Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses and Future Roadmap - Startup Terminal

Monday, June 22, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses and Future Roadmap


How COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your business and what would be the future roadmap? 

Author: Ketan Sabnis, CEO and Co­-founder of Sell.Do

Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses and Future Roadmap
Ketan Sabnis
The Covid-19 outbreak has created multiple challenges for India's real estate sector and has left realtors gasping for air. One of the most urgent concerns, however, has been that realtors are stuck with ready-to-move properties. Because of restrictions on physical movement, site visits have come to a screeching halt.

Not just developers, channel partners and brokers are stranded as well. Salespersons working for developers and channel partners are stuck at home, driving employee productivity to a grinding halt as well. All put together, the pandemic has affected the process of site visits and bookings, in effect, creating an inventory pileup to the tune of 6.60 billion rupees across the country.

In the case of under-construction properties, the pinch is an even harder one as most tier I and tier II cities are still under lockdown. Moreover, such a long freeze on construction has migrants flocking back to their homes. For an industry that makes up 6 per cent of the GDP, the impact of the pandemic for the real estate industry is a harsh one to deal with.

However, experts believe that the industry will move towards recovery, albeit slowly. Multiple consumer sentiment studies have shown that the demand for residential investments is still alive. However, all stakeholders will have to move away from the idea of physical site visits, in-person sales interactions and bookings.

In such a difficult market scenario, real estate developers must ask themselves these questions:

How can we engage with customers in the age of social distancing? What can we do to replicate the entire customer journey to keep our sales engines running like before?

This is where an integrated platform for online real estate selling comes into focus. Developers today need to rapidly adopt real estate-focused technology into their sales engines to offset challenges that our current context has presented us with.

Charting a comprehensive roadmap for real estate sales India’s real estate industry has habitually taken the offline sales route where homebuyers make site visits and the process go on from there. A site visit is the actual point of contact that homebuyers experience with the property as well as with salespersons, channel partners and brokers. In the age of social distancing, the idea is to replicate site visits with contactless sales to offset the limitations of making site visits. And the only viable path to contactless site visits and thereon is to transition to an online sales platform.

Here are the benefits of transitioning from a ‘purely offline’ sales model to ‘online and contactless’ sales model:

Virtual Site Visits and Contactless Sales
With technology like online walkthroughs, video calling and telephony, salespersons can conduct guided tours of the site virtually while being able to answer all property-related queries in real-time. Homebuyers can now satisfy the ‘look and feel’ needs and salespersons can facilitate decision making better. This time though, homebuyers can do so from the comfort of their homes.

Online Bookings and Payments
Speaking of comfort, salespersons can also highlight detailed price sheets including GST, stamp duty and registration information to homebuyers. If they choose to, homebuyers can make payments online through secure payment gateways and even apply for home loans via integrated banking portals. To augment contactless sales, the platform can also be primed with negotiation management features to further encourage buyer decisions. Moreover, price sheets can be automated so that any change in price and related commercials are revised automatically.

Marketing Automation
A frequently ignored but critical module in any customer’s investment journey, marketing automation helps developers engage with their target audiences via multiple digital channels like email, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. Depending on where a customer is on the sales cycle, the right communication can be shared automatically to guide the end-users towards a decision.

Business Intelligence
An online sales engine collates data from multiple sources and data types like lead, inventory and transaction, automatically and supplies data analytics to the right stakeholders in real-time. With critical sales and marketing insights at hand, all sales stakeholders and marketing teams can identify customer expectations while decision-makers can track and manage team/employee productivity. An online sales process promotes accountability with full process transparency.

Cloud Collaboration
On the business side of things, the pandemic has highlighted the disparate environment that offline sales have primed for us. When physical movement is hampered, collaboration, transparency and accountability go out of the window.On the flip side, by incorporating contactless sales and marketing technology into existing business processes, the business side of things can be strengthened with anytime-anywhere usability. This fosters a business environment primed to 'connect, communicate and collaborate’ all stakeholders via a unified platform.

Channel Partner and Broker Integrations
A unified platform is about true end-to-end integration which ensures that all stakeholders work together and not as disparate actors. With channel partner and broker integrations, decision-makers can monitor performance metrics like sales and inventory on the platform itself and in real-time. Such a platform offers the same contactless sales technology, such as online walkthroughs, video calling and telephony, to channel partners and brokers, thereby, enhancing assisted sales in the process as well.

Future strategies to sustain property sales
Digital technology designed and developed exclusively for real estate can help fill the void between home buyers and sales teams. Incorporating online and contactless real estate sales into existing sales engines can enhance customer engagement and business collaboration. Moreover, an online sales engine establishes a secure business foundation by ushering in enhanced agility into the equation. Simply put, the future of real estate sales is digital.

While there are no effective alternatives to actual site visits, until the lockdown restrictions are in place, an online and contactless sales model is the best path to success. We cannot predict market behaviour post-lockdown or even if we may one day move past COVID entirely. But we can tell you that realtors have to enhance current sales and marketing processes with industry-focused technology to better adapt to volatile marketing scenarios.

(Ketan Sabnis, CEO and Co­-founder of Sell.Do which is a leading sales & marketing CRM provider for real estate businesses. Views expressed in the article are of the author.)