Lessons can be Learnt from Cyber Monday.

Did you survive Black Friday? The one-day event didn’t exist in the UK 5 years ago, now it’s a week-long sale phenomenon that has changed the way we shop for Christmas and how we are sold to. We can forget about that again for 51 weeks, today is Monday, or ‘Cyber Monday’ as it is now known.

For some reason it is the festive season when these days become tag-lines, don’t forget Mad Friday where binge drinking is expected and of course the traditional Boxing Day when post-Christmas blues and a month of hangovers kick-in.

Why have Black Friday and Cyber Monday become such hype-driven ‘events’? Because we love to label things. Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for retailers and to boost sales even more they overly-promote the ‘event’ with ‘exclusive’ deals that send shoppers into a frenzy. This year was a little less chaotic than the previous two as Black Friday was spread across a week (yet it’s still a Friday thing?) and many shoppers decided against fighting with fellow bargain hunters in the high-street, purchasing online instead.

If you didn’t manage to get all of your Christmas shopping with Black Friday discounts don’t worry, the deals don’t end there as Cyber Monday is the busiest days for online transactions and to celebrate that almost every online store has more deals going.

All of these sales makes you wonder what the real value of what you buy actually is? How can Argos sell a TV for one price then half it because it is ‘Black Friday’? Amazon, the biggest online only retailer undercut many of its high-street competitors all year round and they still manage to slash prices again and again whenever an opportunity crops up.

You might be wandering what this has got to do with the property industry, you can’t half your fees because of the time of year but you can offer value to the service you provide and it also highlights the importance of having an online presence.

The internet continues to become an essential platform to be on and if you aren’t there then you are missing out on some major opportunities, especially for lettings. You don’t need a gimmick to survive if you do things correctly.

There are two types of customers, ones who are price sensitive and ones who seek quality in your service.

Which customers do you want to entice?

Do you want to be the cheapest letting agent (with lower profit margins) or the best agent (with a great reputation)?

Take Amazon as an example, they were an early adaptor to e-commerce as they traded online-only, with little overheads they are able to give the best prices for their products which saw their high-street competitors to struggle. They offered an extensive range of products, at a good price but could they provide that personal service too? The internet has brought many great things but what it can lack is human interaction. You could go to Borders bookshop (RIP), browse their collection and ask staff for recommendations. At first with Amazon you searched their site, found what you were looking for (cheaper than what was on the high-street) and it was delivered to you. These days Amazon work like a personal service, using its 21 years of data and customer knowledge the site now recommends your next purchase for you, giving the customer a great experience whilst their profits increase.

Since the internet became an everyday tool the online v offline debate has rolled on in almost every industry and 2015 has been pretty feisty for property.

There are 3 camps here.

  1. The traditional high-street branch
  2. The online-only start-ups
  3. The forward-thinking hybrids.

Although many rules apply across every industry (business supplies consumer with a service/product which they then pay for) it isn’t as simply when a property is involved. Generally, people don’t move house as often as they buy from an e-commerce store, the cost per transaction differs greatly and the legalities make it more complex. Things are changing and it will be consumer behaviour which will define how the situation rolls out.

The pros of the established high-street agent are trust, their expertise, reputation and knowledge but these things come at a cost. For those looking to save on fees then the online-only agents are gradually becoming more relevant and they are able to compete with the services that those with years’ experience can provide, but it’s still early days…

The hybrid agents are both visible on the high-street and online giving the best of both worlds, providing the consumer with choice. easyProperty recently staged a PR event claiming that the high-street agent is dead, it isn’t, it probably won’t do, it’s just changing.

The property industry is and for the foreseeable run by a generation who didn’t grow up with computers, it will be only then that online agents will become the norm like Amazon, ASOS and Uber have become. Although they can undercut their traditional competitors on price, they remain successful because of the service they provide. If easyProperty, Tepilo or eMoov continue to evolve then there is no reason that they can’t compete, it just takes time. Building a high-street agent up doesn’t happen over night, doing so online is no different.

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