Who is the customer of your real estate brand? The answer to this question, says Anthony Hitt, president and CEO of Engel & Völkers Americas, was the driving force behind the development of the company’s newly launched website for the Americas, evrealestate.com.
It is also one of the main challenges facing the industry in the digital age. Real estate brands, he says, whether they want to admit it or not, build sites that are interesting and exciting to the brokers who are paying for them or the agents that they are trying to recruit.
But “that is not necessarily consistent with what the consumer is looking for or what the consumer wants,” says Hitt. His view is backed by extensive research the company conducted through several focus groups.
While he recognizes that real estate brokers and advisors are vital stakeholders of a realty’s brand, “it ultimately has to be about the consumer,” he says.
The launch of the website was announced in a news release that states “the website brings together the company’s U.S., Canada, Mexico and Caribbean network onto the integrated platform consisting of new brokerage and advisor level sites, all intuitively designed for today’s consumer journey when buying or selling a home.”
Founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1977, Engel & Völkers has gained considerable international repute as a global luxury real estate and lifestyle brand that currently operates in 150 worldwide locations with upwards of 3,000 real estate advisors (agents are referred to as advisors in the company). It has 11,000 real estate professionals in more than 30 countries.
The company’s new website promises a superior search experience, which along with the usual trimmings taps into an extensive and proprietary in-house data repository known as Engel & Völkers Intelligence or EVI. With the help of EVI, the new website for the Americas aims to put the consumer in the driver’s seat. “One of the ways we do that, for instance, is on a listing,” says Hitt.
Research supports claims that a neighbourhood is just as important as the house in the decision-making process of a buyer. Drawing upon this fact, the biggest feature of the new Engel & Völkers site is its ability to provide a “hyper-local neighbourhood focus” to the buyer. When Canadians pull up a property listing on the new website, they will have access to the property’s entire profile including days on the market, its listing history, listing brand, whether the price is trending up or down, how it compares to other properties selling in its neighbourhood, school information, commute times and walkability scores.
In an era when more agents are specializing less, says Hitt, and chasing any deal, no matter what the situation is, Engel & Völkers advisors pride themselves “on being hyper-local experts with a focus on market specialization within all that we represent globally,” says Jill DeSilva, senior vice president of marketing, Engel & Völkers Americas.
Depending on the market, buyers will also be able to connect with agents either via direct chat, a phone call or an online contact form.
“There’s no stopping information. Information is there. It’s always been there and it’s going to be coming at a much more rapid pace. We want to be the source of that actionable information for the buyer,” Hitt says.
For realty teams and individual agents, the new web platform provides advanced features for CRM capabilities, lead generation, content management and a personalized dashboard to drive strategy. Agents will also have access to the company’s Extensive Domestic & Global Exposure (EDGE) – a listing distribution system that provides unprecedented reach to agents and advisors wanting to showcase their property in front of qualified consumers, no matter what its geographic location.
“A lot of agents and brokers are dismissive because in their mind it’s just another syndication program or just another way to list things out in the universe,” says Hitt. But in Canada, he added, the industry and consumers have been much more proficient in asking questions about how the privacy of that listing information is protected. He says EDGE has safeguards in place to protect clients’ privacy.
Engel & Völkers Americas’ Canadian future is to expand “thoughtfully and strategically”, keeping their luxury brand front and centre. The company has shops in 32 locations spanning Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec. “Our only challenge with our growth,” says Hitt, “is that we are highly selective of the brokers we associate with and the advisors that we bring on board. A lot of brands believe that more is better. We’re a brand that believes better is better.”
With the launch of the new website, Engel & Völkers Americas is extending its bespoke, white glove client experience to its growing online audience. “Its design showcases our advisors’ local neighbourhood expertise and helps them stand out in their markets,” says Hitt.
While live, the new web platform isn’t, by any measure, a final version. Like any software product, it will continue to evolve, based on newer data, insights and technology.