What real estate innovators can learn from Google about discovering buyer intent versus identity

Updated: Sep 21




When you think Google, you probably think search. But what Google has really mastered with its algorithms is how to determine customer intent, and how to serve the right information to meet anticipated needs. There’s a lot we can learn in real estate.

Put simply, Google knows ‘intent beats identity’, and ‘immediacy trumps loyalty’. Businesses that use Google well may not always have the best product or service, but they’ve been able to generate incredible success because they track, measure, and market based on a consumer's intent.

In other words, consumers are used to being served the right information at the right time – sometimes before they know what to ask. Predictive tech used in most every other industry means people are used to having their needs anticipated by their banks, car service or insurance provider. It’s in every, “Hey Siri!”, every time their GPS suggests a faster route, and every binge-worthy recommendation.

Yet they still wait 72 hours or more for a real estate agent in some cases.

What does ‘Intent beats identity’ mean in real estate?

‘Identity’ markers like name, email, suburb and mobile number are traditional treasures in the real estate agents’ gold mine. At open houses, particularly as COVID-19 restrictions came into play, agents were standing with clipboards capturing mobile numbers citing Government regulations.

The thing is, identity markers don’t signal any intent: does the person wish to buy or rent, or are they just browsing, maybe researching interior design ideas, or finding out the asking price for curious Grandma Beth down the road?

The traditional approach of real estate marketing creates interest in a property, then forces the customer to give identifying information about themselves to find out more or engage in a conversation. For example, fill in an online enquiry form and wait for a response to get a price guide or to find out if a property has some essential features.

If I have a strict budget, I don’t want to waste time chasing something that’s half a million dollars more. I’m scrolling now, on the couch having finally got the kids to bed. I’m planning our Saturday inspections. I want to add or remove a property from my inspection list as quickly as possible. Yet because we’re stuck in this pre-technology identity matters mentality I must wait.

Is this the best we can do? Is it what people want? If I’m looking for a home where it’s essential to me that all the bedrooms have a built-in wardrobe, why do so many real estate systems require me to enquire, give my mobile and email address, and wait hours or even days for a response?

Ironically, the pre-tech sales practice was created to facilitate more meaningful human interactions for sales agents – the idea being to get people on the phone as a chance to connect, explore and build relationships. What it’s become now is a massive administrative time-sink for most agents, and a source of deep frustration for people at an already stressful time of their lives.

By contrast, the actions people take in the digital world – the pages they click on, the topics they are researching, the questions they are asking – all provide clear indicators of intent.

Understanding someone’s intent, and tailoring marketing strategies that map to that intent, is far more powerful than capturing identity markers. This is where the concept of ‘intent beats identity’ comes from – and it has powerful implications for real estate.

Using intelligent technology already available is a time saver for you, too. If a person is just at the research stage, you don’t need to have one-on-one conversations yet if their intent is not to take action. Think of how many hours you spend on the phone each week on enquiries that go nowhere. It’s a lot, right?

Proptech tools like conversational AI can help you determine the level of intent around a property, through monitoring actions like:

  • How many times consumers are talking about inspection times or booking a private inspection

  • Search questions about how to make an offer

  • Enquiries about how to bid at the auction and when and where it is

  • Comments and questions about finance pre-approval or needing to sell before buying.

Based on the questions people are asking, intelligent proptech joins the digital dots to understand their intent and better filter your follow up strategies. Instead of focusing on the number of leads, you can more effectively target marketing campaigns to the level of intent. Faster, cheaper, more efficient, and importantly, better listings with higher satisfaction – for them, and you.

Which brings us to the other factor Google has mastered – timing.

Immediacy trumps loyalty

It’s an on-demand, want it now world and consumer expectation for immediacy grows each year. According to global research by Salesforce.com, 83% of consumers now expect an immediate response from business. Immediacy is now such a powerful force, it overrides brand loyalty. Further research from Velocify states that responding to a sales lead within the first minute increases lead conversion by 371%.

By contrast in real estate, our data suggests around 40% of all buyer enquiries are never responded to in Australia. For what is essentially a relationship business, the idea that “I only need one buyer (or tenant)” and leaving literally thousands of inquiries un-responded to is an astonishing reality in some Australian real estate agencies.

Imagine the short and long term business benefits from serving every inquiring person the information they need in real time any hour of the day. Imagine walking into the office and having pre-qualified leads sitting ready for you to contact – because intelligent technology has figured out their intent, answered their questions immediately, and served them to the best agent for the very human job of building rapport, establishing trust, and securing a listing.

Available now proptech tools like conversational AI mean you can serve people 24/7 across multiple channels, including your own website and portal enquiries from the likes of Realestate.com.au or Domain. AI can have conversations about individual properties, at a time that suits the customer. For example, we know 63% of real estate conversations are happening out of business hours, and our data shows the peak inquiry time is between 8 to 11pm.

Everyone is busy – you, your vendor, potential buyers; on the property management side tenants, builders, landlords. By automating your systems with people-first intelligent technology that anticipates questions, and answers in ways that look and sound like you, you’re ticking all the boxes, for them, and you.

Yes, it might reduce the number of people inspecting a property, but quality is always going to beat quantity – a good agent helps a vendor or landlord understand the difference.

Are you ready to meet the new metrics of real estate success?

In summary, best practice marketing means giving people the right information at the right time. You might not be able to provide responses 24/7 in real-time personally, but the tech exists now to fill that gap – and people are very used to it in other areas of their lives.

The COVID-19 restrictions on real estate inspections only accelerated changes in real estate marketing. Buyers want their questions answered before committing time to an individual inspection appointment. With limited time available to one-on-one appointments, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are attracting qualified leads.

Focus your time on serious buyers and building the human-to-human connection at moments that matter – which intelligent predictive technology helps you anticipate.

Are you ready to tap into the power of intent based marketing? It’s possible now. We’d be happy to show you.


Post by Jeffrey Gray, CEO and Founder, Propic

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