Changing the face of property marketing with VR and AR app

In September last year we reported that, Media was starting to arrive in the future and that Virtual Reality (VR) was going mainstream in 2017.

PHNX, a specialist property development marketing agency, is ahead of the curve. They recently launched a Virtual and Augmented Reality property app for Harcourts Platinum, the first of its kind to be developed in Africa for the property market. The app has set a benchmark that will change the face of property marketing.

Virtual reality is a powerful tool in property, especially when selling off-plan. It depicts photo-realistic vision of a furnished property and allows prospective buyers to envisage their ideal lifestyle in a home that is still to be built, as well as creating a completely immersive experience for foreign investors.

“There will always be a need for print, but in today’s digital focused world there needs to be a way to combine the two. And that is what AR does; it takes a motionless print advert and digitally brings it to life with a simple scan. AR has an exciting roadmap ahead, with the advancing technology and ongoing push for more interactivity from the consumer,” says PHNX’s Greg Jooste.

The app allows users to take a virtual walk through a property via their phones. It brings printed adverts to life using Augmented Reality (AR), lets users receive push notifications on new listings and allows them to make an enquiry from their phones, directly to the agent.

It makes use of location mapping, which creates a perception of the convenient lifestyle offered to prospective residents, showing the building’s proximity to the area’s main attractions. Drone photography is used to capture a crystal clear image of the area from a high vantage point. Hovering over the interactive hotspots on the map provides immediate street views, addresses and contact details. These hotspots are marked and categorised using Google Map technology.

An analytics dashboard is included which allows marketers to track and measure the following indicators:

Real Time (How many users are using the app in real time)
Active Users
App Versions (Android or IOS)
Demographics (Age and Gender)
Device and Network
Social media is included in the launch campaign, creating visual appealing adverts demographically focused by region, age and interest using the Facebook and Instagram platforms.

“In this way the marketer is able to not waste budget on consumers who are not their demographic. The platforms (Facebook and Instagram) provide a few methods to present the advert to the consumer, whether it be video or an image carousel,” Jooste says.

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that helps to keep your brand in front of bounced traffic after they leave your website. For most websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. “Retargeting is a tool designed to help companies reach the 98% of users who don’t convert right away. So in simple terms once a client visits your website and leaves, we are able to push the advert to wherever they go outside of the marketer website and bring them back. All these tools make use of the same reporting as the app analytics dashboard,” says Jooste.

“Real estate marketing has changed little in the last decade. In some cases a purchaser can find out more information about a R1000 camera than a R5 million property. By enhancing the viewing experience buyers will be able to engage with a property even without viewing it – thus reducing time wasted on unsuitable properties and sparing both themselves and other sellers the wasted time and inconvenience,” says Steve Caradoc-Davies, principal/director of Harcourts Platinum.

“For development property that is typically sold off-plan, a buyer can now enjoy the visual experience of a property that doesn’t yet exist – thus assisting their purchasing decision. For sellers, it will ensure their property stands out in the crowd, attracts maximum buyer enquiry, and sells for the most the market will pay,” he says.

Jooste adds that the key for AR is that it needs a platform and the app provides this platform. “You cannot scan anything if you do not have the app to do so. By getting the consumer to download the app, you are opening a channel between you and the consumer to communicate, not through the original platforms like email and SMS, but now through an app, which provides detailed analytics of their movements on the app,” he says.

PHNX Digital had been providing marketing services to Harcourts for their residential and new developments, including logo creation, websites, 3D renders, social media marketing and Google marketing. “Creating an app for them was the logical next step. It allows us to combine all our service offerings into one platform,” says Jooste.

PHNX developed the app in-house, to complement and combine their service offerings to clients. “We felt there was a gap in the market for an easy to use tool of this type that would be easily accessible for consumers and customisable for clients needs. We wanted a unique app that could be easily adaptable and customised and we needed to create it from scratch,” says Jooste. Planned extensions for the app include Virtual Reality video, Augmented Reality floorplans and interactive video.

“New tools such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality create a unique experience which allows a consumer to immersive themselves into any environment. It’s an exciting time for marketers to utilise these new tools made available. By combining clever online marketing strategy through social media, Google and retargeting platforms, marketers have a lot of ways to connect with their client and in return build stronger relationships with their customers,” he adds.

Like many of today’s young entrepreneurs, Jooste started PHNX Digital in 2009 from his bedroom, with nothing but a laptop and a passion for digital design.

“Over the years we built a reputation in new property development marketing websites, using unique tools to help agents sell properties before a single brick had been placed. I saw a gap in the industry where we could offer everything under one roof for property marketing, from Branding, Websites, Interactive Tools, Fly-Throughs, Renders, and Social Marketing and we positioned ourselves as the one stop shop for property marketing,” says Jooste.

Today the company has offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg and is opening a new office in Durban. In 2015 they established an office in Brisbane, Australia and will be opening an office in Sydney this year, after which a Melbourne office is next on their list.