AI and Real Estate Marketing

AI or artificial intelligence is a term that’s now common place, and it’s an aspect of modern life that’s impacting both business and individuals, including real estate development and most notably marketing.

So exactly what is AI, which is also often associated with another increasingly everyday term, machine learning.

By definition AI makes it possible for computers to learn from experience (data) to perform some human-like tasks. Most AI relies heavily on deep learning from what can be almost unimaginable amounts of data.

The amount of data is now well beyond the capability of a manual exercise.

With AI computers can be ‘trained’ to perform specific tasks after processing data and recognising patterns in the data. Data can be very specific and tailored to a particular industry with the application of technology including chatbots, which is a point I’ll return to.

You might be surprised to know that the term AI was coined in 1956 however, the wider application of AI these days has become increasingly available thanks to more data being captured, the development of advanced algorithms, and essentially quantum leaps in computing power and storage.

Today, a lot of AI is focused on decision support systems and smart search systems that complement and augment human abilities.

Although AI still has its limits and if used to real estate marketing to help qualify buyers, this complex purchase will require professionals to complete the transaction.

The days when a computer issues a buyer with a code to access the front door lock on their home may never come, although, we do already have those hi-tech door locks.

While science fiction novels often depict AI as human-like robots ruling the world, the current evolution of AI isn’t quite that smart. However what we do see is AI evolving to provide specific benefits in varied industries like health care, retail, sports and manufacturing.

AI is rapidly becoming more aligned to specific areas and that now includes real estate development and marketing. It’s an impressive and complex area and over the next five to ten years it’s almost sure to impact us all, as AI helps us match buyers needs well beyond the use of current search and re-targeting channels.

This is a Revolution

When I started to look at this topic I was struck by two comparisons.

My first impression came from looking at a traditional check list for a project marketing campaign. Here we see many familiar topics like; branding, website, email marketing, signs, display materials, floor plans and brochures.

Things that are the familiar foundations of current marketing that aim to connect with key touchpoints in the market with a wide broadcast approach.

Then I read about the idea that via AI it would soon be possible to read a consumer’s emotional needs and connect with them at the most basic personal level. No marketing required, no convincing involved just an immediate a deep connection to meet a particular set of needs, very direct and individual touchpoints.

Everyone seems to agree that AI will help businesses to automate, provide better customer experience or simply sell more, in some industries it’s already well established.

Online search is one area we are all familiar with. Only a decade ago if you searched to find a product, you’d be lucky to find the desired result unless you knew a products exact name.

Today’s search is much smarter and its improved intelligence thanks to AI will help you find information on Google, or product on Amazon or a movie on Netflix, and often with just a few letters.

However, there’s a big leap between many aspects of traditional marketing and the wider application of AI and property. Even the most optimistic view of AI does not see real estate transactions being fully AI driven, however there are many opportunities.

AI looks exciting but there is a difference between the use of patterns of consumer needs found in big data to sell common goods like shoes, as opposed to selling properties worth a great deal of money, transactions that are complex, that involve life changing decisions, relationships, careers and sometimes tricky finances.

If we’re honest, we (real estate professionals) have been doing these things for many decades if not centuries, so why all the fuss about AI?

My approach is to ask not so much if AI is just a new way of doing the same things, but instead to ask that if by using machine learning can we do a better job for our clients and also help buyers better realise their needs for a purchase they may only make only a few times in their lives?

Better Use of Lots of Data

Property and real estate markets are informed by thousands of records, think sales records, council records, ABS data, travel patterns, public and private research, lots of information and from data already used via digital media including Google and Facebook.

Today even taking account of privacy restrictions, the aim, largely address by AI, is to use all of this information more productively.

Our industry currently does this but the volume of information used for example to undertake audience matching via CRM or an Excel spreadsheet, is clearly limited by the available resources, usually human resources however, there are options.

Chatbots, for example while not a new technology, are a promising interface that helps enable a customer’s journey.  For property, a chatbot application can be linked into the latest AI developments to better match buyers and sellers across varied demographics.

The most advanced chatbots allow a human and computer interaction with a special emphasis on natural language. The conversation interfaces cover a varied range of devices including cars, mobiles, speakers, phones and importantly digital assistances like Amazon’s Alexa.

One example that would be hard to pick up in a traditional Excel exercise would be to look at patterns of behaviour in a retail data set that could help refine future buyer needs. Spikes in the demand for certain goods, like babywear or sporting goods, could help pinpoint first time or trade up buyers or retirement markets.

The most valuable use of AI will be in helping to predict demand. Manufacturers and retailers are already doing this with locational and real time sales data helping to manage and predict demand.

Moving such dynamics into real estate, may be another and very big question.

AI can be gainfully employed to gather and use all of the data that’s available to match buyer’s needs, and this extends well beyond the now well-established search and display targets that are used for instance by Google.

Some information sourced with the use of AI can also be used to help make the use of traditional media, including off-line channels more impacting, for example direct mail and radio.

We should embrace the success behind conventional marketing capabilities, but at the same time, be aware of the march into the future and that very much includes AI.

A quote I once heard was that being too rigid in our thinking and planning can be toxic and that makes me think that now is the right time to fully embrace AI.