COVID-19 has delivered what might well end up being the biggest shock that the world has had to absorb since the World Wars.
It’s also true that we live in a world where the production and sale of all sorts of goods and services drives not only our economy, but also our lifestyle, and that includes housing, where and how we live.
For me there’s an immediate question to consider focused around how we market real estate and how we communicate with our markets both now and hopefully soon Post-COVID.
How will buyer’s feel when looking for a home and what will be important to them? Will location become even more important, or will security? What messages will attract buyers and will utility eclipse luxury an emotion or the reverse? What might happen to the balance between old and new media?
I think these are reasonable and interesting questions to be asking now, alongside what sort of media we might in particular use for example as social media evolves and matures, and how to frame the messages we promote to engage buyers and the wider community.
I suggest that a useful starting point is to consider in the wider context, today’s consumer behaviour and how COVID-19 has impacted over the past 6-months. Most of the research and information I see shows some of the following trends.
The dominance of eCommerce is impossible to miss and it’s a big trend across all categories and with the vast majority consumers. How we use money has changed and that will flow-on to many other areas including how we use and structure our homes.
We already appreciate that eCommerce enabled a marketing revolution in terms of online shopping and to an extent making working from home easier.
‘At home’, is becoming much more than a polite term used by society folk a few generation back. Currently an entire raft of activities has systematically moved to in-home virtual environments, redefining home as a place for learning, working, fitness, wellness and security. This must impact the key features that many buyers, and not forgetting those renting will aspire.
Emphasis has also shifted to focus on virtual environments that are increasingly feeling more real with multi-sensory experiences. It’s an area popular with real estate marketing and has changed to offer quicker and less expensive solutions than were available just a few years ago.
People’s homes have taken on the role of providing safety, hygiene, and health (physical and mental) during all aspects of lockdowns and restricted social movement.
While this has already led to many new products and behaviours the role of housing is becoming more important.
Again, the security home offers come to mind, both personal and financial security. It’s a trend that may in future start to impact how buyers view density and in particular shared facilities and access to public and private open space.
The Merits of Location are Changing
The importance of location has also come into much sharper focus, this has been fuelled by social distancing and the direct impact on how individuals and families are more wary of any sort of crowd.
Until recently, for many people being close to a major shopping centre was an almost instant marketing plus, for either individual homes or higher-density developments. However, now the appeal of a community high street shopping area is taking on greater appeal both for safety and utility, the idea of a walkable neighbourhood immediately comes to mind as a marketable and desirable plus.
Considering location relative to transport patterns has seen a shift more towards a mix of private cars, bikes and walking. The emphasis on mass public transport has tended to lose its appeal and so become less of a key selling point in some areas, in particular busy city locations.
A further pointer to the relevance of location is also evident from published surveys that show 55% of consumers state that they will avoid busy places in the future and even post-COVID. To compensate there’s going to be a continued trend towards online shopping and a really big jump in the amount of time people spend at home, up by 42%. That’s an important trigger to consider in any marketing as it will influence many aspects of the appeal of a particular property and location.
One example of more time at home is the big rise of e-sports so that’s even more screen time at home.
However, while new options continue to evolve over recent months there’s been a big shift back to some ‘old media’ including some newspapers and greater consumption of traditional free to air TV.
Location and transport is also having wider impacts. Wealthier people are expected to move toward low density communities and houses with more open space.
The same trend can also be expected among workers with greater employment mobility and flexibility. We might expect wealthy families to move out of crowded urban areas into more distant suburbs and rural areas and shift advertising content will follow.
Marketing and innovation in digital channels are accelerating further as people’s time and attention moves much more online as we see at home entertainment and consumption explode. And streaming channels will become very personalised.
What about Trust in Advertising?
Social media has taken many aspects of marketing by storm however, COVID is changing how social is viewed.
While social has an impact there’s evidence that people are less receptive to ‘influences’ and are turning more towards trusted, familiar, and time-tested brands – this ties into the quest for quality that’s become a big issue for some property markets.
It’s not unexpected that trust and quality might pre-occupy our mindset however, there’s a wide range of factors that need to be considered when we frame any marketing and impacting a wide demographic mix.
Buying a home is a big and long-term commitment and a majority of consumers report concerns about the economy and their future and that’s a trend already apparent in the demand for home loans.
The raft of government incentives in the market have boosted demand and many developers are also offering further incentives. That’s currently a central part of the market and the need for incentives is reinforced as some 12% of consumers state that they will continue to delay big purchases and financial commitments even after COVID restrictions are over, reinforced by research showing that almost 20% of consumers already believe that there may never be a ‘back to normal’.
Against this rapidly evolving background the look and feel of advertising is bound to shift and it’s predicted that content will be much more driven social values and with a strong community focus.
Community is often a key touchpoint for property marketers, and something worth considering. However, aligned to this trend what might consumers be looking for in any advertising? It’s not a surprise key aspects would include content that’s informative, reassuring and helpful.
One theme that looks constant is the greater emphasis on community which is a result of geography (location) are a shared bond with a group of people. This is an area that property marketing often seeks to tap into however, reflecting some of the above points, messaging is changing.
Community and all that involves needs to be relevant to the individual, but how we make any marketing (on a reasonable scale), more personalised will be an interesting task and require a refined and suitable creative message and content along with the skilful use of varied media options. COVID will bring all of this into a more urgent focus.