The rise of online agencies and brokers is a concern for all in the real estate industry - as the 'convenience' and 'cost-effectiveness' of these newcomers threatens to shake up the market as we know it. It can be tempting to follow the trend - to see what consumers appear to want (cheaper costs involved in selling or buying their home) and try to match their expectations.

But here at Eview, we believe that the benefits of using a grassroots high-street agency - such as solid service, intimate local knowledge and a raft of specialised resources - simply cannot be undersold or underestimated - and what's more this kind of service is in the best interests of clients.
Here we share three important things you can do now to ensure that your company competes effectively with online alternatives - without slashing prices. Place the emphasis on ease of communication and customer experience Customer experience is key - and if there is one thing businesses across the board have learnt as the rise of technology has overtaken many traditional methodologies, it's that often consumers still crave a personal, humanised service. We like to feel valued, cared about - and although online services have significantly streamlined the processes and time involved in making a purchase or booking a service, there's still something special about going to a shop and being served by a real person who listens to you and understands what you really want.

This phenomenon is perhaps of even greater relevance when selling or buying a property - a process that will arguably be one of the most stressful you'll experience in your lifetime. People matter - experience matters, and therefore as a local real estate agent, you have a significant advantage. Although affordability and 'ease' are attractive, deep down customers want and need to feel looked after and taken care of, especially when the stakes are so high. It's frustrating to feel that you're not being heard of listened to.

It's upsetting to think you're not the top priority - or that things could be moving faster than they should. Ensure that your customer experience is excellent - and emphasise your focus on this throughout marketing literature and communication. Humanise and personalise your brand One thing online agencies don't have is you - your face, your personality, the detailed knowledge, experience and passion you and your agents possess. Ask yourself - what currently differentiates you from an online agency? Is your branding faceless and corporate? Do you really make the most of the human assets within your business? Do local people know who you are, and why you do what you do? Asking these questions and giving honest answers may be challenging or uncomfortable - but it's absolutely necessary if you're going to compete. Otherwise, customers will see two very similar brands offering almost identical services - but you will be offering them at a higher price. Who will they naturally gravitate towards in this scenario? Instead of a 'no-brainer' decision for all the wrong reasons, what you want them to see is a choice between a personalised, considerate service run by passionate professionals - local people who understand both the market and the motivations behind their move.

Rethink marketing literature and streamline the process Not all negative feedback is useful - but we have a lot to learn from the rise of online influencers and disruptors. Online agencies are exploiting a niche that has opened in the market - so as an industry we have to ask ourselves - how has this happened, and where are we going wrong? We have to listen to what consumers want if we are going to compete. Whilst price may appear to be the over-arching factor in customers turning away from high street real estate agents in favour of online alternatives, we believe it's actually the complexity and confusion that surrounds the processes involved in buying or selling a property. One thing online agencies are doing well is mass simplification of the process - presenting a quick, easy sale with a single, affordable price tag - something which is naturally attractive to consumers.
We feel this is a little irresponsible and often leads to difficulty and unexpected additional costs - as all agents know, the sale or purchase of a property is rarely simple. This is one reason why commission is the easiest way to charge for our services - as we feel confident it covers the work carried out without under or overcharging clients. Despite this, it's clear that there's work to be done on our part if we wish to retain business and continue to find success in this industry.

One of the first questions customers ask when considering relocation is 'how much will this cost me?' They want a firm quote - and this movement online is often borne out of frustration they feel when they can't get a straight answer. Of course, the process can only be simplified so much - but it's worth assessing your current methodologies and marketing material and seeing how you can tap into this mentality. How can you make things easier for your clients? How can you make the process easier to comprehend and understand (and therefore more attractive and palatable) for them? How can you make their decisions easier? It all starts with clear and effective communication. Focus on the benefits that come alongside working with you - and ensure that your pricing structure is transparent and well presented at all times.

Looking to grow and develop your real estate business in 2018? Discover our multi-branded model and sophisticated support network today.



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