The Rhoad Less Traveled
Trends in digital marketing that people should be talking about but are not
Builders, Are You Ready to Sell Your Homes Online?
Early on in the pandemic, homebuilders had to quickly rethink the process of how a buyer purchases a home.
Most took steps to make information more available online, adding virtual tours, virtual meetings and virtually anything to make it easier for prospects to view home designs, tour models, set appointments and more.
Because of this pandemic-adapted state, the homebuilding industry is now seeing an increased need for home purchasing to be done online. Many builders have begun responding to this growing need by developing, testing and implementing e-commerce “BUY NOW” functions on their websites.
Consider Gen Z Home Buyers
Statistics show that currently, 80% of Gen-Z buyers want the majority of their purchasing to be available online – and that number is expected to grow. With the oldest Gen-Z buyers nearing 25, builders are adapting their thinking – and their websites – to be ready for the not-so-distant future.
As this generation ages into homebuying, builders will have an even greater reason to sell homes virtually online. If you are a homebuilder considering selling on your website, below are steps to get the process started.
Step 1: Determine What is “BUY NOW” to Your Company
The best place to start is to identify what buying level is comfortable for you and then determine what you want to include in your selling process.
A builder’s e-commerce (BUY NOW) system can range from simple to complex. One builder may elect to only take deposits online, whereas another might be more aggressive and include the entire sales process.
An example of a basic BUY NOW system could simply be for a buyer to pick a home design, choose a homesite and then place a deposit. Additional levels can be added later such as selecting options, choosing finishes or even procuring a mortgage online.
Adding BUY NOW functions in stages gives you the ability to adjust and learn as you go.
Step 2: Create and Update Online Assets
Once you have decided what your BUY NOW process will be, the next is to think through each step your potential home buyer will take and if your current materials satisfy their needs.
As you go through the process, if you hit any roadblocks, decide what additional assets (photos, tours, videos, etc.) need to be created to keep your prospect moving closer to the BUY NOW button.
Many builders have existing Matterport or virtual tours of their models to help buyers choose their home designs. Beyond that, how will users see the lots they are purchasing? How will customizations be communicated? Eliminating guess-work is important for a buyer to complete a sale.
For example, a builder offering lush 3-acre homesites might consider individual drone videos for each. Or, if you will be including the ability to select options, a sunroom could benefit from a 3-D rendering, but an option such as extra outlets may not need anything additional. Clear assets are key to keeping the e-commerce process moving, especially in the homebuilding world.
Keep in mind that people are actually purchasing online. Any ambiguity may lead to an abandoned purchase. The better you present each step of the process, the more likely the homebuyer will complete their purchase.
Step 3: Plan Beyond the Website
Creating a BUY NOW platform entails more than building the program and posting it online.
Beyond your website, it’s critical to think through what will happen once a user taps on or clicks the BUY NOW button. A process to handle the next steps needs to be in place before launching an e-commerce system online.
Look closely at how your new process will integrate with both your CRM system and your staff. For example, when a buyer purchases a lot, what comes next? Will your CRM send an auto-confirmation or will a salesperson reach out with a more personal, confirmation email?
More in-depth thinking comes into play with actions such as handling a selection that is not in stock or issuing a cancellation refund.
Step 4: Test, Test and Test Again
Once you have launched your new BUY NOW platform, it’s time to dive into your analytics – then test, test and test some more. Early on and often, look for trends in the purchasing process to see what is and is not working.
Use your tracking to follow the path a user takes. Identify places they stall or drop off, then make changes to your system as you uncover this data. Continue to analyze, test, and update until your buying process is streamlined.
A significant amount of set-up in your analytics program will be needed to implement an e-commerce system. Be sure to have it set up before you launch so tracking is accurate from the start. With the proper analytics in place, testing becomes easy.
Beyond your website analytics, heatmaps can be valuable tools to gain more in-depth information about your buyers’ habits. Heatmaps follow users’ eyes as they view an individual page vs. tracking the entire buying process. There are a number of online companies that provide heatmap services when you are ready to take your analytics to the next level.
Step 5: Remember, This Has Been Done Before
There are now an estimated 20 million e-commerce sites in the world. As you pace through building your BUY NOW capability, keep in mind that it is essentially an e-commerce website.
Looking closely at existing e-commerce setups can be both insightful and time-saving. Start with the familiar big giants of e-commerce like Amazon and Walmart. Also, well-known companies like Tesla or CarMax who have mastered selling large purchases online, are worth a look.
As you examine these sites, you’ll get a feel for what will and won’t work and decide what each company does right (or wrong) for your specific BUY NOW e-commerce setup.
Step 6: Connect Your Ad to Your Buyer
Builders have been frustrated for years with the inability to track a specific marketing source to an individual buyer.
Current analytics only track your prospects until they walk in the door, and not to the final home sale. Did your homebuyer see your ad on Google or Facebook? Or maybe it was an Instagram post or a retargeting ad online?
Unlike when people come into your model, with a BUY NOW system you will know exactly the source, ad, keyword, etc. that each purchase came from. This level of information can provide powerful insight for future sales and marketing decisions.
"100 terms on page 1 of Google in under 3 months – and home sales are soaring!"