“If you go to a website and it doesn’t look like it is up to current standards – looking like it was built five years ago – consumers are likely to think that you are not keeping up with the times, and they are less likely to work with you,” says Miller. “It is like having a professional set of clothes and shoes. When people meet you, they think, ‘Oh, this person is properly attired to do business with.’ And I think a website plays a role in that.”
And a key to a successful website is how it presents on a mobile device.
“We undertook a massive project last year for Century 21 Canada to update our websites to work for mobile,” says Miller, “because over half of our traffic is now coming from mobile.”
It is part of a $25 million commitment to investing in technology that Century 21 sees as crucial to giving its agents a leg up on the competition.
“We want to make sure we are providing the best marketing platform, in the form of responsive websites to our agents and brokers, so that they can spend the time to provide the servicing to their clients,” says Martin Charlwood, CEO of Century 21 Canada, “rather than trying to figure out what technological tools they need to be using.”
In the years to come, Charlwood sees a requirement for concierge-type services.
“When a Realtor is providing knowledge-based information to either a buyer or seller of the home – not only do you need to know about the market parameters and the potential values in a particular neighbourhood, you also need to know about the community,” he says. “The value-add that a Realtor brings to the table is understanding what the school dynamics are, what the recreational dynamics are, what the transportation options are that cater to a particular neighbourhood.”
The changes in just the last five years are palpable.
Today, a person driving around the neighbourhood who sees a For Sale sign can pull out their smart phone, take a picture, pull up the listing and have access to the Realtor and make an appointment – while getting the listing price.
The multi-million dollar investment in technology allows the agent to focus on that neighbourhood knowledge, and not be struggling with the technology.
“With industry-leading responsive websites, agents don’t need to think about which tools they are using, allowing them to focus on the value-add local knowledge,” he says.
A well-designed website can help reduce the cost of acquiring clients, says Jack Miller, the chief technology officer for Century 21 Canada, as it engenders greater consumer trust.