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The future of real estate is in TechProp
Even in an era of startups, digital disruptors and online everything, traditional established companies don't have to take a backseat and get left behind. Instead, they can face and fight the competition, and do things a notch better with their experience and expertise, which fly-by-night newcomers may not have.
For instance, within the OrangeTee group, OrangeTee & Tie, Singapore's third-largest real estate agency with its 4,200-strong team of property agents work, communicate and research on its digital assets such as in-house Agent App, Property Agents Review portal, digital marketing tools and many more.
Mr Steven Tan, OrangeTee & Tie's managing director mentions a new term "TechProp" often, believing that it is the future for the traditional real estate companies or even the industry.
What then differentiates a TechProp company from the more commonly known PropTech ones?
"PropTech companies usually focus on narrow functions or segments with high friction level or those underserved by traditional real estate companies. Their aim is to provide a better experience using digital technologies to reduce costs, increase revenue and remove friction. Hence, many PropTech companies are also the disruptors of our industry.
"TechProp companies refer to the traditional real estate companies that are able to transform their business by accelerating innovation, building new skills, participating in the ecosystem and disrupting themselves to come out stronger in this digital age," he explains.
Mr Tan is confident that OrangeTee has the foundation to be the first TechProp company in Singapore because it has expertise in areas as diverse as agency, project marketing, valuation, and investment sales, and also because it has always been at the forefront of technology.
In 2015, Mr Tan set up a taskforce to digitally overhaul the real estate business. In the following year, Property Agents Review, the Singapore first agents' review platform was launched.
This became a game changer as potential buyers and sellers could look at other customers' reviews of property agents - all reviews submitted by clients after every successful transaction are unfiltered and published wholly to achieve full transparency, before engaging their services.
This unprecedented move provided a strategic first-mover advantage and showed the industry that OrangeTee is extremely serious in digital transformation, even if it requires any form of self-disruption to achieve optimal customer centricity.
Last year (2018), OrangeTee introduced Agent App, branding it as a ‘one-stop real estate digital ecosystem for property agents', a "super" app to help agents do their job more quickly and efficiently. "This equips our agents with different capabilities, enhances their skills and knowledge, and lets them enhance their clients' customer journey," says Mr Tan.
Through Agent App, property agents can create new listings, market their properties, as well as manage and repost existing listings on 99.co, EdgeProp, Carousell and SRX. OrangeTee said that the feature, called Listing Hub, will continue to expand and sync with more portals.
An industry game changer
One of the useful features on Agent App is the website set-up system called "Auto Website". Agents handling new launches generally turn to website builders like Wix or Weebly to create web pages for the property. This means that agents will have to spend even more time on top of their busy schedule on collating and updating information on their web pages.
But with Agent App, they can launch a website in three easy steps, on-the-go. Also, when there are new unit releases or price changes, a backend system updates all the agents' website automatically, freeing the agents to focus on generating sales leads and providing high-value personalised customer service.
Bill Leung, Executive Director of Information & Communications Technology, OrangeTee & Tie, says that there are plans to automate the digital marketing process for agents so they can save even more time and not have to work individually across platforms like Facebook or Google Ads.
On the app, agents can also access verified research reports and analytics charts in minutes and address their clients' concerns right away instead of trawling the Internet for what can turn out to be inaccurate information.
Says Mr Leung: "Everything becomes more transparent and accurate, and faster because our agents execute everything on the app. In this way, there's a lot of trust in them from our customers. So far, our agents have been very excited about the app and feedback has been very positive."
And because he understands how busy his team can get, he knows that they may miss some SMSes, Facebook posts or emails on company updates and industry news. This is why OrangeTee has just launched their very own NewsFeed feature in Agent App.
Notably, the UXUI of the NewsFeed is similar to most social media platforms’ news feed. Which means, the company can post text together with photos, videos and files and this make NewsFeed a powerful internal communication channel.
"Tying up with external partners to increase their expertise, education and networking opportunities is important too," says Mr Tan. On the app, agents can link up with partners to enhance their clients' customer journey experience.
One example of this is how an OrangeTee & Tie property listing may be automatically linked to the Online Property Marketplace of a local bank. This opens up new entry points for buyers and sellers who may be on the property marketplace to check on their financial health but then come across a property that they are interested in investing in.
Or OrangeTee & Tie's agents can also work with the TADA ride-hailing service on the Agent App, arranging a door-to-door concierge service for property viewing.
Finally, OrangeTee & Tie's agents will be able to have access to mobile eLearning modules, with OrangeTee providing the expertise and content while KPMG provides the platform which will be integrated with Agent App so that agents can learn on-the-go. It enables much faster and efficient delivery because agents can access eLearning material anytime they want and anywhere they are, setting their pace and training whenever they have spare time.
All these help OrangeTee achieves the three highs (High Tech, High Touch & High Trust) as it combines traditional personal service with what emerging technology can offer because the company believes that having a high (personal) touch and high trust between agent and client is just as important as being high tech.
Mr Tan says: "We have many advantages over PropTech companies, such as our scale with more than 4,200 agents, stronger brand recognition, solid industrial knowledge, a wide spectrum of services, and reliable partnerships. Most importantly, the ability to provide personalised services with a human touch. We are confident that our first-mover advantage in digital transformation and will give us the edge to become the first TechProp company in Singapore or even the region."