“Estate agency is a relationship business,” said Peter Fenwick, head of third party relationships at Reapit. “Rather than just sitting back and accepting that engagement is moving more online, agents need to consider how they can revolutionise their shop fronts to drive higher visitor numbers and more face-to-face engagement – that’s the way to build relationships.”
Reapit is working closely with Samsung DS Europe to customise its IMS (Interactive Marketing Solution) specifically for the UK estate agency market, with a view to transforming high street branches into digital showrooms where agents can showcase properties to their maximum potential.
The main purpose of Samsung’s interactive market solution is to provide an innovative marketing experience for potential buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants and to create an appealing and engaging branch environment that drives higher footfall and a richer customer experience.
“We involved our clients in the early stages of this project by holding a focus group session at the Samsung SDS showroom to ensure we were delivering a solution that agents want,” Fenwick added. “Not only does it look impressive to attract higher footfall, it also gathers useful data for marketing teams to use.”
The IMS is integrated with Reapit Property Software providing mutual clients with a powerful unique selling proposition, with the solution made up of three components: Tablets for sales staff, large format digital screens, or video walls, in the branch, as well as digital screens in the shop window.
Jim Kim, President at Samsung SDS Europe, commented, “Our interactive marketing solution enables existing estate agencies in providing best-in-class content management technology to attract more potential high street homebuyers, enhance the in-branch customer experience and increase efficiencies for internal administrators.”
Window mounted through-glass interactive touch screens ensure that an estate agency is ‘open for business’ 24/7, a “proven instruction gainer”, as they allow consumers to access an agent’s entire property portfolio around-the-clock, as Paul Marks, Sales Director, inTouch Display, explained, “Customers can register their details, request a viewing or book an appraisal.”
The use of a single ultra-high bright screen for outdoor use enables agents to secure maximum exposure for the properties being marketed, with the screens easily visible in all weather conditions, including direct sunlight, ensuring a heightened high-street presence.
Marks added, “Our screens require zero human resource from the agency as our unique dedicated software has been developed in-house to work with all estate agency software providers.”
MPL Interiors, the estate agency refurbishment specialist, joined forces with InTouch Property Search earlier this year to also offer the latest touch-screen technology, after receiving a spike in enquiries from agents wanting screens that feature their entire property portfolio via a single interface, which could potentially also mounted into a coffee table.
Banks of screens are set flush into a false wall that can show live V, marketing messages and hundreds of properties.” Harry Simons, MPL Interiors
Harry Simons, Partner at MPL Interiors, said, “Today’s home movers will be used to tapping and swiping to conduct property searches so we knew it wasn’t going to be long before touch-screen technology arrived on the high street.”
Simons believes that public facing LCD screens will continue to become “regular features in an agency refurbishment”, mainly because they look smart and offer an “unrestricted marketing platform.”
He added, “When linked to an in-house computer system, a screen can play a rotating playlist of properties for sale and to rent – far more than any fixed window display could.”
Wall mounted touch screens are proving particularly popular at the moment, according to Simons, who continued, “Our biggest uptake in the last year is media walls – banks of screens set flush into a false wall that can show live TV, marketing messages and available properties – whether that’s across individual screens or across the whole bank.”
Touch screen displays that look like large iPads are favoured by most agents, according to Janice Fairfield of Fairfield Displays and Lighting. Consequently, her firm has developed curved light pockets to match the screens with curved borders. “The effect is stunning. 3D displays using the curved light pockets suspended from the ceiling give a totally fresh design, adding depth and style to a window. The displays being at different levels and heights in the window create an open and clear vision into the interior.”
Fairfield also explained that designs for the interiors are also changing with the increasing use of custom graphics, digital signage, and maps, especially large maps which are often now used to create feature walls, helping to transform an office’s entire appearance.
Map A route to success
Maps are becoming increasingly fashionable, not just to show off the local area, but also to add a splash of colour to the office, with completed illuminated maps, supported by A1 light pocket, proving to be extremely bright.
