What Do Home Shoppers Want on Builder Websites?
Online tools that engage home buyers and provide high-quality information increase the duration of website visits and the percentage of visitors that register to learn more. These engagement metrics ultimately correlate strongly to sales conversions. So the bottom line? The more engaging your website – the more new home sales you will see.
Engagement with your website is particularly important when you consider the staggering attrition statistics in our industry. 990 out of every 1,000 visitors to builder sites leave without taking any kind of action that would enable a salesperson to engage, qualify, and nurture them as leads. That includes requesting information, scheduling an appointment, or subscribing to a newsletter. In other words, the vast majority of home builders are still squandering their online lead generation dollars by not investing in engaging website experiences.
So which tools do buyers prefer when researching a home builder’s web site and how do we create engaging experiences that move buyers through the sales funnel? The Bokka Group asked recent home buyers to review six of the most popular website tools and to indicate which they considered most important during their new home search. What they found should inform your next steps as you develop a more engaging online experience.
#6 Virtual Reality Tours (Important to 55 percent of buyers)
Virtual reality tours leverage inexpensive VR viewers to provide immersive and interactive tours of your homes, communities, and features. When a buyer looks into a virtual reality device, they experience clear, lifelike sensations of what your homes look like—as if they are there!
VR tours are especially useful features for builders in cities that attract many transplants. Out-of-area buyers are able to replicate the experience of visiting communities and model homes online. A VR tour can include a “virtual salesperson” to guide viewers through models with a compelling scripted presentation. Given the low cost of a Google Cardboard viewer, builders can send these viewers to remote site registrants who are planning a move.
#5 Online Video (Important to 78 percent of buyers)
Just how important is video online? Cisco projects that global internet traffic from videos will make up 80 percent of all internet traffic by 2019. Home listings with video receive 403 percent more inquiries than those without.
Video dramatically boosts engagement, dwell time, return visits, sharing, and conversions. You can use this format for model home and community tours, and to tell your story through customer testimonials and company leaders. Use it to showcase amenities and the surrounding community features, or to demonstrate the quality of your homes with pre-drywall videos.
The content you create can be leveraged in many ways, beyond your website, from social media to home listings, to kiosks in your sales centers. Be creative as you consider how to use video to accomplish each of your engagement objectives, from generating recognition and trust to driving phone calls and visits to your model homes.
#4 3D Interactive Tours (Important to 82 percent of buyers)
3D interactive tours on your website enable visitors to take self-controlled tours of your model homes. They can navigate from room to room and look 360 degrees around each space, as if they were touring a model. Optional posts call their attention to specific features and options, enabling you to build value into add-ons and boost average sale prices. Given that interactive and virtual reality tours offer similar benefits, if these two engagement tools had been combined into one for the Bokka Study, they might have ranked as high as #2 on our list.
Interactive tours are especially useful if your targets are young, first-time homebuyers or affluent buyers.
#3 Interactive Feature Changes (Important to 83 percent of buyers)
Today’s new homes have an infinite range of customization possibilities. A model home can only enable a small percentage of prospects to truly envision what their choices of elevations, room configurations, flooring, appliances, cabinetry, counters, fixtures, and other options will look like. Interactive feature changes also help the buyer determine whether their design choices will cohere in the finished product.
This technology is truly a game changer for all target demographics. First-time and repeat buyers in every region, of every age, and at every price point rate interactive feature changes as a must-have tool on builder sites. Builders that do offer interactive feature changes see substantially improved dwell times, conversion rates, and average sale prices.
#2 Interactive Floorplans (Important to 93 percent of buyers)
Today’s buyers have become accustomed to superior visual tools. Most cannot read a one-dimensional floor plan and visualize it as a home. They simply see the words “kitchen” and “great room,” along with the room dimensions and there is nothing to ignite their imaginations.
Interactive floor plans are available in 2D and 3D. 2D floor plans enable buyers to determine how furnishings will fit in the spaces, see elevation options, and view galleries of photos and videos that bring the spaces to life. 3D floor plans are the most realistic way of conveying a floor plan design, with customizable options including furnished designs, doll house views, and cutaways from a variety of angles. Many buyers need these holistic views to understand how the spaces work together to accommodate their lifestyles, so it is a significant competitive advantage to builders that offer it.
#1 Photo Galleries (Important to 96 percent of buyers)
It has taken nearly 1,000 words to get to the #1 most important online engagement tool for home builders. So after all the talk of new digital marketing technologies, we remind you of the old axiom—that one picture is still worth more than all of the words you have just read.
81 percent of people only skim the content they read online. On social media, posts with images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts. The exploding popularity of apps like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram all attest to the growing importance of photos.
Photos are emotionally appealing, and appealing to emotions is the first step in getting home buyers’ attention. You can leverage photos in all of your marketing materials, from website galleries and new home listings, to posts on Facebook and Instagram, to wall art in your sales and design centers. In fact, 92 percent of buyers said photo galleries at the sales offices influenced their decision to buy. And whether you segment buyers by purchase price, home buying experience, region, or age the percentage who rate photos as important is always above 90 percent.
In short, home builders with an impressive array of high quality professional photo galleries are operating with a substantial advantage that words alone cannot express.