The growth of online technology began skyrocketing a few years ago and the development has not slowed since, with Internet penetration in South Africa reaching 40.9%, according to research conducted by Statistics South Africa in 2013.
As access to the Internet increases, whether at home, work or through mobile phones, consumer behaviour changes and adapts to the new opportunities presented. This is something that has been clearly seen in the real estate industry, with a significant shift towards property buyers making use of online tools to search for property.
Research into consumer understanding of online property search tools was recently conducted by imagineNATION Alliance, an experienced research and marketing consultancy and Southern African Marketing Research Association (SAMRA) member. The results were both encouraging, with the clear indication of the level to which South Africans have adapted to the new tech-savvy environment, as well as interesting as one website emerged as a significant leader in the minds of property hunters.
The online survey, conducted over a period of five weeks, saw respondents offer insights into the behaviour of South Africans searching for property. Through banners on a range of independent websites, imagineNATION Alliance ensured the statistical integrity of the research.
The results echoed the general opinion that more and more people are using technology and online resources in their daily lives. In total, 80% of respondents use the Internet as their primary tool for searching for property, with 63% of people saying that they prefer using property portals (websites that aggregate property listings from a variety of estate agencies or sources) than other property websites or newspapers. Delving further into the details uncovered that Property24.com is seen to be the best property portal by 58% of respondents. This opinion came through even more strongly in the group of respondents who identified themselves as active property seekers, and was followed by those who favour Private Property (17%), Gumtree (15%) and IOLProperty (3%).
In any industry, top-of-mind awareness is key to ensuring a business remains successful, and in the real estate industry there were a number of brands that consumers identified with most often when asked about property. What was particularly interesting was the diversity of businesses that consumers mentioned when asked to identify property-related products. While Property24.com was the most mentioned property website, finance and consumer goods brands were also identified by respondents as being related to buying property. In these segments, brands like FNB, Samsung and Russell Hobbs were top of mind. This highlights the different markets competing for mind share around the sale of property and the importance of building a strong brand to attract the widest audience of property buyers, owners and sellers.
While there are many options out there for online property searching, the results of this survey clearly indicate what is really important to consumers: ease of use, quality listings and a wide range of available properties.
These elements informed how consumers ranked the various property search platforms, and were also the specific reasons given for preferring Property24.com over other websites.
Through this research, it has become apparent that when it comes to property searching tools, staying current with the most up-to-date technology, paired with a comprehensive marketing strategy, is essential. This is what sets the industry leaders apart as consumers continue to further embrace technology.