The coming boom in virtual sales and design centers in homebuilding and multifamily construction likely has sales and design professionals contemplating their role, or even questioning their existence in the homebuilding industry.
Though some salespeople and designers may be concerned about how virtual tools will alter their jobs, the programs can add efficiencies to the process, as well as opportunities to improve the customer experience, with or without a pandemic.
And it doesn’t eliminate the need for staff involvement. For example, a buyer can create 50 designs in Roomored, says the firm’s COO Chan Walker, but they’re still going to need the designer’s expertise to weigh those options and make informed final decisions
– Nanette Overly, vice president of sales, Epcon Communities
And those appointments become more streamlined themselves. Designers can review selections ahead of time and be more prepared to offer advice, as well as pull samples.
Prior to using Roomored, Shea Homes’ Arizona division conducted an interview process with the buyer to get a better feel for their interests and tailor the in-person meeting accordingly.
“What this program has allowed us to do is elevate that process to be more fluid,” says Shea’s Design Studio Manager Julia Gaskill. “It’s easier for home buyers to have conversations and share photos, screenshots, and send inspiration. It’s very interactive even before they come into the Design Studio. It allows the designer to feel like they can curate the appointment to each specific person.”
The process also helps instill confidence. “We are consistently being asked, ‘Can you show me that, because I can’t visualize it,’” Gaskill says. “Not only can we show them what it will look like, we can show them what it will look like on their floor plan.”
In addition, having the ability to freely browse and experiment can lead to more upgrades, according to Nanette Overly, vice president of sales, Epcon Communities. The Dublin, Ohio-based builder has seen a roughly 10% increase in option purchases at its communities since implementing BDX Envision about three years ago.
At Shea Homes in Arizona, salespeople engage with prospective buyers using Roomored on Surface Pro. Once the buyer narrows down to a floor plan, the salesperson has a great follow-up opportunity to send them a link to begin designing and customizing before committing to purchase. “It’s really been beneficial to keep them engaged,” says sales manager Justin Susnik. Another benefit on the sales side for Shea has been selling inventory homes. Instead of having to wait until later stages of the build because they want to see and touch, buyers can make confident decisions at the framing stage because the tool shows them what the home will look like. The builder is even using renderings from inventory homes in marketing emails.
What’s more, salespeople and designers get access to analytics. With Roomored, builders can see what buyers are looking at and which products are getting the most attention, helping to influence offerings down the road.
Though many builders are jumping on board with virtual sales and design due to the pandemic, the benefits extend far beyond safety and social distancing.
“I believe there’s an opportunity to increase our sales even after this is over since consumers and the sales center have become comfortable with Zoom as a format and doing things virtually,” says Overly. “I believe that because we’ve become used to this, it’s going to become a comfortable way for people to have confidence in doing business going forward.”