How Carter Jonas is using personalisation to improve the customer experience

Events · NEWS · Property / 6th October 2017

Carter Jonas, the national property consultancy, has recently incorporated personalisation into its website to enhance the customer experience. Here Daniel Fulbrook, Head of Digital Marketing at Carter Jonas, talks to ORM about why they introduced personalisation, how it has improved the customer experience and increased conversion rates too.

Why have you introduced personalisation into your website?

An important case for introducing personalisation was to address the internal requirements. We are a multi-disciplinary business, and a single website often struggled to convey the multitude of differing marketing messages and services, for each of our divisions, in one go. We offer many services, amongst them we offer residential sales, residential lettings, commercial property services and rural consultancy – there are more than 100 service lines that our business offers, yet we only have one website to promote them all. Before we introduced personalisation to our site it was a challenge to meet the requirements of our internal stakeholders and marry those up to the needs of our varying external audiences. Personalisation goes someway to enable a more effective positioning of the different marketing messages and enables us to tailor the presentation of our services across the site to the user, which increases relevance and subsequently conversions.

What did your former website look like?

We had introduced basic personalisation on the previous website, but the site had been built to reflect our internal structure, opposed to presenting services based on the audience need. It had a very internal-out focus. That’s what we were trying to get around. We were dealing with a complex mash-up of different services, regions, localities – from a diverse internal audience. On the former site, it may have been  confusing to our customer which services our business offered. The former site made the customer journey complicated and unwieldy.

How has personalisation enhanced the content on your website?

Personalisation now enables our site to adapt to a user’s behaviour. If a user is searching for a commercial property, it’s likely they are part of the commercial audience, so the content they see, specifically on returning to the site will start to change to reflect that fact. We will show them relevant videos, publications and properties under this vertical. In the past, without personalisation, the problem was that it was hit or miss whether the website struck a chord or engaged with a specific audience. Now using personalisation, we can change the messages on the site depending on who is looking at it.

How does personalisation work?

We use Sitecore as a delivery platform. We’ve broken our customer database up and segmented it into six different categories, each with subcategories beneath. So, for example, ‘residential’ is one category, with sub-sections such as: ‘a residential person looking to rent’, ‘a residential person looking to buy’. We’ve done something similar for the other divisions. Our data comes from the users’ behaviour on the site, as they interact with the site they score points in the various different categories, which in turn enables the personalisation. Before, we never used to know who our site users were, they were just numbers on Google Analytics, but now we’ve introduced personalisation we can identify what was once an anonymous number and segment the user, based upon their behaviour on our site. We then top that with geoip personalisation, which enables us to show them regionally-relevant content as well.

How do you know who your online customers are?

We only know who people actually are when they engage with our website – such as sign in, register or make a property enquiry. At that point we take their sign-up information, plus their preferences and attributes and pass this data on to Microsoft Dynamics, our internal CRM, which updates our records. If the person is a new user, they are added to our CRM in a database called un-owned contacts, or if they are an existing customer or already known to us, we update our records to reflect their recent interactions with us on our site. Even the anonymous data isn’t lost, it’s stored as a unique number, recording behaviour and interactions ready to be appended once they register with us.

How has personalisation benefited your internal operations?

All our staff can use the enhanced CRM data to help segment lists around the additional information gleaned about our registered clients and customers. Now our marketing team can identify anyone who has registered on our website, segment them according to their interests and send them relevant marketing communications. In addition, the CRM data is piped back to the site, further enhancing the onsite personalisation for our registered users.

What are the other benefits of personalisation?

Not only is it helping to expand our database of contacts, it is improving our existing contact information too. Previously, if one of our agents from a particular business stream wanted to add someone to the database who they had a telephone call with, they’d have to manually log into our CRM and create a record. As an extension of personalisation, our new website integrates with our back-end database and grows that contact list automatically. Since we launched our new website in July 2017 enquiries for our properties have increased by more than 40% and requests for Market Appraisals through the website (which the public call valuations) have increased by 242%.

What challenges did you come across introducing personalisation?

We ran four different systems, all of which captured data into silos. One of the challenges we had was creating a single customer view. We wanted to be able to know if someone was a residential client that was also looking for a commercial property. So, part of our project was to begin integrating all our systems together, into a single CRM.

We had technological issues too. Before we launched the new site, we discovered that all our traffic was being piped through a central IP in London – and internal audiences were being told that their nearest agent was in the Marylebone office. This was an internal issue that we resolved before going live.

Other than personalisation, what other improvements have you made to your site?

We are doing a lot of brand new and innovative things that a lot of people in our industry aren’t currently doing. We have introduced online offers, allowing an interested party to make an offer on any of our properties, 24 hours a day. Our clients now have a portal log in, a central area, where they can check the status of their sale or letting, just like online banking, 24 hours a day.

Supporting this 24/7 approach, all our properties offer 24 call handling, allowing potential buyers or tenants of our properties to make enquiries into our properties day or night. We also reviewed and streamlined many of our customer acquisition funnels, helping to promote why you should appoint Carter Jonas before one of our agents even steps through the door.

We have also introduced other bits of functionality like the ‘Property Wizard’, a type of property search which helps people to discover properties for sale/to-let based on things like lifestyle criteria such as commute time.

As a result, we bring back properties to our potential buyers that they may never have considered looking at. Already, we’ve seen a massive amount of people using this tool – in excess of 20,000 in the first month of launch.

We have also built our site around promoting our clients’ properties and reducing the number of ‘zero’ results a user will get doing a search on our website. Taking inspiration from airbnb, when a user searches for a property we show a map with the number of properties in that area. We’ve done away with specific radius restrictions, and we show properties that are also 10% above someone’s price bracket – this has reduced the barriers that other websites impose on a search. We never want to be in a situation where we’ve nothing to show our potential customers.

Daniel Fulbrook is speaking at ORM’s next event, ‘Connecting People to Property in the Digital Age’, on Wednesday 11 October. Click here to register.

Amy Creeden Amy Creeden Senior Marketing Manager Amy Creeden