Digital Marketing in Real Estate

Covelent Digital Marketing Screens showing various real estate marketing

The real estate industry, both residential and commercial, has undergone a sizeable  transformation in recent years due to the rise of digital marketing. As consumer behaviours and expectations evolve in the digital age, real estate professionals must adapt their marketing strategies to stay competitive and drive growth. Here we explore the key trends shaping digital marketing in real estate today and provide actionable insights for businesses looking to maximise their digital advantage.

The Shifting Landscape of Real Estate Marketing

Traditionally, real estate marketing relied heavily on offline channels such as print advertising, billboards, and open houses. However, the growth of aggregator sites and the shift to mobile-first as a design principle has fundamentally changed how consumers search for and engage with real estate brands. Today, 98% of home buyers start their search online, using websites, apps, and social media to explore properties, compare prices, and connect with agents.

This digital shift has compressed years of market evolution into a matter of months, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and social distancing measures accelerated the adoption of virtual tours, online transactions, and remote closings. At the same time, growing concerns about data privacy and the phasing out of third-party cookies are reshaping the landscape of targeted advertising and personalisation.

To thrive in this new reality, real estate businesses must embrace digital marketing as a core part of their strategy rather than an add-on. This means investing in the right technologies, skills, and partnerships to engage customers across the entire journey, from initial awareness to post-purchase loyalty.

The Business Case for Digital Marketing Maturity

A recent study by Covelent found that brands with higher levels of digital marketing maturity significantly outperform their less mature peers. Mature brands increased sales by an average of 18 percentage points more than less mature brands in 2021, while also boosting cost efficiency by an average of 29 percentage points more. Furthermore, over twice as many mature brands increased market share by 3 percentage points or more compared to low maturity brands.

For real estate businesses, the benefits of digital marketing maturity are manifold. Advanced digital capabilities allow firms to:

  • Generate extensive interest and qualified leads before breaking ground on new developments
  • Control the narrative and build trust directly with end buyers
  • Optimise the customer experience seamlessly across online and offline touch points
  • Leverage data and analytics to personalise offerings and predict future demand
  • Adapt go-to-market approaches quickly based on shifting market conditions

However, progressing along the digital maturity curve is challenging, especially for larger, established real estate players. It requires an organisation-wide effort championed by the C-suite to overcome silos, legacy systems, and resistance to change. Firms that lack the momentum to carry through the necessary transformations will continue falling behind their more digitally savvy competitors.

The Four Accelerators of Digital Marketing Maturity

So, what does it take for real estate businesses to advance digital marketing maturity in today's fast-moving environment? Covelent has identified four key accelerators that are propelling brands forward:

  1. Building first-party data strategies to maintain customer trust and access. As third-party cookies phase out, first-party data from direct customer relationships is becoming the lifeblood of effective digital marketing. Real estate firms need robust data infrastructures and transparent value exchange to gather consented, unified customer profiles.
  2. Developing end-to-end measurement across channels, enabled by predictive analytics. Connecting online and offline data to accurately attribute impact along the full customer journey is marketing's holy grail. Real estate businesses should strive for unified KPIs and leverage AI/machine learning to bridge gaps from cookie loss.  
  3. Implementing agile test-and-learn approaches to rapidly adapt to volatility. The pandemic has shown the importance of organisational agility to pivot marketing tactics based on real-time signals. Establishing cross-functional teams, war rooms and automated dashboards helps real estate firms stay ahead of market shifts and optimise performance.
  4. Acquiring new skills and balancing internal and external resources. The fast-changing digital landscape requires continuous upskilling of marketing talent. Real estate companies need to assess which capabilities to develop in-house vs. through external partnerships, and establish training and retention programs to build the right team.  

While each of these accelerators is powerful on its own, they work best in combination. Covelent's research shows that brands progressing on all four accelerators in parallel achieve higher levels of maturity faster than those taking a piecemeal approach.

Realising the Vision of Digital Marketing Excellence

For real estate businesses aspiring to digital marketing excellence, putting the four accelerators into action requires a bold vision and roadmap championed by senior leadership. Whether residential or commercial, firms should take a customer-centric approach focused on delivering value and building trust at every touchpoint.

Starting with a solid foundation of first-party data is key. This means investing in the right mar-tech stack to unify data sources, as well as crafting compelling content and experiences that motivate customers to share their information. Real estate companies should also make data privacy and transparency a core part of their brand promise, with clear opt-in/out processes and ethical usage policies.

Next, real estate marketers need to evolve their measurement frameworks to connect the dots across channels and devices. This requires breaking down silos between online and offline teams, agreeing on common KPIs, and leveraging predictive models to fill in attribution gaps. A single source of truth for marketing performance is essential for optimising media mix and tactical execution.

To keep pace with rapidly changing market conditions and consumer behaviours, real estate firms must also embrace agile ways of working. This means establishing cross-functional pods that bring together diverse talent to collaboratively plan, execute, and optimise marketing campaigns based on real-time feedback loops. Automating data flows and reporting is critical to making in-flight adjustments and seizing emerging opportunities.

Finally, real estate companies need to take a hard look at their marketing skills bench and operating model. Conducting a capability gap assessment against industry best practices can highlight areas for up skilling, recruitment, or outsourcing. Retention programs that provide opportunities for continuous learning and innovation are also key to keeping top digital talent engaged.

Winning in the Digital Future of Real Estate Marketing

The digital revolution in real estate marketing is well underway, and businesses that fail to adapt risk becoming irrelevant. By focusing on the four key accelerators of digital marketing maturity - first-party data, end-to-end measurement, agile test-and-learn, and new skills - real estate companies can position themselves for success in an increasingly competitive and fast-moving landscape.

However, true digital transformation goes beyond just adopting new technologies or tactics. It requires a fundamental shift in mindset and culture, led from the top and embraced by the entire organisation. Real estate businesses need to break down departmental silos, foster a spirit of experimentation and learning, and relentlessly focus on delivering customer value.

Those that get it right will be able to build deeper, more trusted relationships with buyers and renters, and unlock new sources of growth and efficiency. They will be able to pivot quickly based on market changes and stay ahead of emerging competitors. Most importantly, they will be able to shape the future of real estate in the digital age and beyond.

The time to act is now. With the right vision, roadmap, and commitment to change, real estate companies can harness the full potential of digital marketing and thrive in the years ahead. The digital revolution is here to stay, and the winners will be those who embrace it wholeheartedly.

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.