Digital Shopping – A Brave New World for Home Builders

Filed in Business Management, Technology by on January 9, 2015 1 Comment

Research shows that more than 90% of all home buyers use the Internet to search for a home. That’s a staggering number, and one which provides evidence that the home buying process has changed over the years: from in-person walk-throughs to likes on Pinterest. In fact, buyers today are using the Internet more often than traditional real estate agents to begin their home search process.

shoppingcarthousemouseArmed with this new data, builders are slowly beginning to adapt to the new self-service way people want to shop for homes. A number of builders across the nation have started to present their models online in new and engaging ways. No longer is it acceptable to show only fish-eyed lens panographics that distort the rooms being featured. The bar has been raised to a whole new level. Leading builders are embracing tools that go beyond still images by integrating video, computer-generated imagery, customer reviews and even shopping carts for making options selections on their websites.

Many builders, however, continue to avoid presenting options to customers until after they have a deposit. And until recently, many other industries struggled with this same issue until some disruptive companies came along and changed the way products were sold.

Companies like Amazon, Trip Advisor, Yelp and many others that we recognize as market leaders all achieved greatness by offering dynamic online buying experiences that customers embraced at a stunning rate. Google even coined a term to describe this phenomenon: the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). ZMOT happens when companies present their products online with a variety of product options and real customer reviews.

Here are some reasons why ZMOT in home sales works:

According to the 2014 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 42% of home buyers indicated that the Internet was the first step taken to begin their home search.

Only 2% of respondents in the same study indicated that they contacted a builder or visited a builder’s models as the first step in the home search process.

Of those customers who began their search online, a whopping 63% of home buyers walked through a home they found online.

When home buyers were asked their main reasons for buying a home, 25% indicated it was the ability to choose and customize design features. Often builders avoid sharing options until a purchase and sales agreement is received. This research indicates that many home buyers would be excited to see options sooner.

According to Coremetrics, a provider of digital marketing optimization solutions, there is a 35% increase in the sales conversion rate among shoppers who viewed online video tours versus those who did not.

Many builders are beginning to realize that their websites do not currently capitalize on what buyers want and how they want to shop for a new home. So they are adjusting their strategy and embracing change, and you can too. Remember to:

  • Create virtual tour displays of your homes online.
  • Make sure photographs and videos of your homes are easy to find on your website. Or even better, display them on the home page.
  • Present options early in the process. Buyers don’t want to be led; they want to self-serve and builders who allow it will win.
  • Integrate customer reviews into your website and home tours.


This article originally appeared in the September/October 2014 issue of Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine. It has been modified for the blog. 


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  1. Sam says:

    I know as a home builder we are constantly looking for ways to improve our website and overall online presence. We constantly try to find new ways, such as uploading virtual walk-thru’s and photos to reach customers. The only thing thats hard as a custom home builder is presenting options early in the process, simply because no one wants to give away pricing to the general public but we will see if this changes in the future.

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