Janice added, “Maps can be used in many different ways. Custom wallpapered coloured maps help to re-enforce corporate branding. Strong colours make a design statement in offices with pastel walls. In offices with strong coloured walls, maps in white and black with a feature colour for the roads create a soft backdrop to the office design.”
Sarah Neate, Design & Marketing Manager, Mid West Displays, agrees that maps are an important property location tool, with her firm for reporting “huge demand” for maps that have been tailored to the clients’ own area.
She commented, “The wallpaper versions add a great feature wall to an office while the illuminated maps are both stylish and practical with the added benefit of being able to update it easily if there are new developments in the area, which could leave the map dated.”
See the signs
When it comes to freshening up both their brand and office, with a bright and contemporary look, many agents continue to adopt acrylic stand-off lettering and logos, while others now use LED illumination, as part of the creative signage – internationally and externally – that they offer, helping to reinforce corporate branding, as the lighting can often give off an effect that can standout even to passers-by on the high street.
“In regards to office interior signage, we are producing a lot of bespoke shaped illuminated logo panels, these are often situated on a back wall to make a feature which is visible from outside, Neate explained.
One of the main advantages to having a contemporary design incorporating LED lighting, often with a high quality glow, is that they tend to really stand out at night, according to Tom Cummuskey at Kremer Signs, which he explained is why LED Light pockets are becoming “ever more popular with agents undergoing a refurbishment”.
Cummuskey says that during dark winter nights, agents should do everything possible to maximise exposure on the high street and stand out from the competition, and the “LED Light pockets certain do that.”
He added, “Naturally the human eye is drawn to light, so not only will people on the high street be drawn to your office, but the properties For Sale and To Let will be clearly advertised after office open hours, which is a big advantage to have when trying to maximise exposure for your properties.”
The most important part of signage to an office is the external fascia sign, which Cummuskey said is crucial to making sure a company stand out from other agents on the high street. “Fascia signage can be supplied in various styles and specs to suit the agents brand identity, and to also correspond with local council regulations. The fascia sign can be installed with or without lighting which can also come in many different forms; from a simple Parabeam running along the top of the sign, to built-up lettering with LED halo illumination.”
Adopting technology shows that an agent is forward thinking about their business and in step with their clients.” Andrew Tomlinson, Crucial Projects
The LED ‘halo’ lighting effects are particularly “striking” and “accentuate brand personality”, according to Andrew Tomlinson, Creative Director at Crucial Projects, who added that “clean and consistent branding” is the most effective method when it comes to making a statement, while “minimalist styling” works best to allow an agency’s message to be simply read and understood.
The future is now
Tomlinson approves of the “futuristic look” being adopted by some agents, where technology is integrated across all media from iPad docking stations to large media walls. But while he acknowledges that technology can offer many benefits, making it a “great investment”, he does have a clear message for agents seeking to adopt this particular style: “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it!”
In other words, the technology should be integrated into an office’s wider appearance, with all the elements “needing to work simultaneously to be effective”.
Tomlinson continued, “Popular innovations which work well together are wall-mounted iPads in client interview areas which can access the company App and website, or Café-style seating hosting iPad bars. LED media walls create stunning features and provide flexible marketing by presenting one giant image, or four simultaneous feeds, for rolling property displays or campaigns.
“All of these elements should be linked to deliver the same message to have maximum impact. Adopting technology shows that an agent is forwarding thinking about their business and keeping in-step with clients.”
With social and technological changes currently sweeping through the estate agency sector, there is no doubt that agents are becoming more reliant on new devices to perform their roles and achieve the best results for their client. Technology can offer enormous benefits and forward-thinking agents need to embrace it and make the most of it. Those that fail to offer their clients access to the latest innovative trends in marketing technology may soon find that they are at a competitive disadvantage over other agents that do.
Who to call
- Mid West Displays www.midwestdisplays.co.uk
- InTouch Property Search www.intouchpropertysearch.co.uk
- MPL Interiors www.mplinteriors.com
- Fairfield Displays & Lighting Ltd www.estateagencydisplays.co.uk
- Kremer Signs www.kremersigns.co.uk
- Crucial Projects www.crucialprojects.co.uk
- Kraft www.kraftdesign.co.uk