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Digital Revolution Beckons a New Era Of Real Estate With social distancing norms continuing to shape our work and life, real estate companies had to undergo a digital transformation to ensure business continuity in the long run

By Ashish R. Puravankara

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The trajectory of the pandemic has been unpredictable from the very start. With formidable challenges at every turn, businesses of all sizes, including real estate, were mobilized to respond with innovative pivots and astute strategies. A key driver of survival and growth for the real estate sector during this uncertain period was technology. With social distancing norms continuing to shape our work and life, real estate companies had to undergo a digital transformation to ensure business continuity in the long run. This included digitization of operations, tech-driven iterations in the homebuying process and building a contactless customer model.

A new paradigm for the construction industry

When the pandemic first hit the country last year, one of the primary challenges was to ensure the seamless functioning of the construction industry, which is the bedrock of real estate projects. Digitization of this industry was imperative to accommodate the evolving needs of housing and infrastructure, which became more profound during the pandemic.

A few innovations that increased efficiency were 3D scanning and AI-driven tools such as drones, smart sensors and CCTVs to monitor job-site activity. Rapid advancement of technology has enabled a drone to carry out land mapping and surveys within a short period, instead of a human eye which would take an entire day. Innovation in the field has also helped provide comprehensive visual data to the workforce, giving them easy access to tricky sites and composite or tall structures. Designers and architects can modify and make design interventions to projects that are yet to begin or still under construction. They can showcase a preview of the final project even before the construction begins, through technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and predictive analysis. Digital penetration of this scale has accelerated the pace and efficiency of the construction process without major cost additions.

Safety-and transparency-focused customer experience

Since the onset of the pandemic, real estate builders faced the dichotomous challenge of addressing the changing customer behaviour while finding new ways to support them in their homebuying journey. With COVID-19 fundamentally altering work practices and people spending more time at homes, residential spaces gained prominence as an essential and valuable investment.

Real estate companies quickly recognized this shift in customer sentiment and enhanced their digital capabilities to build a direct engagement with homebuyers. Many players introduced a feature on their website to provide virtual tours of their projects. This enabled customers to make an informed buying decision, without having to physically visit the site. With most of the transactions becoming virtual, it is critical for developers to preserve customers' trust. One way to achieve this was a digital model of interaction, which offered transparency throughout the homebuying process. Adopting technology to this scale has enabled even NRIs and HNIs, who are overseas, to inspect and invest in projects digitally.

Buying a home is potentially the biggest investments that an individual makes in their life. Hence, they would make a choice only after due diligence and careful consideration. One of the first steps towards this is to gauge the credibility of a builder and the project. To address this, many developers have embedded reviews and ratings from existing customers on to their website.

Thus, a digitally empowered real estate ecosystem has paved the way for a better customer experience focused on safety, trust, convenience and wellbeing.

Marketing that is built to last

The quality of a company's engagement with its customers continues to define its growth during the pandemic. It is common knowledge that a strong web presence will allow homebuyers to discover real estate companies with ease. However, with several players in the industry strengthening their presence online in the last one year, it is essential for real estate companies to stand out and ensure that they reach the right audience. Targeted marketing is the key to achieve this goal.

While creating an online engagement plan, it is imperative to consider the demographic of the target audience as well as their preferred medium. Messaging is as important, if not more, as the media of communication. Incorporating relevant and relatable content will help cut through the clutter and attract the right audience.

A digital marketing strategy that includes customized messaging for the target audience and is communicated through the appropriate medium offers a win-win for the buyer as well as the developer. It gives buyers better options that are relevant to them in terms of budget, location, size and amenities, thereby, simplifying their decision-making process. On the other hand, realty players will be able to generate qualified leads that can result in greater conversion in sales rate. Additionally, on-ground research and utilization of data metrics will help players to understand the needs of the customers and design amenities that will address the same.

The pandemic has proved that the strength of a business lies in its ability to adapt, ensure operational resilience, build customer-centric policies, and embrace digital transformation. As an industry that has is a driver of growth for the economy, it is essential to bring innovation into the business model constantly. It would be inaccurate to assume that the current technological advances in the industry are temporary. Digital penetration and the subsequent trends will continue to shape the real estate sector in the long-run as well. The key to scale effectively is not to eliminate traditional processes rather, it is to adopt a hybrid model where both digital and traditional can complement each other. Companies that can abide by this model and can adapt to the changing norms with agility, will be the ones to thrive in the future.

Ashish R. Puravankara

Managing Director, Puravankara Limited


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