Since early March, when you know what kicked off, that’s where everyone’s been racing to get to regarding marketing, customer interaction and sales.
But now that the dust is (somewhat) settling and things are loosening up, it’s an interesting conversation to look at what’s coming next. On one hand, people are starting to head out and feel more comfortable with safe one-on-one interaction – on the other hand, plenty of folks aren’t.
This puts businesses in limbo, needing a new way to operate that works for everyone. Both buyers who are leaping at the chance to get back to normal and those whose preference is to err on the side of caution.
I discussed this topic on a recent episode of Digital. Done Right., specifically touching on a self-guided tour tool we’re rolling out in the home building industry. Here’s the gist of how the tool works and how it came about.
Expanding on Existing Technology
Virtual walkthroughs. 3-D tours. Matterport. YouTube. All these technologies predate COVID-19 and they’re all awesome, powerful tools for marketing and selling homes.
There were plenty of reasons to prefer shopping new homes from your sofa or Starbucks long before the pandemic. People are busy and virtual tours are fun, fast and efficient. By the time you account for traffic and the distance between listings, it’s easy to check out ten homes in the time it takes you to see just one in person.
Why waste your entire Saturday touring the same number of homes you can experience on your lunch break?
But as effective as the current crop of interactive tools have been, virtual tours miss the mark on several points compared to traditional in-person viewings with a sales rep.
Gaps in the Sales Process
Imagine making the decision to purchase a brand-new car without getting behind the wheel for a test drive. No way. Not even with the slickest VR goggles would you trust the virtual experience over the feeling you get sitting in the driver’s seat.
Same goes for houses.
Sure, a buyer will move forward on a house virtually if they’re relocating from thousands of miles away and don’t have a choice – but in general, it’s tough to close the sale without a physical walkthrough.
- Special features are easy to miss – part of a sales rep’s job is to point out architectural details, upgrades, quality of life features and unique design traits that may not be readily apparent to a buyer just walking through the home. From floor plan synergy to air flow, natural lighting, bonus spaces, energy efficiency and more, a new construction home is more than what you experience on the surface.
- Questions can’t be answered in real time – virtual tours are great for allowing buyers to see the plan at their own leisure in a no-pressure environment, but the lack of two-way communication is a real problem.
- More difficult to compare between builders – as design and layout trends tend to move somewhat uniformly across the industry, it’s harder to differentiate between builders if all your comparisons are made online. From running your fingers down a high-end countertop to experiencing the airiness of an extra-high ceiling or noticing how upscale finishes pop in real life.
The new self-guided tour tool addresses these challenges and more – all while offering many of the benefits of a virtual tour.
The Next Iteration of Awesome
The self-guided tour combines the freedom of a virtual tour with the sensory and interactive elements of a traditional showing, with social distancing as an appropriate added bonus.
The basic idea is similar to the self-guided tours you’ve taken at a big museum or historical site on vacation. With a whole lot more bells and whistles.
For starters, the tour can be accessed without needing to download an app. Removing this friction motivates buyers to try the tool out. Instead of installing an app, they only need to scan a QR code, call a phone number or type in the URL. Voila. It’s all web-based to get folks rolling right away.
Once a buyer is ready with their smartphone to tour the model, the web app provides a wide range of multimedia information based off user choice and where they are physically located inside the plan. From written text to voice over explanations to optional videos or downloadable content, the self-guided tour acts like your own personal virtual assistant, providing all the same details and flavor usually shared by the sales rep at the appropriate time.
And when they’ve got a question not covered in the tour? No problem. With the tap of a button the app calls the rep down the street at the sales center to get answers in real time.
The self-guided tour makes it possible for buyers to enjoy a fully immersive model home experience without ever setting foot in the sales center. They lock up, are notified that the tool exists and boom, they bypass the sales center and head straight to the models that interest them.
This really is a tool that solves part of the COVID-19 riddle while potentially changing the way model home tours are facilitated for years to come.
- Future appointments can be scheduled directly from the app.
- Additional information about the community that’s usually only located in the sales center can be accessed from the app: community amenities, nearby points of interest, site plan, aerial views, etc.
- Current move-in ready inventory can be viewed from the app.
- Feedback/surveys taken during the tour help the sales rep provide smarter follow-up while collecting contact information to gather leads.
From an automated digital perspective, builders can use the data collected by the app strategically. From monitoring which parts of the home buyers spend the most time in to tracking video views and compiling user-provided feedback, the data can lead to sweeping improvements in sales center staffing, content production, model home showing workflow and even structural design changes.