Technology: making life as an agent easier – Part I: how are your clients embracing tech?

smartphone payments

Technology: can it make your life as an agent easier?  Read the first in our series to find out how tech is impacting you and your customers…

The rate of technological change will never be slower than today.  It took thirty years to connect the first two billion people and it will take only eight years to connect the next two billion.  This level of connectivity will empower even more new consumer behaviours, and we are starting to see the effects of that today.

With the recent launch of the new portal On the Market, there’s never been more talk about the growth and potential of online and the way customers are using it to find properties to rent or buy. As consumers embrace technology more and more to get property information at their fingertips, keeping abreast of how your potential clients are using tech will mean you stay ahead of the game.

Smartphone ownership

Remember those far-off days when you were the only person who had a smartphone, and it seemed like everyone else had a clunky mobile phone? You were the one who could pick up email and even browse the web a bit, or run apps you’d downloaded from an online store.

But now seems like everyone has got one, and what was unusual has become commonplace. In the UK smartphones are approaching saturation point, and it’s predicted that by the end of 2015, smartphone penetration will be approximately 80% of the total mobile phone market.

What does this growth mean?  We know consumers keep their mobile devices nearby, check them frequently, and occasionally use multiple devices at once. In a recent survey 85% of people said that mobile devices are a central part of everyday life, and in the 18-24 age group it’s around 90%.  Mobility is indispensable in the digital age, and our mobile devices are portals through which we connect with everything and everyone. Whether it’s a tablet or, more typically, our smartphones, these mobile devices give us access to our social and business lives on demand.  A strong online presence, whether that be with the main portals, your own website (with a good mobile-optimised version), a mobile app for consumers to access your property listings, or your social media channels, has never been more important.  Companies delivering on the demand for good information (or content) will win.

Taking and making payments

There are more and more mobile-friendly payment schemes coming into force, and this is one to watch as it becomes a more regular way to transact.

More banks are signing up to the Payments Council’s Paym scheme which allows consumers to complete monetary transactions with a mobile phone. Some customers can receive Paym payments now and will be able to send them in mid-2015.

The service launched in April 2014 and so far 1.6 million customers have registered their mobile number with their bank or building society to receive payments through Paym.  Paym is integrated into customers’ existing mobile banking or payment apps as an additional way to pay, making it possible to send and receive payments to friends and family using just a mobile number.

What does this mean? Friends can now pay money to each other directly into each others bank accounts just their mobile number.  You don’t need a smartphone to receive payments and you still receive the money if your phone is off or out of coverage.  As the system uses the payment provider’s existing mobile banking to send a Paym payment, users will get the same security protection and speed of payment  At the moment up to £250 a day can be sent through Paym, although some of the participating organisations offer a higher daily limit.

PayPal has also announced a deal with Shell UK whereby drivers will be able to pay using their phone at the pump after filling up their cars. Following a trial period Shell and PayPal are ready to take the scheme nationwide in the UK later this year through apps on Android and iOS store, enabling mobile app payments at 1,000 Shell stations across the country.

Also Google is expanding Google Wallet’s integration with Gmail, meaning that people in the UK will now be able to securely send money to friends and family in the UK directly within desktop Gmail – even if the recipient doesn’t have a Gmail address. The free service will be seamlessly integrated into Gmail, with users simply needing to click the £ icon to attach money to their message, enter the amount they wish to send, and pressing send.

This could mean that tenants and contractors in particular will use virtual payment methods in the not too distant future to pay their bills and deposits instantly, and equally will expect to receive funds due in this way.

Wearing ‘Wearable Tech’

There’s a lot of talk in the media about new ‘wearable tech’ products, and this will definitely be a growth area in the future, and yet another device that consumers will use to access information online.

Over 1.5 million wearable bands were shipped in the UK during calendar year 2014.  At the moment this market is very much aimed towards fitness enthusiasts, with Fitbit leading the way in the UK with a 45% market share.

The Apple Watch is due to launch in April 2015 in the UK, and will fuse fashion with a wider connected experience, outside of just the fitness market.  Swatch is also planning to introduce its own line of smartwatch devices in the next three months. It will also let users make mobile payments and is claimed to work with Windows and Android.

So what does this mean?  There could be implications for even smaller, more compact mobile-optimised websites, and the need for more ‘bite-sized’ bits of information about a brand or company that can be shared on these types of small-screen devices.

So how do you approach the tech revolution in your office for potential vendors, landlords and tenants?  More and more consumers are expecting a ‘connected everywhere’ experience, and this now extends to coffee shops, retail outlets and bars.  Are you providing wifi services in your office so that customers can check emails and browse the latest properties available, whether that be on their own devices or through a tablet in your office?

This also extends to the properties that will be purchased and rented.  Broadband connectivity is an expected given in most properties these days, and with the growth of superfast fibre broadband this is only set to continue, so property owners need to be geared up to expect this.  Also mobile signals are still a challenge in some areas; whilst most cities are fully 4G-enabled, other towns and cities are on 3G and in many rural locations 3G isn’t available.  Lack of a decent mobile phone signal can be enough of a reason for people to move house, so although this is not something a vendor or landlord has control over, it may affect the time it takes to rent or sell a property.

In summary, you can’t afford to be left behind as your new generation of customers are immersed in this continuing digital revolution.

TouchRight Software are exhibiting in 3 weeks time at the Annual ARLA Conference in London on Tues 31 March (stand 42).  If you’re planning to attend why not drop by for a quick demo to see how you can make your property reporting even easier?  Get in touch on 01904 390109 or via email [email protected]

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