Focus should be on creating loyal communities, not loyal customers alone – Ravi Gurav

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Traditionally, the Real Estate industry in India has been designing units as per their convenience irrespective of the requirements of the end users and end users were left with the options of choosing what suited their needs the best from the available inventory. To a point, the developer did not care and had two strong reasons for that: first, the gap in the demand & supply of residential units and secondly, a home is a once in a life time purchase. A buyer was more keen to close the deal than the developer as inventory available was limited and second home was not even a consideration. All the selling that the developer required was to create awareness about the project and advertise across all available mediums & channel partners were the two major aspects for selling the projects.

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Over the period, the escalation in the cost of projects, disparity in income to expenditure, the world economic recession and the infinite delay in completion & delivery of projects led to many probable buyers becoming fence sitters hoping for their investment security, price advantage and opting to invest in completed projects only. The cost of customer acquisition rose drastically on the grounds of advertising and channel partner incentives but developers could hardly maximise the conversions of prospective buyers.

The concept of second homes, week-end homes and end consumers becoming RE investors with purchase of second units for rental purpose or investing in plots for future usage has garnered favourable response due to the small entry cost and availability of finance. Advertising still remains the main point of communiqué. In the current situation, a single walk in enquiry costs a developer nearly 1%-2% of a unit and your project is one the many he will recee prior to the finalization process. But is there a Brand engagement? Will advertising alone help sell the project? Will channel partners help seal the deal? Or are there other parameters that can help convert a walk-in or an existing investor into a potential buyer for another project?

The focus has always been to sell. But in the traditional pathway, your encounter with a potential buyer has been a select individual connect for a specific project and the consume experience would vary from likeness, affordability to brand experience. And post that, all is lost.

The missing link is BRAND RELATIONSHIP. We do not try and forge a brand relationship. A current possible buyer can be a potent investor in future too. But as a brand, do we just connect to sell or are we influencing him with brand promise & delivery even after he has invested or not invested in any of our projects.

Relationship Marketing is all about consumer focus and long term engagement building to influence brand perception and belief. It stems on the belief of brand promise and brand delivery. This relationship should border on the expectations of our potential & existing buyers turning into our brand advocates.

Real Estate has moved from selling units to selling services beyond the expectations of the end users and this extension is not limited to the buyer as an individual but involves his entire family. And the more is not merrier if we are not able to extend the same brand belief and experience to the whole family.

The second major important change in the industry is the impact of multi-media providing information, opinions and perception on projects & developers from other consumers and walk-ins. All possible news, personal & shared experiences and beliefs are now available online to encourage or deter any potential end user. How do we change perception?

A long term strategy designed and developed with consumer centric interests involving planned participation across important focus areas building on a consumer community where in suggestions are incorporated to provide improved product delivery is the call of the hour. And this participation should be extended internally to brand custodians and channel partners to have a complete buy-in of the process.

The entire process should be designed to create loyal communities rather than just loyal customers.