Technological advances in recent years in the digital space have resulted in a dramatic expansion of the number of people online and in the amount of traffic. This has particularly been the case for mobile applications. Sophisticated mobile devices have proliferated, and fast broadband has become more available and affordable.
More people than ever before in New Zealand and globally are searching for products and services online, using social media, and watching video. Most of your prospects and customers will be searching online for opportunities to invest in property, and for real estate companies and agents they can trust to sell or manage their properties.
Crunching the numbers on digital real estate advertising
Research into the online habits of potential buyers highlights the importance of internet marketing for real estate companies and the industry as a whole. When you meet the needs of your target audience, including providing them with trustworthy solutions when and where they need it, your brand’s reputation will improve. This is especially true if you can tell stories that resonate with people emotionally and personally:
At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou, American civil rights activist
Commenting on the results of a study by the National Association of Realtors in the US into how real estate agents and home buyers were using the digital environment, Google’s head of real estate, Patrick Grandinetti, said:
“With 90 per cent of home buyers searching online during their home-buying process, the real estate industry is smart to target these people where they look for and consume information – for example through paid search, relevant websites, video environments, and mobile applications.” 
Advertising in print vs digital
The trend toward digital marketing has been more pronounced in the UK than in New Zealand, according to an article in the NBR in 2014. 
In 2013, the UK real estate advertising spend was split about 50/50 between print and digital, whereas in New Zealand in 2013, print was still vastly more popular than digital. Alistair Helm described the difference as “staggering”.
This probably has quite a bit to do with the ability of the New Zealand print media industry to restrain the growth in digital through relationships with “major franchise groups”.
Helm also found that the New Zealand real estate industry spent more per sale overall than its UK counterpart. And this in a market where agent commissions in the UK have traditionally hovered around 1.5% of sales, and the marketing spend is taken straight out of agent commission margins. In New Zealand, Helm reported, agents who charged about 3% commission on sale price secured an average of $200 a sale of vendor marketing contribution to offset their marketing spend.
Has this trend changed since 2014? Helm’s prediction that digital would be on a par with print advertising in New Zealand real estate by 2017 looks on track, though by then the UK market would be spending three times as much on digital marketing than print. David Wyatt, the digital channel manager for realestate.co.nz, reported to us in October 2016 that in the past six months realestate.co.nz had seen an exponential increase in real estate offices using them as a digital marketing channel to reach their targeted audience of property buyers and sellers.
“Display advertising is still the most popular format but native advertising and content partnerships are definitely on the rise. The future of the industry is definitely in specific segmentation and effectively using information on users to drill down and target the right people with the right messages at the right time,” David said.
In a leaner market, digital is the most cost-effective way to advertise.
Buyers are increasingly online when looking at property
One of the main findings of the US study was that when buyers began a search, they relied on search engines such as Google or Bing. In the middle of their search they looked at maps; whereas they engaged mobile applications most toward the end of their search.
In their online searches, home buyers most often used websites (88 per cent) and real estate agents (87 per cent) to source information. The online tools these buyers found useful were:
- Photos (83 per cent), detailed property information (79 per cent), interactive maps (41 per cent), virtual tours (40 per cent), and neighbourhood information (37 per cent).
- Millennials found photos and detailed property information most useful, whereas baby boomers found virtual tours and real estate agent contacts to be most important.
And some data about realtors:
- 93 per cent of realtors preferred to communicate with clients via email.
- 70 per cent of female realtors were using social media.
- 81 per cent of realtors said social media was the best platform for visibility, exposure and marketing.
This type of market intelligence is valuable to help you decide which channels or stage of the buyer journey to direct your digital marketing efforts toward.
Video is a highly effective digital marketing medium for real estate companies and their customers buying and selling property. 
The web was built on words. Today’s internet, though, is built on video. Much more difficult to create well, far more impactful when it works. Great video doesn’t change the rules. A great video on your site isn’t enough. You still need permission, still need to seek remarkability, still need to create something that matters. What video represents is the chance – if you invest in it – to tell your story in a way that sticks.”
– Seth Godin, marketing guru
Here are some revealing statistics for 2016, confirming the potential returns on investment when real estate companies use video in digital marketing:
- 40 per cent of potential buyers find video virtual tours to be very useful.
- Listings with video attracted 403 per cent more enquiries than listings without video.
- 85 per cent of buyers and vendors preferred to work with a real estate agent who was using video marketing, yet only 15 per cent of agents were actually using video. In other words, there’s a significant business opportunity for real estate companies and agents that offer video in their listing services to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
- YouTube is the most popular digital platform for home buyers.
- Realtor Century 21 saw a 20 per cent increase in sales when they implemented a video marketing campaign.