Augmenting home buying: Technology vs the real estate industry

Australia's property sector may not seem like the place for cutting edge technology. However, when it comes to innovating, our real estate players are starting to wake up.

If there’s any industry that’s tied to tradition here in Australia – in my opinion it’s the property sector. However, when it comes to innovating, real estate players are increasingly - and finally - realising that the ‘ain’t-broke-don’t-fix’ mentality is not sustainable.

After all, other traditional sectors probably felt the same. Take for example, the taxi industry, which was proved to be complacent when apps such as Uber and ingogo showed there was a better way to provide taxi services. Furthermore, Garmans and Navmans are facing extinction and Pandora is currently the third most listened-to radio station in the country. Technological disruption is inevitable and, as the current stoush between property agents and certain property portals shows, technology is already impacting how the real estate industry works.

That's why, as an Augmented Reality (AR) practitioner, I found it extremely interesting that a property developer, Caxton Property Group (CPG), decided to use AR to complement the marketing strategy for its upcoming Chapman Green development, and create a unique and memorable buying experience in the process.

It became clear while working on this project that AR is set to shake up the property space – and bring true innovation into how people experience real estate. My colleagues overseas have also noted an enormous increase in enquiries about immersive, 4D-driven interactive property experiences.

Also known as '4D', Augmented Reality creates virtual worlds that buyers can immerse themselves into. The ultimate user-friendly tool, it allows consumers to simply point their smartphone or tablet at an AR-activated image to view a ‘pop-up’ realm that merges digital content with the current environment. It is a virtual, portable, interactive and measurable (lead-driving) version of the sales office site-model.

In the very funny IKEA bookbook video that recently went viral on YouTube, IKEA points out that print media is still the fastest, most intuitive interface. AR allows the traditional print brochure, advertising or signage to be repurposed into something so much more: a rehearsal of what it would feel like to walk or live in your future home.

Marketing still stuck in the past

The way that people interact with the great majority of products is changing rapidly, and it is the big-ticket items that are being most affected. Research shows that online shopping is most popular with 35-44 year olds, and higher-income earners – a typical property-buyer demographic. Yet marketing approaches are still stuck in the past. Think in a typical week how many plain printed flyers you receive in the mail. What proportion of those are real estate related?

In today’s world, the average consumer spends more time interfacing with products displayed on a screen. By merging the AR experience with existing marketing processes, the property industry is perfectly poised to leapfrog the curve - and can expect to see some tangible benefits.

Market research in the UK has proven that an AR experience of a product increases buying consideration by more than 40 per cent and increases perceived product value by 60 per cent. By allowing people to experience 4D models of property developments through AR, we can engage all of a buyer’s senses, which in turn ensures maximum retention and recall of information over any other online or offline communications format.

Potential buyers can form kinaesthetic memories of walking through an apartment they are interested in buying, with so much freedom of movement and inspection that the apartment will already feel spatially familiar, the day they move in. 

Through using a combination of both traditional techniques such as printed brochures, and AR technology experienced through phones and tablets, a property buyer inter-state – or even at home in Shanghai, China – can access a fully interactive sales model, in-situ, from their coffee table.

But for property developers, AR isn’t just about creating an immersive user-experience, it’s also a valuable and insightful data-capture tool. Each time someone activates an experience, it is possible to collect a pool of consumer metrics that reveal who is looking at a development, where they are based, how long they looked at it for and which apartments they studied.

The fact that a literal “bricks and mortar” industry like property will be a fertile ground for the development of Augmented Reality is almost counterintuitive. However, as wearable technology and the Internet of Things connect our digital life more closely to the physical world around us, it is the architects of the physical world who will benefit the most from getting on the front foot of innovation.

David Francis is Head of Blue Star Interactive, which is the digital arm of Australias largest, most diverse print communications enterprise, Blue Star Group.

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