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While consumers are rapidly moving to digital channels to find a home today, real estate agents—many of whom historically lagged moving to new marketing technologies—are catching up, reaching buyers and sellers through these new channels with more digitally based marketing tools than ever before, according to new data released by Imprev, a leading marketing technologies company.

Imprev, one of the real estate industry’s largest providers of digital marketing and design centers—with more than 200,000 real estate agent and broker clients worldwide—analyzed marketing materials and distribution channels used by agents over the last five years compared to marketing materials and distribution channels used by agents over the past 12 months. The most recent National Association of REALTORS® research shows that in 2011, over 40 percent of all homebuyers found their homes through the Internet, up from 30 percent in 2007 and just 8 percent in 2001, with over 90 percent using the Internet in their home search.

“The transformation has been remarkable,” says Renwick Congdon, CEO of Bellevue, Washington-based Imprev. “While as an industry we’ve seen incremental changes each year as real estate agents continue to adopt more digital marketing materials to take advantage of the new channel opportunities, in the last 12 months we have seen the biggest transition ever, and I can now say that real estate agents have truly embraced digital,” Congdon says.

In fact, real estate agents using Imprev-powered digital Marketing and Design Centers created nearly four times as many “digital” marketing projects in the last year—including digital flyers, email campaigns, iPad listing presentations, Craigslist display ads, single-property websites, virtual tours, eNewsletters and eCards—than they did in the last five years.

Two clear winners: a new iPad listing presentation app Imprev created in-house (private-labeled for RE/MAX as the “RE/MAX Presenter”) and a Craigslist Display Ad tool. At Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and RE/MAX, the Craigslist tool was the fourth most popular design used by agents in January 2012.

The iPad presentation app was the most popular design in the Imprev-powered RE/MAX Design Center in January, less than three months after it was released. The iPad design set a new adoption “speed record” at Imprev. Congdon notes that in 2007, every one of the top five marketing designs used by RE/MAX agents was a flyer.

Why the dramatic change? “Digital marketing tools like iPad apps and Craigslist ads help agents reach consumers through the new digital channels that consumers are using to find homes,” Congdon says. “Within weeks of releasing the iPad app for RE/MAX, we were inundated with hundreds of success stories. One agent, based in Phoenix, said he won a $2.9 million listing by using the iPad presentation app within days of its availability, beating out other top local agents because the sellers were so impressed.” Imprev will soon roll out iPad presentation apps for other brokerage firms.

Digital Marketing Explosion
Each year Imprev handles millions of agent marketing projects and its internal data shows a dramatic shift from real estate agents using a very limited number of distribution channels to multiple distribution channels as they expand their digital marketing prowess.

“When we started Imprev in 2000, most real estate agents distributed marketing materials through the U.S. mail, point-of-purchase displays in their offices, in brochure boxes on property ‘For Sale’ signs and at open houses. Digital distribution was limited to websites and email,” says Congdon, noting that at the time the industry’s mainstay was printed property flyers and postcards.

But today, real estate agents now have more digital distribution channels than ever before. The company notes that at Imprev, new digital marketing tools allow agents to instantly publish a single-property website, create a QR code, schedule a personalized email campaign, generate a Craigslist display ad, or with one click, post on Facebook or Twitter. An agent can also walk into a seller’s kitchen with an iPad in hand and make a full listing presentation without requiring an Internet connection. The company is about to release a new product that creates and posts video to Vimeo or YouTube with a single-click, another industry first.

This trend should not be interpreted as the displacement of print marketing material, Congdon cautions. “Digital marketing is expanding an agent’s marketing arsenal, not replacing it,” he says. “Flyers and postcards have long been the backbone of an agent’s marketing campaign because they work and they’ll remain as a top product for as long as they continue to work. The difference is that they no longer have to work alone.”

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