Creeping disruption: Philippine real estate’s looming digital shadow

In Photo: Jay Arellano and Dr. William Yu

Part Two

Welcome to the new world

Jay Arellano is the managing director of Ansible, the technology and creative division of IPG Mediabrands Philippines.

“People are changing their behaviors, their mind-set or priorities and expectations faster before any brand is able to understand and connect to them. Technology has accelerated communications to the point where brands can become popular in days or experience a mass crisis in days. The new world requires more of dynamic marketing approach versus a static or fixed one, and this rings true especially for the highly competitive real-estate market.”

Jay’s area of expertise is called dynamic marketing, where content is responsive to the customer’s needs or context when they are engaging a specific medium whether they are on Facebook or accessing information through a web site. Dynamic marketing, which calls for presence of the brand across several touchpoints, recognizing that each touchpoint, will or might lead to another or even directly influencing purchase. It’s a relatively new field in the Philippines but its practiced by Ansible in 15 countries.

“Web sites remain to be the central hub in any lead-generation effort. Getting traffic to your web site is great, but if that traffic doesn’t convert, it’s almost useless. We have identified proven strategies for giving your visitors the best experience and getting them to act.”

Optimize for mobile screens—60 percent of people leave a web site if it is not mobile optimized. A web site should look its best on the screen people view most; their mobile phones.

Use as few fields as possible—when asking for information in an e-mail opt-in form, ask for as little information as necessary. Visitors should not spend more than one minute in your inquiry form.

Drive desired actions—there is missed opportunity in having a well-designed web site but fail to provide visitors on a clear call to action. What do you want them to do? Make sure these call-to-actions are on every screen and on every page whether it’s to Inquire Now, View the Gallery or Chat with Us.

Meeting the expectations of pay-per-click (PPC) visitors—more and more real-estate companies invest in PPC ads like banner ads, search ads and social ads. An ad should tell them exactly what they’ll find once they click through to the site. If visitors are coming to the landing page via a PPC ad, there must be consistency when they land on the page.

Digital transformation and its hurdles

MDI’s Dr. William Yu, one of the Philippines foremost experts in digital transformation, thinks we are at a critical apex.

“Through the years, technology has provided many ways to enhance one’s living. We can see the changes creeping in around us. We have the emergence of ride sharing [i.e., Uber and Grab], automated people movers [ie., airport terminal systems] and self-driving cars [i.e., Google Street View mappers]. The desire of today’s generation to own a motor vehicle on a day-to-day basis is changing. Even the very definition of a motor vehicle has changed [i.e., electric cars]. We have seen the proliferation of room and apartment sharing [i.e., AirBNB] providing more options for both owners and visitors. We have witnessed electronic commerce grow in acceptance with increasing amounts of digital delivery goods and services [i.e., Lazada and Zalora]. We can even observe the growth in the popularity of teleworking and coworking spaces [i.e., Acceler8 and Aspace]. I am certain some people explore these just to avoid the hazards of Metro Manila traffic,” Yu said.

Yu sees the speed of progress in the Philippines being seriously undermined. “Unfortunately, regulation has yet to keep up with the changing times. How can we encourage companies to build people movers across their properties? What regulatory framework allows this? Is it categorized as a structure or vehicle or both? If I want to register an electric vehicle, how it is classified if there is no engine displacement? The latest Uber/Grab challenges are a sign of issues moving ahead. There is, indeed, a need for safety regulation [i.e. mandatory insurance] but is the definition of an Uber/Grab vehicle the same as a taxi vehicle when it comes to volume management [i.e., part time or shared drivers]?”

With the traffic issues we face, greater use of teleworking and co-working spaces make sense. Are our labor laws and employee regulations ready for the era of teleworking or coworking spaces? How do we define an office hour without a physical office? How do we define company property for the purposes of providing a safe working environment or protecting intellectual property? How do we treat overtime, allowances and leaves in a teleworking scenario? Is the absence of these worker protections the trade-off of teleworking?

Yu is not sure the real-estate industry is prepared to keep up: “Are property managers ready to support the sharing economy? Many buildings still explicitly ban AirBNB for short duration stays, but these rules are generally just on paper and some homeowners are fighting back. Isn’t this more efficient use of property and value adding to property owners? Are property codes ready for the times? What is the point of mandatory parking lots if the structure is fully integrated into mass transportation [i.e., Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit]? Can we move toward system thinking as opposed to per building thinking? Can we rethink the idea of cities and how to better support integrated thinking that crosses municipal boundaries?”

Yu cautions against unmanaged digital adoption:

“On the flip side, technology can be abused. Unmanaged and unplanned growth can lead to safety issues, inefficient use of resources and inequity of growth. These examples above are just the tip of the technology iceberg.  Striking a balance is key. The digital divide is still a problem and we need to consider means to ensure that no one gets left behind. In the space of growing use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we need to ensure we carefully tap the wisdom of the crowd but not the cacophony of the herd.”

Yu raises a lot of questions. His passion for the subject is right at the surface: “This is a call to arms for industry participants and the government to sit down and study the opportunities to promote what works with technology and appropriately revise regulation. The entrepreneurial spirit will find a way. But, it would help if the government encouraged positive improvements or at least got out of the way.”

Maybe the futurist Brad Geiser had it right: “Everyone looks back into history and wonders why the business leaders of that time didn’t see change coming. But they forget that the future is not written in permanent ink with certainty, but in erasable chalk with courage.”