African real estate: how digital is revolutionizing the profession
For many years, digital has impacted on several business fields. Like many other sectors, real estate has also been affected by this digital transition or revolution. The digital era has transformed buying methods but also ways of working. What impact is digital having on the real estate sector?
An in-progress (r)evolution
Could we still design a real estate project today without Internet? Even in Africa, sellers, buyers and investors are now extremely well-informed through the Web. However, less than ten years ago, the Moroccan real estate market, for example, was dominated by ads without photos and summary descriptions which appeared in the “classified” sections. The reader then had to somehow dissect these.
Nowadays, this technological breakthrough enabled by digital and social media, is bringing both visibility and an audience. In addition, supply and demand has naturally turned to digital, which is not only transforming the real estate agent business but also the customer experience.
Digital technologies: a real opportunity for real estate agents
Real estate has been disrupted by many transformations of real estate agencies’ working methods. When we talk about digital transition, we naturally think of the emergence of mobile applications and websites. Real estate has been hit hard by the arrival of these new purchasing channels.
Social networks also have a key role to play in the digital strategy of real estate agencies. They have become real media for agencies. They allow text and visual content to be highlighted, making publication of real estate ads much clearer. If we take the Moroccan example again, the population there is ultra-connected. Moroccans spend more than 2.5 hours on social networks daily, according to a recent survey by Hootsuite & We are Social.
A changing profession
In addition to these opportunities, digital is revolutionizing the real estate agent profession.
With digital, the real estate agent can manage more properties. Moreover, it can help them to reach a much wider audience.
Both these parameters are encouraging real estate agents to radically change the way they work. They must now be almost permanently contactable and be reactive. According to Gilles Blanchard, co-founder of Seloger.com and president of EMPG, the leading group of real estate portals in emerging countries, 78% of consumers buy from the first agent who responds - hence the importance of answering e-mails in under 5 minutes.
At the same time, digital is creating tougher competition; potential buyers and tenants can now be in touch with more than twenty agents simultaneously. This increased competition is forcing real estate agents to transform themselves to be able to respond at any time, manage more properties and be more reactive than ever.
Digital publishing and ad management applications & tools are there to support real estate agents in this transformation. They are an answer to this revolution. The real estate agent business is a nomadic trade and these apps allow ads to be published from anywhere and at any time. Finally, these apps also offer messaging services that allow users to interact instantaneously with them and thus they can be as reactive as possible - one example is the recently launched Mubawabi app.
Customer experience in the real estate industry has changed dramatically
Digital is now an integral part of the purchase or lease of real estate property, whether it is new or old.
In real estate, digital offers users a much better experience. It allows them to see the plans, exact location and a complete description of the property, as well as the prices and availability of the project. Today, virtual visits are gradually becoming a reality; thanks to digital’s progress, we can now visualize a future house or flat in 3D.
We are witnessing a transformation of the real estate agent profession, as they are taking advantage of new technologies for a better experience with their customers and prospects.
Digital is transforming the real estate sector. The job of all people revolving around the real estate agency is completely different. In short, this new reality is enabling professionals in the sector to train, reinvent themselves and review their business methods to strengthen their advisory role in the face of enlightened consumers and an industry that continues to evolve.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.