Industry must ‘lead charge’ on digital or get ‘left behind’

First National Real Estate has urged agents to take their digital strategies more seriously after reporting massive growth in its website and social media traffic.

The group said organic website traffic had increased by 350 per cent year-on-year since it launched its mobile-responsive national website in February 2014.

It also reported 62 per cent growth in the number of first-time customers and a 192 per cent increase in social media customer engagement.

First National chief executive Ray Ellis said the website answers the questions consumers are asking about real estate, which has helped drive a record-high number of property views.

Mr Ellis told Real Estate Business that one of the keys to implementing a successful digital strategy is to make it a fundamental part of the business.

Most offices are so busy with listing and selling that it can be easy to lose focus on digital marketing, he said.

Mr Ellis said the other key to digital success is to keep the systems simple, so agents will be willing to embrace change and will still have time to focus on sales.

“The way consumers interact with traditional organisations like real estate offices has radically changed in recent times,” he said.

“If we as an industry don’t lead that charge we’ll be left behind as we’ve been left behind with internet marketing of our properties.”

Mr Ellis said some agents were guilty of underestimating the value of social media in the same way that people once dismissed the importance of online listings.

“Social media is not a listing and selling tool; it’s a branding exercise as to how your brand and expertise gets known in your local community,” he said.

Mr Ellis’ warning came after another senior industry figure, John McGrath, said there was a limited life span for agents who refuse to master productivity-boosting technology.

“We think that the dinosaur agent that’s not embracing technology has really got only a couple of years to exist in this industry,” Mr McGrath said.

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