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How well, if at all, do you think agents & other property professionals are embracing digital engagement with consumers, and what impact is this having?

For this month’s discussion, we caught up with property professionals James Dearsley, Iain White, Paula Higgins and Peter Ambrose who share their view on digital engagement in the property sector.  

James Dearsley – Unissu

“Business models are changing as digital transformation starts to take hold. There is inertia with agents resisting change which is being driven by consumers. Traditional models still lead the way but signs are that consumers are wanting something different.

New PropTech business models are showing consumers a different method of transaction – both on sales and lettings. They are offering more transparency, control, affordability and certainty. These are all words you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the outdated models we see with agents today. Change has started but it will be a rocky road and will take a number of years for the market to shift.”

Iain White – ICG

“When it comes to digital engagement, there are estate agents who are very good at it, and those that are awful at it; there’s no real in between. There are lots of agents who simply don’t understand it at all and haven’t even left the harbour yet, which is dangerous. 

Of those who are moving ahead with digital engagement, some are only focusing on creating efficiency, but really they need to look at the customer journey, too. Agents need to understand consumer behaviour and how this is driving digital engagement, otherwise their services will become redundant. 

Digital engagement is most successful for agents who want to modernise and interact with consumers in a way they want to be interacted with, at a time that works for them. It also only works if it is complementing high calibre agents; you can have good digitisation but without good quality staff, agents will still fail”.  

Paula Higgins – Home Owners Alliance 

“We are at a tipping point.  Today’s consumers have very high expectations when it comes to buying or selling property. They demand professionalism, visibility over the entire process, regular progress updates and realtime contact in a way that suits them.

Home buyers and sellers expect a mix of digital access to information about their case 24/7 alongside regular human contact with their agent. Innovative agents have embraced this. The most important thing though isn’t the means of communication but the quality of the interaction. Consumers want to be left feeling reassured, that their case is in good hands and with an understanding of the next steps and timings. Any blockages or problems need to be flagged up promptly, discussed and solutions identified.

Agents shouldn’t forget homeowners are juggling demands from a number of property professionals, from agents, to brokers, to solicitors. What they really want is a move that is stress-free”.

Peter Ambrose – The Partnership 

“In short, the answer is “maybe a little”. The only progress we have seen is the most trivial aspects of conveyancing – quoting and client onboarding. Very basic automated quoting engines are helping lawyers who struggle to answer the telephone to give quotes to clients, let alone email it to them afterwards. Mobile-based client identification systems, driven by advances in the financial services sector, do seem to be making inroads with a very few early adopters. Otherwise, we see little evidence of digital engagement during conveyancing, with lawyers stoically sticking to their traditional “send-and-forget” email and voicemail roots”.

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