Case3D is an architectural visualisation/marketing consultancy, so understanding the clients of our clients is key to our mutual success. Visiting our customers at the event is our traditional way of learning about their pains and strifes of attracting buyers and investors, as well the “UK real estate industry’s next chapter” (the aptly named theme of MIPIM UK). Besides the ever-present challenges of staying relevant and different in an oversaturated market, almost every conversation we had touched upon catering to the needs of a newly emerging and drastically different economical force, namely the millennials.
Despite being far less likely to ever own their home (the baby boomers took care of that), the few millennials that do achieve positive financial equity are representing an ever-increasing buying force in real estate. One might think that a generation which grew up in the omnipresent glow of digital screens would be highly susceptible to just about anything coming from these familiar devices – while in fact, the opposite is becoming a painful reality for anyone trying to engage them.
Millennials simply seem to be impervious to any kind of direct marketing or ‘hard sell’, let alone directly shaping what they should like. To add to the challenge, their digital consciousness is in a state of perpetual flux, making their attention a very valuable, rare and hard-to-obtain resource. In other words, telling a millennial “you want to buy this apartment” will not only go unnoticed, but also put you in their mental spam folder and close all doors for further engagement. The only way of reaching this highly individualistic (or as some like to put it, hard-headed) audience is by letting them come to the conclusion themselves. In other words, experiencing a reality on their own terms through a curated medium they're familiar with.
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Enter the latest developments in interactive proptech: virtual and augmented reality. While ‘techno fear’ might characterise a significant portion of the previous generations, millennials suffer from the opposite case of ‘techno joy’. Build a VR showroom and they will come. Add AR support to their latest iPhone and they will use it.
When applied to selling off-plan real estate, the interactivity and experiential freedom of these solutions give the marketing-agnostic generation a feeling they're in control. Be it a 360-panoramic rendering of an exclusive penthouse, a three-dimensional mobile AR floor plan on their desk or a virtual tour of a beautifully furnished sunlit apartment; all of these come across as perfectly valid and believable realities to the millennial. Having had the opportunity to talk to users after trying any of our showcasing solutions, we've come across the same comments: "It's beautiful." "You really feel like you're there." And "I know it's not real, but I believe it anyway." Which perfectly sums up the nature of the virtual realities they are already engaging in, be it their digital friendships, mind-absorbing games or learning about the world without leaving the confines of their screens. As foreign as this unanimous shift towards the digital may seem to the impartial observer, it is the way future generations will experience the world and base their buying decisions.
Being one of the first companies that sold VR commercially, we have no doubt that its niche application in real estate is firmly footed. While the tech is still five to 10 years from going mainstream (mainly due to bulky, expensive, not-yet-wireless headsets), the fact that not every millennial has had the opportunity to try it gives any real estate VR showroom a unique appeal. AR is just around the corner and has already proven to be the best way to enrich brochures with interactive pop-out buildings and floor plans.
Finally, the high demand we get for interactive web-based solutions (for example, 360-panoramic views or Airbnb-like navigators for off-plan property) clearly proves that new and innovative approaches for an emerging tech-savvy audience is the way to go. And while some of our customers (mostly large-scale real estate developers) may see this shift as a threat, we see immense potential in helping them perceive the opportunity.