It would have been an interesting sight.
An agent, sitting in their car across from their shopfront, avidly watching passers-by.
Well, that’s what Elizabeth Treonze, of Elizabeth Treonze Real Estate in Berwick, Victoria, did not long after she installed a new digital display system. She simply wanted to see what impact, if any, the new system would have on people passing her front window.
She was impressed, and not only with the number of locals who had a glance at her listings. It was the spread of age groups that had a glance; at least in her case, digital displays didn’t just grab the attention of younger people.
Digital displays are certainly different to card-based listing systems, and an increasing number of real estate agencies across the country are making the switch. But why?
Staying ahead of the trend will differentiate your business from competitors, giving you an advantage in a challenging market.
This is what Sam Bonkowski, chief executive of iVisual, says when principals and business owners ask him what is fast becoming a common question - ‘why should I make the switch?’
“Digital technology is not a passing trend. It is here to stay,” Mr Bonkowski says.
“We live in a digital era and therefore buyers communicate better with digital media and visual communication. A digital window display is the best way to communicate a message which says ‘we are an advanced real estate agency’.”
Ms Treonze agrees. She feels the feel and style of her agency has changed, helping to separate her business from the competition.
“I wanted my agency to maintain a friendly boutique feel, yet have state of the art technology that highlights the agency’s professionalism and service offering,” she says.
“I was the first in the area to install digital displays and the feedback from vendors and other real estate agents has been fantastic.”
THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
The displays appear to attract interest from people of all ages.
“Vendors in their late 70s have approached me, wanting to know whether I can display their home in such a way,” says Ms Treonze.
Moreover, digital displays appear to have a place in most markets.
According to Raymond Fadel, principal of Raine & Horne Sans Souci, in NSW, his largely middle to high-end property clientele seem to respond to the digital displays.
“Without a doubt our business has increased since we refurbished our office and installed the digital signage in our window front,” he says.
“We have seen the best results coming from buyers who enjoy the ability to view nearly every room of the house in our office prior to stepping inside the listing.”
But it’s not just city-based agencies who are reporting good results from digital displays.
iVisual provides digital display systems to agencies across the country, although they have found higher uptake in the nation’s lower-priced and regional markets.
“We find we are more successful in the lower [priced] markets and country areas than those inner city areas such as [Sydney’s] Double Bay,” Mr Bonkowski says.
Belinda Fischer, principal of First National Real Estate Port Macquarie, on the NSW mid north coast, says she had no hesitation in installing a digital display system.
“In a country with a large population of older residents, I do understand why some agents may be cautious about making the switch,” she says.
“But given the fact that 70 per cent of all enquires are made online, we had no hesitation,” evidence, she says, of the switch by consumers to technology-based platforms. The signs have become an effective tool for listing properties and branding our business.”
NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE
Agents using the new technology are quick to stress that window displays aren’t just about having the prettiest window on the block.
There are some serious practical advantages inherent in the new technology.
While Mr Fadel admits the initial drive to install digital displays was based on market appeal, he now has an even better understanding of the business advantages of his decision.
“As soon as we list a property online it will appear automatically in our window as ‘for sale’, and the moment the property has been sold, the digital board will update itself instantly.
“Everything is linked and this saves us the time of having to order print boards, wait for them to arrive, and then set them up in the window.”
In addition to saving time, principals and business owners have the ability to engage with potential clients across multiple platforms.
“Our office is located along a popular restaurant strip, so the more interactive our signs are, the better. We use music, pictures and video to ensure our listing are not just interactive but entertaining as well,” Mr Fadel says.
Ms Treonze has used the addition of digital displays to boost the agency’s service offering to potential vendors.
“When I deal with a potential listing I tell them that I can display different rooms, gardens, floor plans and other images or information across various screens at the same time.”
Ms Fischer says this is a key benefit. “Digital displays give our agents the opportunity to sell vendors the idea of having up to 10 different pictures of the home presented at the same time.”
Ben Fisher, managing director of Crystal Displays, believes principals and business owners should focus more attention on marketing the business itself.
“Everybody knows real estate is a people industry, and everyone knows the agency’s shop front window is only there to gather attention from potential buyers and listings,” Mr Fisher says. “So, realistically, we look at ways agents can market their brand and staff to vendors.”
“People generally buy things from people they know, respect and trust. This is why I suggest agents focus more on marketing the personalised aspects of themselves and the business.”
Mr Fisher says agents should design their shop front window in a way that educates passers-by of the agency’s personality. A combination of team and agent profiles, including photos, coupled with local market information and office branding, should feature in the display.
WINDOW SIZE AND POSITION
Agents need to acknowledge the location of the shop front prior to making the switch, says Splash Displays managing director, Tristan Lovell.
“For instance, if the office is located alongside a main road that experiences a lot of drive by traffic, a much larger digital sign will be used to grab as much attention as possible in a shorter period of time,” he says.
“But if your office is exposed to large amounts of walk by traffic, then a touch screen system that allows potential vendors and buyers to interact with the system is far better.”
The size of an agency’s shop front window can make a difference as well, Starr Partners Real Estate chief executive Douglas Driscoll says.
In a window with limited space, a digital display is the most effective way to list properties, he says.
But if the window and shop front is quite large, traditional sign boards can still be a good way to display multiple homes.
Matthew Carpenter, associate director of Starr Partners Merrylands/Pemulwuy, has found success in combining both print and digital displays in his shopfront window.
Mr Carpenter admits that the digital screens are the attraction of the office; however serious buyers still prefer the card-based displays.
“The digital displays are good in attracting people, but 90 per cent of our sales come from the still print displays,” he says.
In the not too distant future, however, you’ll be able to combine both via digital photo boards. Mr Fisher says these should be available as early as January next year.
Given the various forms and capabilities of digital display systems, prices can vary greatly.
However, there are ways principals and business owners can jazz up their window front without breaking the bank.
Mr Lovell says agencies can chose from a range of products including a 42” touch screen, or even a larger four-panel landscape matrix for under $600 a month.
But best of all, agencies are finding that vendors are willing to share some of the costs to ensure their properties are listed and displayed in the finest way possible, he says.
Additional costs, such as new software updates, will need to be factored in over the longer term.