Consumer experience is a term that has certainly grown in importance across sectors as organisations look more towards a holistic approach of delivering optimal service. In a consumer-centric market like real estate, providing excellent customer service is critical to increasing customer loyalty and retention, managing your image, and developing your real estate brand.
When an industry changes over time, so do its customers. Back in the early days of real estate, the industry believed in producing a product with little consumer-relevant features and no regard for customer preference, retention, or loyalty as the needs of the consumers were limited to having a roof over their heads and investing in properties required big financial commitment. The focus on marketing efforts was minimal, with no goal of generating value for the customer.
However, increased urban migration, smaller families and higher demand for more affordable residences, have all aided in the creation of the modern real estate market that exists today. Active forays into realty by established organisations and the appeal of private equity investment in real estate ventures have started to organise the market over time into a professionally focused and controlled sector with an emphasis on customer experience and satisfaction.
Yet, it is still an evolving industry with ready, matured, and experienced consumers hunting for value in the real estate they want to buy or invest in. Here are a few of the consumer evolving needs that are shaping the sector:
Community living: The modern consumer craves convenience, evidenced by the soaring demand for properties near retail centres. This has traditionally made city-centre living in high demand. However, as more communities based in the suburbs provide everything residents need within a short distance, the need to be living in city centres is becoming less necessary.
Community living offers a variety of benefits and has become particularly crucial in our pandemic-struck age where residents are often confined to their homes or immediate neighbourhoods, either by the authorities or by the fact that going out could simply be dangerous. The community also plays an important role in good health, and interaction and communal spaces to meet are crucial to people’s mental health and well-being.
For example, DAMAC Hills and AKOYA are some of the most sought–after communities in Dubai. DAMAC Hills offers unique attractions such as A La Carte Villas and branded residences, high-end retail options, a top international school and a myriad of family entertainment and sport facilities, while AKOYA offers the perfect refuge for relaxation, shopping and entertainment with its large green areas, parks, fountains, landscaped gardens, swimming pools and a retail centre.
Affordability: Following Covid-19, many people lost their jobs or had their wages cut due to the economic crunch that occurred. This made people more fiscally responsible, and they started to be more cautious spenders so that they could be better prepared should such a market shock happen again. Additionally, as work-from-home was introduced and proved to be effective in many companies, there could be a more permanent move towards this model in the future. This could mean that people opt for more affordable housing in the suburbs, away from the city centre. As people do not have to worry about commuting to work, the proximity of their homes to their workplace no longer becomes a factor.
Co-living: ‘Sharing’ has emerged as the latest global trend. Customers, especially millennials, are increasingly drawn to temporary living spaces as their tastes and desires change. This has resulted in the introduction of concepts such as co-living — a movement that is gaining momentum, especially in metropolitan areas where the cost of living is high.
Digitisation: New tech-savvy generations have become accustomed and expect personalised and streamlined experiences. To satisfy their needs and requirements, it becomes imperative to utilise technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, social media, and data analytics. For instance, the advent of immersive technologies has revolutionised several industry sectors, and real estate is no exception. For example, Chatbots provide 24/7 service, elevating customer experience, as buyers can automatically receive information that matches their queries.
Personalisation: Many consumer experiences benefit from personalisation. Technology has advanced drastically in the past few years, which has led to targeted and digitally led marketing campaigns that record, match and predict consumer preferences and likes. At DAMAC, we caught on to the need for personalisation among our clientele by introducing the ‘A La Carte Villas’ at DAMAC Hills in early 2020. The concept enables buyers to personalise multiple aspects of their homes including villa type, layout, landscaping, interiors, and furnishings, among others, using DAMAC’s cutting-edge configuration app.
The market is adapting to consumers as the world around them changes. To successfully respond to evolving demands and tap into new customer preferences, real estate entities must first understand and closely study changes in consumer behaviour and the reasons behind it. The fundamental goal of real estate must be to improve the lives of people. That means creating fulfilling, enriching, and sustainable ways for residents to live, work and play.