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April 15, 2020

True Homebuilders POV: Now is the Time for Online Personalization to Surprise and Delight Potential Homebuyers

In the past decade, homebuilders have added digital features to their websites, such as virtual model home tours, aspirational and inspirational photography, detailed home plans, and the ability to schedule appointments online. Those features are must-haves, but they don’t separate you from your competition anymore. Today more than ever, it’s important to add an online personalized touch to your communications and services.

Consumer expectations about what’s possible to do online have changed dramatically in the past month for all businesses, including homebuilders because of COVID-19. With so many families now working, schooling and living online from their homes, their demands for how companies connect with them online have gone up, too. How has your business embraced online sharing and communications since the pandemic started?

True POV

Now is the time for homebuilders to surprise and delight potential customers by truly personalizing their online experience for them. My friend Roger Hurni, brand strategist and owner of advertising agency Off Madison Avenue, recently wrote a blog about personalization and, as he so eloquently says, “Brands often spend too much time acting as if personalization is putting a name on a piece of communications. Personalization is much more subtle and requires more thought. You have to ask yourself these kinds of questions:

  • What would be an unexpected experience at an unexpected time?
  • What can I deliver that aligns with their motivations and behaviors?
  • How can I make that experience unique to the individual?

The creation of those moments is exactly what will surprise and delight your customers. Those are also the moments that will lead to an incredible level of brand affinity.”

So how can homebuilders create moments that will surprise and delight potential customers on their websites? By adding what we’re all craving right now: personalization through human interaction.

Adding Personal Touches  

Here are some thoughts and insights to consider:

  • Lose the studio headshots of you and your team and replace them with pictures showing how we’re all working today: in our homes at the kitchen table with children and spouses and pets all around us. Connect with your potential customers by showing them you’re living their reality too.
  • A personalized virtual tour should be given in realtime by a real person. Uplevel the experience beyond a self-guided tour through pictures and let the customer hear and see your sales consultant walking them through the home. Let them ask questions and let your sales associate offer tips and advice. Use Facetime, Zoom, Facebook Live or another video sharing app to connect with them to create a one-of-a-kind, just for them, truly personalized home model tour.
  • Thank yous need to be more personal than an email. Send an online gift card to a local restaurant, grocery store or coffee shop. Show them how much you appreciate them and their time, and give them something to talk about with friends and family.
  • Be live across all your digital channels. Live chat is a wonderful feature, especially now, but don’t use it simply on your website. On social channels, quickly respond to consumer inquiries and continue the conversation with people who comment on posts; people are looking for engagement and to share their stories even more right now.
  • Create an online checklist or video tutorial of everything potential homebuyers can be doing now if they are concerned about building a house. For example, getting preapproved for mortgages and reviewing potential products for their home. Recommend social media channels like Pinterest and Houzz to start collecting their ideas. Remember, you get points for showing homeowners where to go to find ideas; they don’t have to be your ideas.
  • To you it’s a job. To them, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Get them excited for working with you and the homebuilding process. Many customers may only build one home in their entire lives. Consider recording a webinar that explains the process. Add your tips and show how much fun it can be, while giving reasonable expectations about how long it will take and where potential hold-ups might occur. This unexpected content will surprise and delight your potential homebuyers.  You are the expert.
  • Connect with potential homebuyers at the beginning of their journey. Add inspiration and aspiration home photography to your social media channels to attract potential customers in the very beginning stages of planning a new home. Encourage them to ask questions and to share ideas. Many will use social media channels like Pinterest or Houzz to begin capturing their thoughts and to start their wishlist. Connect with them at the beginning.

While your potential customers might be nervous about spending money on a new home right now, they are still making buying decisions by establishing their consideration set. They’re looking at you and your competition, and your personalized touches will set you apart. They may not make a purchase decision yet, but know they are crossing off who they don’t want to work with right now.

Many Realtors are predicting that when social distancing regulations are lifted there will be a lot of pent-up demand. Now is the time to position your brand for growth in the long term.

Some of these suggestions are easy and free, while others may be better implemented later. Our recommendation is to start small and do one or two, do them well and see how they are working for you. My friend Roger Hurni recommends creating a process and system for personalization and customer experience. We agree, and would add to think digitally because that’s how you’re going to connect with potential homebuyers right now.

True Digital Communications is here to help you weather this storm. If you’d like to talk more about how to adjust your marketing strategy or if you have more ideas to share, please contact me. We are offering free, 30-60 minute ideation sessions to discuss marketing strategy and tactics to help you thrive during these turbulent times. We’ll get through this together.

More to come,

Chris Baldwin

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