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How is digital changing the real estate game?

Digital has played a pivotal role in shortening the time cycle of property purchase process by making the much-needed market intelligence available to those who need it the most.

“Digital is a great leveler. It has made information available to one and all at the same time. This has helped consumers  make more informed and confident decisions,” Sheldon Fernandez (pictured), country manager Malaysia of online property portal PropertyGuru.com, told A+M.

Marketing a real estate brand today is no longer just about providing an easily accessible directory of real estate listings, but to make accessible valuable information such as comparative pricing, transaction prices, financing, price per square feet, public feedback and comments and so on, he explained.

Making key information that was once hidden, available for the customers, helps them make the best decision possible, thereby enabling a seamless transaction.

Digital, according to Fernandez, has demystified the property hunting process. “There’s a level playing field out there now, which is aiding decision-making especially for first-time home buyers or those not too savvy with the industry and the processes,” he said.

The property portal aims to tap into the interactive and dynamic nature of digital to shift property search and buying from a static activity into one that empowers the buyer. Moreover, it continues to provide an eco-system that brings buyers and real estate developers closer.

How does PropertyGuru market itself?

Sheldon is of the view that despite the greatness of the medium, digital should not be the sole focus when expanding the business’ reach.

For PropertyGuru, the balance between conventional and digital mediums has helped to expand the brand’s presence.

“Our strong presence in various outdoor media, at roadshows, forums, customer engagement sessions and much more have helped us tremendously. Buses are a top draw for us as they have strong visibility with good return on investment (ROI),” Fernandez said.

Expanding its offline presence includes partnerships with various media. For example, the  company works with both traditional print and broadcast media and digital publications to ensure excellent ROI not just for news coverage, but also in building relationships and partnerships that benefit all parties.

For public relations, PropertyGuru works with PR agency Mustard Tree Communications which helps to oversee its media and communications strategy.

“We have invested in marketing and branding as we continue to leverage on both online and offline media to bring our message across,” he said, adding that marketing strategies differ for each country.

For instance, in Thailand, billboards are a big part of the company’s marketing while in Malaysia, buses are more integral to its marketing mix. “The integrated strategy is important as people often consume both conventional and digital media. Having such a presence expands our reach and also doubles it – to reinforce confidence in people,” Fernandez said.

In Singapore, it says it will continue to innovate by introducing new products and features as well as continuing to engage with audiences. Most recently, it launched a market profile document –  an initiative along with its emerging markets roadshow – to provide buyers with more information on the various types of opportunities available outside the usual sphere of investment for property buyers.

The latest initiative creates more visibility for other ASEAN markets that investors may not have explored. “This is very relevant for many who are looking for alternatives outside of their local markets such as Singapore and Malaysia,” Fernandez said.

As for Malaysia, PropertyGuru find it to be a more open market and has identified gaps that it aims to fill.

One of the ways it is building its base in Malaysia and gaining market share is via partnerships. Some partnership plans are in the pipeline, Fernandez told A+M.

Catering to the needs of buyers in the Malaysia market, PropertyGuru introduced ‘Mortgage Marketplace’ – a tool which allows users to find and compare home financing so they are able to decide on the most suitable housing loan is for them.

Moving ahead, PropertyGuru will continue to invest in three key areas of innovation, marketing and branding and talent.

“Digital ad spend in developing markets such as Malaysia is still trailing behind developed markets, but will eventually catch up as more people choose digital as their go-to medium for various reasons,” he said.

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