Viewed by many as too futuristic, augmented reality may finally be coming of age in the real estate industry, writes Starr Partners CEO Douglas Driscoll

THE RAPID evolution and widespread adoption of new digital platforms has started to change the way in which property is marketed. The prevalence of smartphones and tablets has created the need for a more holistic approach to marketing property, with a heightened emphasis on engaging with your audience through the right channel at the right time. We now have to seriously consider including cross-channel marketing, and this inevitably involves more digital engagement.

Traditional real estate marketing campaigns usually centre on a ‘one-and-done’ approach, where agents reach out to a limited target audience once, via a newspaper advert or a ‘just listed’ mailer, and move on. The advent of digital marketing has seen these print-related methods become increasingly ineffective; digital marketing has more longevity and ubiquity.

Consumers no longer simply have offline or online needs. They are now looking for integrated brand experiences. We need to focus on creating a marketing mix combining different channels. Each new touch point generates new customer experiences, more interaction and higher expectations.

Where possible, we now need to consider fusing the physical world with the digital world. One emerging method is through the use of ‘augmented reality’.

Augmented reality is set to have a big impact on the digital landscape, blurring the lines between what’s real and what is digitally generated. In layman’s terms, augmented reality is a digital layer over the real world that you can’t see with the naked eye, but you can see with the camera on your smartphone or tablet.

Augmented reality may seem like a futuristic concept, but it is set to become a reality in our digital lives over the coming months. Companies such as Google, Apple, Samsung and even Disney have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this field and are all due to launch large-scale augmented reality-based products or services before the end of this year.

A large national franchise is already using a rudimentary form of augmented reality in the marketing of its listings. And they are not alone. Some of Australia’s largest property portals and banks have also successfully leveraged GPS-centric augmented reality in their smartphone apps.

At Starr Partners, we have been trialing a more sophisticated version of the technology, with some very impressive early results. As smartphones continue to proliferate, we believe that delivering convenient, relevant and real-time experiences has become increasingly important, and is something that consumers are starting to expect, rather than simply wish for.

New augmented reality software is set to transform traditional static advertising content, bringing it to life. For example, by simply pointing a smartphone’s viewfinder at a traditional ‘for sale’ board, the technology will overlay video and any other relevant content pertaining to the promotion of the property. The camera can also derive information from the surrounding landscape, and then provide directions and information about what’s nearby.

The future of augmented reality in our industry is unknown, but whether we like it or not, dependency on technology calls for bigger, better, faster, more efficient and visually exciting ways to access information.

Understandably, most real estate agents are starting to place a lot more emphasis on the utilisation of technology, but with all of this added complexity, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose sight of the big picture. We can’t afford to neglect the traditional methods of property promotion.

Given the diverse nature of the target audience, the key to any successful marketing campaign is still to raise awareness of a property, irrespective of which channels you choose to use.

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