We have taken testimonials from our existing customers who have now become our brand ambassadors. Secondly, we are optimizing our marketing spend. We have selected some organizations with whom we share a common audience like Honda, Mercedes, and Audi to name a few in the automobile sector. We have also partnered with interior companies for a joint marketing campaign where the leads generated can be used by both of us’.
“We need to have the perfect balance between the right and the left brain functions where emotions and reason work together. It cannot only be about our brand. It has to be about the customer too. We have initiated the zero contact and zero risk expression of interest where the money is refundable and digital initiatives create a touchless sale We have also introduced hashtag campaigns and a mascot called Captain Safe who promotes how our facilities are being sanitized post lockdown”, said Ms. Vyoma.
“We have undertaken the welfare of the labor community who forms the core of construction. Brands need to be more responsible now. We are also working on embracing virtual reality as much as we can”, shared Mr. Dhruba about the steps his team is working on. Mr. Shashikiran talked about the empathetic initiatives undertaken by his company where they deliver the essentials to their existing customer who are senior citizens. Asking the customers about their wellbeing and engaging them through webinars and online property expos is the action plan that Mr. Ravikant and his team are currently working on.
“Co-living is now going to rework its model where we have introduced bed placement that is social distance compliant. Millennials are now hunting for clean houses rather than going for the cheap options. It is time for smart real estate positioning. Work-from-home-productive places are becoming relevant now”, shared Mr. Suresh when discussing how co-living industry is managing the post covid scenario.
Digitization will be the new norm? How should one plan their digital marketing strategy?
The panel next discussed revisiting the sales process by tech enablement. Mr. Pawan asked the panelists to share two initiatives for going digital on the discovery as well as the transaction side.
BOTs, live video chats, engaging virtual tours that are different from what others are using were some of the strategies suggested by Mr. Dhruba and Mr. Bharat. Building on VR tools on the discovery side and going paperless on the transaction side are the solutions that are being deployed by Mr. Bhasker and his team. This ideology was shared by Ms. Vyoma as well who talked about the use of multimedia on the discovery side and going digital on the transaction side. She further added that the decision making part of the process will still have human involvement where the buyer would like to visit the place to get a feel of it. “Accelerating digital technology and analytics is inevitable now. Digitization steps such as virtual tours, enabling immersive experience, chatbots, improved website information architecture, online unit selection & booking enablement are key in the current context. Builders need to re-aligned / respond quickly to this new norm for staying relevant”, said Pawan Gupta to add to the views.
One of the audience questions about the cities that will see a boost in real estate development, Mr. Suresh gave Bangalore, Pane, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Delhi as his top picks. Another audience question about a fall in real estate prices was taken up by Ms. Vyoma who answered it by saying that financial restructuring will happen but the focus will be on delivering quality projects on time and not so much on price correction. The real estate industry will have to do this while tackling the problems of labor shortages and an increase in raw material prices.
Three start-ups presented their tech solutions that addressed the question of how the companies can overcome the current challenges faced as a marketer in real estate.
The first startup was Stallion which presented its technology solutions that can aid at every step in the real estate sales process. The solutions involved provided telephonic customer support to demographic analysis, chatbots on WhatsApp to reach out to the customers, and getting maximum inquiries at a minimum spend.
Next up was Smatbots who provide AI and menu-driven multilingual chatbots. These bots can cover all processes right from lead generation and customer support to appointment booking and collecting feedback. The last startup of the day was GMetri that presented its immersive VR experiences. Their solutions include training the sales team online and creating immersive walkthroughs.
The panel concluded on the note that this is the time to reset, do meaningful marketing, listening, and communicating to customers, embracing digital. Virtual is the real ‘real’!