The pandemic has seriously affected the customer experience across the real estate sector. Most companies have turned to new strategies and are increasingly using online solutions. But what about real estate developers?
We’ve seen a shift toward e-signatures for contracts, but online condo reservations and deposits have yet to become widespread.
How do you reserve a condo and make a secure deposit in just a few clicks?
Last fall, Arborescence, our longstanding client, asked us how they could safely and effectively sell the third phase of their mountain condo development with the pandemic in full swing. Backed by the knowledge gained from more than 20 previous real estate marketing projects, we put on our creative hats and set out to find innovative solutions. We decided this would be a good opportunity to implement an online reservation and deposit process. The idea proved to be a huge success. Here’s what we learned.
Step 1: Get all your information online
Make sure your website includes your building floor plans, unit layouts, prices, features and availability (sold or reserved). If any of this information is missing, add it now. Since transparency was a top priority for us from the start, the Arborescence website already had all this information.
Step 2: Link your website to a CRM
We wanted reservations to be visible and updated in real time. To make that possible, we connected the client’s website to a CRM with an inventory feature. The CRM helps organize customer data, track sales, integrate business processes, facilitate information-sharing within the team and analyze data to continually improve marketing ROI.
Step 3: Keep customers informed with clear communications
In real estate, things tend to happen at the last minute—including contracts, permits and city approvals. As much as possible, we recommend providing prospective buyers with information on things like the sales process, floor plans and prices in advance. That way they’ll have the chance to prepare gradually and won’t feel flustered when sales actually open. Plus, if customers have the information they need, your sales team will have fewer calls to answer.
For Arborescence, we shared information in newsletters and began sending them out more frequently before sales got underway. We also put an exhaustive FAQ on the website.
Step 4: Set up an online deposit system
We added PayPal to the Arborescence website so that prospective buyers could make a (fully refundable) $2,500 deposit on the day sales kicked off. This allowed buyers to officially reserve a unit in less than 2 minutes. As soon as the deposit was made, it was recorded in the CRM and the unit was automatically listed as “reserved” on the site. Buyers then received two automated emails, one from PayPal and another from Arborescence, confirming their reservation.
Step 5: Have a Plan B in case of technical problems
Computer glitches happen, so it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B (and even a Plan C and D)! You’ll need an action plan to get all stakeholders working together seamlessly.
And sometimes there’s nothing better, or more practical, than speaking to people directly. That’s why the Arborescence team opted to call everyone who had reserved a unit.
Step 6: Test your tech
Having reliable tech partners is really important. They’ll need to check the server capacity, consider a variety of potential scenarios, and then test, test, test! We opted to continue collaborating with CtrlWeb and Onyx Technologies because they both already had a very good understanding of the Arborescence project, since they had been on board since Phase 1.
Step 7: Measure and analyze the results
The CRM tracks all data in real time. It lets us see which unit is the most popular, how many bedrooms people are looking for, and much more. This valuable information about customer preferences will help the real estate developer design future phases.
Step 8: Ask buyers how you can improve the customer experience
After this first round of online reservations, we wanted to check in with customers and get their feedback. How did they feel about making such a big purchase (a condo!) online? Our team verbally contacted a number of buyers and asked for their feedback. Since their answers were quite positive overall, we’ll use this approach again in future, with just a few tweaks to smooth out the process.
Is it possible to hit a home run with a virtual launch in real estate? Can you achieve your goals without hosting an in-person event complete with appetizers and live music? Here’s the answer: All 48 condos in Phase 3 were reserved online in just 48 hours.
Customers want a process that’s both time-efficient and pleasant. They appreciate having access to as much information as possible on the development’s website. Adding online reservations significantly improved the purchase process. For more information about our real estate marketing work, read our case study: Arborescence Phase 1: 4,300 leads in 8 months.