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A touch of technology

Sheila Manchester looks at some of the more clever and innovative ideas which can engage clients – and entice them into your branch.

PROPERTYdrum
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Crucial Projects’ LED media wall: it’s huge!

Estate agency offices come in every imaginable style these days. At PROPERTYdrum we receive photos of new or refurbished branches that look like a country house drawing room; like an Victorian engine room; like an uber-cool Docklands pad or a cosy pine kitchen/breakfast room.

Why? Because with so many agents on every high street (and of course, even more lurking in the safety of an anonymous serviced office/spare bedroom) the ambitious agent wants to be noticed.

For a business to succeed in a competitive market, it needs to attract attention and draw the punter in, pronto.

However, whatever the design era and style of the office, there is more to the job than looking pretty. You have to be techsavvy too, as all those bright young things (that is, anyone under 80) will have, almost certainly, started their search for an agent to sell/let their property on a modern technological device; a computer, laptop, tablet, phone – an Apple Watch (why didn’t they call it an iWatch?) even.

Table talk

So their techie journey to a new home has to continue within the agent’s office and a rather large tranche of technology in your office is, whether it thrills you or not, pretty vital.

“It’s no longer acceptable for negotiators to show clients property details on creaky desktop computers, awkwardly trying to move the screen round,” says Harry Simons at MPL Interiors. “Coffee table tablets with touch operation allow for convivial conversations where everyone can gather round and see images in a large format.” While they enjoy a nice Nespresso and a crispy Cantucci, perhaps.

The technology has transformed our office. It has projected us to the forefront, which is where we want to be seen!” Ian Davies, Crucial Projects

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Grosvenor Billingshurst: touch and find!

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Ian Davies, Crucial Projects

Grosvenor Billinghurst in Cobham, is a coffee table convert, “In our refit Crucial Projects designed the client interview areas with sofas and coffee tables and iPads to access the company App and website.” And that’s not all, there’s also a huge LED media wall that presents one giant image or four simultaneous feeds for rolling property displays. Ian Davies, Group Managing Director of Grosvenor Billinghurst, is delighted, “The technology has transformed the office. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback as we are the only agents to have anything like this in the area. It has projected us into the forefront, which is where we want to be seen.”

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Fine & Country’s pièce de résistance.

Rupert Oliver, a Partner at the Fine & Country in Clifton, Bristol, also wanted to make a splash, “It was important to launch here with a statement office, designed and fitted by MPL Interiors. The pièce de résistance is the nine-screen media wall that gives the property team ultimate flexibility on how to display properties. Each screen can show its own property or the screens can unite to show one Grosvenor Billingshurst: touch and find! property.

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Fine & Country: a lesson in making a statement.

“Of course, the screens can also be used to display marketing messages and pages from any website. The media wall taps into 21st century technology and cements our branch into the mind of clients – an important factor if vendors or landlords are touring local estate agents before deciding where they place their business.”

Technology 24/7/365

Several online agents are now using their 24-hour accessibility as a major marketing advantage – but you still can’t pull up at traffic lights and fall in love with a fabulous house displayed in an agent’s window, can you? Today’s window displays and internal media walls also allow agents to effectively be active on the high street 24 hours a day, grabbing every passing property porn addict.

We have new sunlight readable screens now at an affordable price. They are incredibly effective!” Janice Fairfield, Fairfield

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Janice Fairfield, Fairfield

Janice Fairfield at Fairfield Displays and Lighting says that there was steady growth in 2014 in the installation of full video walls on the back walls of the office – but you don’t have to have a huge wall to attract passers by, “Smaller screens are being used in groups to enhance the brand image with images bouncing from one screen to the next.”

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Stephen Oakley: traditional style office, modern window displays!

Stephen Oakley & Co., in Olney, Buckinghamshire, has a traditional office front but that hasn’t stopped the directors embracing new technology.

“Since we have our screen installed there are always people stopping at our window. The window display looks highly impressive after dusk and this is when it really works for us –when we are closed,” says Stephen.

“We have split our screen into three zones with a property display taking up 70 per cent and we have added a clock, the latest weather and a link to our home page on our website which has images that are constantly changing. In the past the window was cluttered with 72 properties, the new display has 16 properties plus two 32in screens and we are getting much better results. Our new cutting edge display technology has helped us increase the number of instructions.”

