By Kishor Pate, CMD – Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.
Indians has been rather quick in going online, and the depth of Internet penetration across the country is quite remarkable. However, when it comes accepting the Internet as a serious medium and tool to boost business, there was considerable disbelief and change aversion among Indian developers in the past. The general feeling was that the Internet was a ‘new age’ medium with little potential, and that the tried-and-tested ‘offline’ approach to marketing real estate was still the most reliable.
This mind-set has changed drastically over the past few years, and developers are now making active use of digital media for marketing properties. This acceptance has come primarily because developers saw that valid and actionable inquiries do indeed come from their web sites as well as real estate portals where their properties are featured. Today, every serious developer has a website, and many also maintain blogs and social media accounts to garner further visibility online.
For consumers of real estate, the Internet has become an unmitigated boon. Visiting developers’ web sites allows buyers to inform themselves about a project before actually making site visits. They can also make quick comparisons of all available options that meet their requirements, and to do a considerable amount of elimination to arrive at a final checklist. Online forums allow them to poll others’ opinions and experiences with regards to developers and their projects.
Obviously, property marketing on the Internet has also become highly competitive. Today, developers are vying for online space and buyer attention in every possible way. In fact, a significant chunk of real estate marketing has now gone online, and is reaping very satisfactory results.
Internet marketing outreach has become an inalienable and highly effective part of most developers’ overall marketing programme; purchase inquiries triggered online can account for as much as 25-30% of the total annual sales tally. Real estate developers with clear USPs – such as projects in exciting new locations or within affordable price brackets – have clear advantage online.
Most developers today know that their websites – rather than their marketing offices – are now their primary calling cards, and are investing heavily into making them more attractive and user-friendly. Likewise, tie-ups with leading property portals are now de rigueur and a default route for major developers.
However, it is not all clear sailing – the massive amount of online marketing activity has also brought many pitfalls and stumbling-blocks for online prospectors. For example, a lot of erroneous information and ‘false positives’ now turn up on Internet searches, thanks largely to the activity of smaller brokers and uninformed first-party sellers who neglect to eliminate options that are no longer on the market. Also, many smaller developers who launched web sites earlier fail to maintain and update them, adding to the burden of erroneous information available online.
Even more worrying is the amount of misleading and outright false information that is deliberately put out on the Internet. This information is often put out by people whose sole objective and business is to draw internet traffic by fair or foul means. As of now, nobody is really regulating the dissemination of such false information, which can be harmful to both customers and developers. Also, the Internet does not allow buyers to negotiate for the best price, which is an accepted and expected privilege in today’s market.
It is early days yet, and internet marketing in most business fields has yet to find its ‘true North’. Meanwhile, it is important that real estate buyers see it as a useful tool, but by no means the only tool at their disposal. At the end of the day, real estate is still very much a ‘people’ business – as such, it cannot become entirely virtual. When it comes to buying a home for which one will make a very large financial commitment, nothing will replace a site visit and personal inspection.
(Kishor Pate, Chairman & Managing Director of Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd. is the driving force behind one of the most successful real estate development firms in Pune and beyond. )