Online agencies are now considered by many to be the biggest rival of the traditional high street lettings business. Love them or loathe them, there’s no denying there are some things that online agencies do very well - from their around-the-clock availability to clever branding that resonates with their audience - and progressive High Street agencies are beginning to adopt some of these strategies to get an edge on their online competition.
If a customer sees a property they’re interested in on your website, they want to be able to contact you or book a viewing immediately, no matter what time of day or night it might be. This doesn’t mean you need to be physically manning your enquiries at all hours of the night - you can achieve this by implementing technology such as chat or online bookings on your website. The key is to make it as easy and convenient as possible for potential customers to take action - for example, by booking a property viewing or requesting more info on your fees.
This is an area where online agencies excel - but traditional agencies are starting to catch up. Debbie Franklin oversaw the introduction of live chat on the Andrews Property Group website. “We found 45% of live chat enquiries were coming out of hours - we were capturing customers who couldn’t interact with us at another time. About 40% of those enquiries were from brand new customers.”
Marketing that goes above and beyond
Online agencies are exceptionally good at marketing not only their properties, but also themselves. One of the reasons they’re so effective at advertising is they know exactly who their audience is - typically younger, digitally-savvy customers - what their audience wants and how they want to be spoken to. Love it or loathe it, take Purplebricks’ tongue-in-cheek “Commisery” series, for example, which promotes the agency’s low fees, service - and makes the audience laugh while they’re at it. “At the end of the day, an online agency’s website does nothing that’s really different to what your website can do, but they’ve marketed it in a different way,” says David Thomas of Liberty Gate in Nottingham.
Rethinking the High Street office
Online agencies - naturally - don’t require a high street office, but other innovative agencies are also starting to rethink whether it’s worth paying for a prime position on the high street. Settio Property Experience in Manchester chose to locate in a contemporary shared office space (complete with foosball tables), citing the low foot traffic on the high street as a key factor in the decision.
“Nobody looks for a property on the high street anymore, so stop spending money on an office that isn’t necessary,” says co-founder Samuel Fitz-Hugh. “We have clients in Manchester who will have been shopping around for an agency, then they come and see us and their kid plays foosball while we’re chatting with them over a beer - it’s just different. It’s nice and it’s more personal.”
They know what they’re good at - and they stick to it
Low fees are what set most online agencies apart from many of their High Street competitors. Online agencies’ entire businesses are built around this value proposition - from their low operating costs, which are necessary to keep their fees so low, to their marketing, which is always focused on their fees. They’re not trying to offer a premium service at the same time - they know what they do best and their customers know what to expect. High Street agencies need to ensure they’re focusing on what they do best - providing a highly personalised service - and make sure their entire businesses, from their fees to marketing, reflects their core value proposition.