UK House Building Digital Advertising Foundations and Future

UK House Building Digital Advertising Foundations and Future

This summer our Head of Digital – Jon Clarke published his take on the UK House Building Digital Advertising Foundations and Future

For years the House Building industry has relied on traditional media to sell its new homes, however the meteoric rise of digital media opportunities is making many in the business rethink their marketing output on how best to target, pursue, talk to and convert new buyers.

The one stop portal listing and email campaign is now just part of a much larger mix with the emphasis not only on displaying a property, but also informing, engaging and creating relationships with current customers and possible new buyers. To do this house builders are employing various search engine optimisation tactics for their own websites first, together with paid search, as in Google Adwords, a mix of property portals, targeted email, social media platforms, a greater reliance on images and video and even some opting for affiliate advertising schemes and mobile/app media opportunities.

Rightmove, dominant for so long still takes the largest slice of the advertising cake. It’s a position that is being eroded as agencies and advertisers look for greater more effective value in targeting the same audience across the Net. The opportunities are many and various.

House builders are improving their website offerings themselves, mobile and tablet friendly sites being the greatest improvement due to the rapid increase in visitors accessing their properties via these platforms. The future is very much more a mobile web.

Internet marketing is, in the main, being used to target buyers locally and/or by their profiles. The measurement of results is very much web traffic biased, quantity over quality, and this in turn is the basis for many advertisers to pursue their goals for leads and reservations. Perhaps this will become more quality based in the future, but for now it’s a currency they can use, with their desire to create a Cost Per Reservation metric that they can pin their colours to (although in reality there are far more variables in play in a possible customer’s journey to that reservation than just even the digital elements).

So what are the best platforms and how should one spread one’s media budgets? Agencies are under increasing pressure to not only plan the best media, but the added complexities of the digital media formats, their ever increasing technology and measurement software and constant analysis with in-depth reports required makes their jobs even more work intensive and specialist. Harnessing all this gives agencies the perfect overview of the prospective customers’ journey and the placements to engage them.

Property portals – the first stop for many house builders – range from the high volume/high price Rightmove, to the lower volume/lower price What House, Smart and New Homes For Sale. All these offer a vertical audience, and the cost per response tends to even out. (You get what you pay for!)
What’s most important to the client, especially when spending a lot of money on “highly targeted” data, is a good conversion rate from the initial clicks through to a tangible lead. So portals take note; It’s more important than ever to ensure that databases are cleansed regularly, that they really think about the clients target audience and geographical locations before providing an email count, and most importantly to ensure that all emails are properly tagged with the client’s tracking links, thus giving the client the ability to fairly judge the true performance of the email campaign.

Consumers online don’t all go to portals of course. The vast majority start their journey at Google’s door and access these sites via the natural Google search results or click on a paid for search ad (Adwords). Indeed if a developer has a new development or a website not ranking well for a particular location then Google Adwords should absolutely be on their schedule. A buyer is looking every minute of every day; not being visible is a lost opportunity. Google’s Adwords and larger Display Ad Network where ads are served to smaller property sites, sections and pages of local newspapers, blogging sites, YouTube and 100s of thousands of other sites via many targeting solutions bought on a Cost Per Click basis, and are a staple for most property advertisers.

Media plans normally place Google Paid Search first, Property Portals second (there is a lot of regional variation for all portals on which works best, where, and for what). The consumer researches lots of sites over several sessions; they will search Rightmove, Zoopla, Findaproperty and all the rest that come up in their initial local Google searches. If budgets are tight then invest only in the best most cost efficient provider.

Facebook has gate crashed the party in these past few years. Houses have been sold from the small image and text ads, and what Facebook affords a developer is low cost targeted traffic, and with the added bonus of shareable ‘Like’ buttons on the developer’s websites, their brands are being introduced to so many more people across the land. Facebook for agencies, just like Google, is now becoming highly specialised due to the continued multiple offerings and ways the data and content on the site can be mined and optimised.

‘Social’ is a word more whispered in the building fraternity than championed. It doesn’t tick the ‘Selling Houses’ box for many and is therefore underused and less understood. However, it’s a platform that the majority of the UK adult population engages in and utilises every day. It’s both informative and more importantly generates a huge amount of recommendations and link content loved by all the major search engines and therefore helps to rank better the house builders’ websites and microsites. The medium is in its infancy, but nevertheless its cross platform nature and utilisation within both the mainstream media and local communities means that many house builders will have to grasp the nettle to start growing a ‘Like’ and ‘Follower’ database or lose out to more creative and fleet of foot competitors . It’s more a tortoise than a hare, but just like the fable, those that slowly grow and invest will reap the rewards not only in engaging and influencing an audience, but also better integrating it within all their advertising promotions and learn lessons others will fail at time and time again.

Mobile is the future, the platform – be it smartphone or tablet- will outstrip PC and laptop use within 2 years and this brings challenges in not just how to display data, (images etc), but also the ways and moments in time consumers are using it. Not one media provider will be king; search, portal, social, email etc will all be there on the tablet/phone and the savvy media company will have specialists in all these to provide the best blend, price and creative execution.

House Builders know great foundations and architecture create enduring beautiful homes and many are now implementing this into their digital strategies; investing in digital marketing both internally and externally, resourcing better hardware and software, hiring talent and leading agency exponents of the medium all helps them understand the fast evolving and ever technical medium to its full.

The (near) future: the advertising opportunities in the marketplace will grow, the buying costs in many cases decrease; the portals will need to show more value as Google, Facebook, Mobile and Social offer greater ROI; ad agencies need client support and house builders will need to embrace the medium with larger budgets. Data will be championed, but the best results will not be price lead; those that are the most creative and engaging will win hearts and minds, sell houses and create a secure future.

Space & Time Media
UK’s largest property media buying specialist advertising agency.

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