TODAY’S CONSUMERS ARE increasingly connected and tech savvy, so real estate franchises must lift to meet new service demands by using technology to its full potential. Century 21 are leaders in innovative thinking and today are considering how a new era of innovation will help their network to thrive in a mobile future. Samantha McLean talks to CEO Charles Tarbey and CTO Steve Glachan to ﬁnd out more.
Charles Tarbey has always been forward thinking when it comes to technology, which is the reason we are here today. But he is also crystal-clear with me that the business of real estate is still about the people.
“You have to remember that the majority of the community is not even thinking about real estate. Where most agents focus on the small percentage of the overall population that are looking to buy and sell now, Century 21 as an organisation has always, and will continue, to focus on those that are currently not looking at buying and selling through sponsorships and brand campaigns to keep the name top of mind.”
But with that, Tarbey also acknowledges that technology should be able to be used to alert agents to the times when they need to be having the right conversations, not just with customers but also with co-workers, and this is where both he and Glachan are redesigning the future technology platforms for the franchise.
INNOVATING FROM THE TOP DOWN
At a franchise level, Glachan says if consumers are all about mobile (which we know they are) there is a need to respond by ensuring that Century 21 is present, and as a result, the eSales platform is being redesigned to be responsive and to ensure that salespeople have the tools they need at their fingertips in the field.
“We’re busy redesigning the Century 21 Australia andNew Zealand corporate and office websites. This means fully functional, informative sites and content designed for consumers, no matter what device they are using – mobile, tablet or desktop – which will be a huge improvement. We are laser-focused on consumer experience and engaging with talented digital partners like our web design team at PUSH Creative, to provide increased support and guidance to our network,” says Glachan.
In a bold move, opportunities will also exist for franchisees to run separate but integrated office websites, salesperson-specific sites and promotional microsites – all featuring consistent design and content to ensure a unified digital brand presence. “This is something we are really excited about,” says Glachan. “We hope to have this capability released by the end of the year.”
The next generation eSales redesign is also focused on more efficient workflows and better user experience. Glachan says the less time a salesperson has to spend in eSales the more they can achieve. “We’ve made it easy and quick to enter listing and contact information via mobile and tablet. Enquiry and interest can be easily captured from any device at open house inspections, with follow up SMS and emails able to be quickly customised and sent out immediately. We believe this will get us closer to real-time communication and presence if we can capture information quickly and act on it.”
WORK BECOMES SOCIAL
Century 21 is the first franchise to have adopted Workplace by Facebook both here and in the US. “The increasing need to deliver real-time training and property information has been enhanced with this platform. When new training sessions become available our agents are immediately alerted and can participate live or with recorded sessions,” says Tarbey.
The platform is just like Facebook and works just like Facebook, so everyone already knows how to use it. “It also allows agents to communicate more freely within a Century 21 family platform rather than public, and share more easily with the work colleagues and friends who are working for them – providing great ideas between team members which are not limited by geographical boundaries,” says Glachan.
LISTINGS BECOME SOCIAL
Century 21 are the CoreLogic/Onthehouse. com.au major network launch partner for their new Facebook ‘Smartads’ product. While Facebook ad targeting, design, and placement can be quite confusing for many agents, Smartads are an automated way to engage Facebook audiences simply and effectively.
Phase one of the rollout is a ‘Property Listings’ and ‘Just Sold’ module and will be followed by data-driven suburb updates, all of which will be able to be automated in the future. Following this will be the development of targeted user-generated content from Facebook users which will appear on both the Century 21 website and also at Onthehouse.com.au.
CoreLogic’s Head of Innovation David Maire also says he is excited to be working again with Century 21 on the product’s launch. “Century 21 has a solid data-driven technology vision and were our launch partner for our original RPConnect social platform in 2010.”
In terms of other social media reach and keeping the brand top of mind with consumers, the team are also bringing on board a dedicated social media side. “This team will be responsible for creating, building and assisting in the maintenance of all social media activities for every office across Australasia,” says Tarbey.
THE WAY FORWARD
There is only one true factor in the success of an agent in the future, says Tarbey, and that remains the ability to work a database well; not only to work with current buyers and sellers, but also to nurture others.
But despite this being a ‘basic’, Tarbey says that agents need to get smarter in the way they use the database to help customers meet their own goals.
“We should be able to automatically identify, say, a client’s previous purchase price vs current value of the property and allow our agents to identify for those people opportunities around greater equity or realisation of assets for other purposes. This has a far greater meaning in the scheme of things than a simple Facebook post or blog, albeit these are all part of the puzzle,” says Tarbey.
And lastly, there is a clear message to pick up the phone. “It is critically important that the industry does not fall into a pattern of complacent behaviour,” says Tarbey. “Our job is to list and sell real estate, and while technology helps us deliver our message, only the best agents are able to take any activity from online to offline and continue the conversation in person.
“Unfortunately, technology has created an environment where agents can avoid talking to people, which is not ideal. Some agents are looking for the silver bullet whilst the smarter agents are not hitting the reply button on their emails, and telephoning people back instead.”