See me, touch me

Technology, says Andrew Tomlinson, Creative Director at Crucial Projects, “gives agents more opportunity to integrate marketing across all media from iPhone to iPad to web to screens and shows that they are forward thinking, investing in their businesses and the quality of service they offer.

“It helps them to keep in-step with their clients who opt for using technology for property searching as it is more instantaneous and offers broader scope for flexibility and comparison. And it complements people’s searches on the online property portals.”

But, even brightly lit screens and media walls may not be enough for the techtrapped punter. Used to instant reaction from a finger tap on phones and tablets, they want to control their search of your properties, not wait for your system to present ‘your’ dream home. Enter the new world of touch screen ‘through glass’ display.

We installed the touch screen in Brock Taylor’s window – they are sure it helped them win their Negotiator Award!” Paul Mark, Intouch Display

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Paul Mark, Intouch Display

Intouch Display claims the title of market leaders in the supply of both ‘through glass’ and ‘internal interactive’ touch screens, with unique dedicated software which they have developed in-house to work with any agency’s software provider (and with 24/7 support).

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Brock Taylor, 24/7 access for their clients.

Paul Marks, Sales Director, says, “Brock Taylor in Horsham is a prime example of an agent that embraces innovation which included their installation of a Window Touch Screen some six months ago.

“Brock Taylor’s Peter Maskell says he is convinced that his screen contributed towards winning their 2014 Negotiator Award for Small Independent Estate Agency of the Year.

And, adds Paul Marks, “Our most recent installation at Living Quarter in Manchester received this feedback from their Director via Twitter, “What an amazing transformation from our old window displays! Your product and you guys are outstanding. 140 characters just isn’t enough to describe how happy, impressed and excited we are!”

What’s next?

“It’s exciting waiting for the next innovation to emerge but with the broad range of technology already available it is important for agents and designers to optimise it in the best way possible for property marketing,” says Andrew at Crucial Projects. “Clients are more discerning about the way they receive information, the technology enables agents to maximise opportunities by integrating their marketing through as many portals as possible to increase reach.

“The future lies with Interactive Display,” says Paul at InTouch Display. “We have yet to touch the surface with touch screen technology in the UK, adults of the future will expect all display screens to be interactive, every day we see more High Street stores introducing internal interactive touch screens, but we take this further with ‘through the glass’ technology which allows customers to interact with an agency’s entire property portfolio even when they are closed. This provides the ‘wow-factor’ and sets one agent apart from another.”

We’re expecting more uptake of giant iPad-like screens – we’ve just installed one in Hearnes in Bournemouth.” Harry Simons, MPL Interiors

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Harry Simons, MPL Interiors

 

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Hearns – who could resist a play on this?

Harry Simons says MPL’s money is on the powerful media walls. “I think we’ll see some reduction in traditional static property displays and move more towards media walls as the main way of presenting property details. A media wall is an ever evolving display unit that can be linked to an agents’ online database, and the number of properties than can be displayed is almost limitless. As well as property details, it can be used to show special offers, detail client services and display marketing messages.

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Hurford Salvi Carr by MPL Interiors.

“We’re also expecting a bigger uptake of giant iPad-like screens that can be mounted in windows and operated by passers-by on the other side of the glass. We’ve already included one of these as part of a bigger branch refurbishment for Hearnes in Bournemouth.”

The last word goes to Janice Fairfield, who’s latest product could be just the thing for those blazing sunny days that we all crave. “New Sunlight Readable Screens are just coming onto the market at an affordable price. The new models start from 32in and go up to 65in, standard screens are between 450-700 cdn² while the Sunlight Readable Screens are 1500 cdn². These new screens are available with their own built-in media player or can be upgraded to a full network option without the need of any additional boxes. The units have a slim surround and are incredibly effective in the window.”

So, it seems, if you want to get ahead of the crowd remember this, keep up with customer-facing highly visual technology – online agents merely have a website – you have a 24/7 window and office display space!

Contacts

Crucial Projects: www.crucialprojects.co.uk
Fairfield Lighting and Displays: www.estateagencydisplays.co.uk
InTouch Displays: www.intouchpropertysearch.co.uk
MPL Interiors: www.mplinteriors.com

 

February 18, 2015

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