Marketing Suite's Key Elements - The World of Off-Plan Property Sales
Due to the circumstances during the pandemic's national lockdown in the UK, there has been a surge in virtual viewings and live walk-through video tours. This phenomenon is certainly not exclusive to the UK. These recent headlines remind me of my time growing up in Asia, where it is common to see residential developments launching off-plan sales across multiple cities in Asia. This means the property is being sold before or during its built, with only the plans available for a potential buyer's inspection. In fact, some of the UK's new build residential developments favoured an initial launch in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, before they are even offered to local buyers. These pop-ups are by no means a marketing suite, but a condensed and travel-friendly set up to assist with marketing and sales efforts.
The process of buying off-plan has pushed the importance in each project's marketing suite. This space to facilitate the marketing and sales process is typically called a marketing suite, or at times, also called a show home, show apartment, sales suite, sales office or a display suite has become one of the most important routes to selling a new build property. Often, a marketing suite is built before there is any actual build to show, so creating the environment, conveying the information and vision of a project is key to generating interests from potential buyers for new developments. Potential buyers today are discerning and design-conscious, especially towards the high-end, prime to super-prime new build developments, the marketing suite is a chance to showcase an overall lifestyle too. When potential buyers purchase off-plan, a full show apartment is ideal if that is possible to showcase all details, finishes, lighting, down to the exact ceiling height a buyer is buying into. So what are the key elements when delivering a marketing suite?
1. Site selection
The location of the marketing suite is often related to the stage of the actual development. At times, the site for the marketing suite could be on-site in a temporary structure, on-site in an apartment that has been accelerated for completion, located nearby off-site, or simply off-site. Many factors come in to play, most notably the construction stage of the actual development and the property developer's budget committed to delivering a marketing suite. The most successful marketing suite showcases the quality of the completed apartments, but also the building's architecture in its wider context. If the residential development is in King's Cross, for example, the marketing suite is ideally located within King's Cross to allow the potential buyer to immerse in the development's environment and offerings.
2. Stepping in the shoes of a potential buyer
From the moment a potential buyer rings the bell to enter the marketing suite, they are taken on a carefully curated journey through the marketing suite. The potential buyer's route through the marketing suite is carefully curated, hence, it is important to step into the shoes to evaluate what's important, dissect the important parts to present and determine relevant areas within the marketing suite to facilitate the marketing and sales process. In addition to that, it is important to understand the number of personnel involved for each group - will the marketing suite hold more than one group of potential buyers at the same time? Is it by appointment only or will the team expect walk-ins? These minute details will affect the layout's planning and directly relate to the size required - meaning this has to be determined from day one. Is the marketing suite located on a private and discreet entrance? Or will it have a commercial front just to browse, such as a Reception Area to accommodate that?
3. First impressions
While there are marketing suites that are fully dressed show homes that require little imagination from a potential buyer, the first impression of the marketing suite matters most. The most challenging site for a good first impression is likely a marketing suite in a portacabin; an extra level of creativity needs to be injected to overcome a portacabin's limitations plus minimise construction noise through an excellent acoustic strategy. Acoustic quality can make a potential buyer feel heard without any distractions, so this aspect cannot be underestimated.
The most impressive marketing suites are those that incorporate elements of a scheme that are intangible. For example, conveying the property developer's dedication to quality, craftsmanship, services that go above and beyond - as appropriate to the development's standard and its target market. For example, super-prime residential developments, defined as properties above USD 10 million, expect an unparalleled service and amenities that are similar to a stay in a hotel. Therefore, this level of service should be replicated, if possible by the team to convey the message to a potential buyer from the moment they enter a marketing suite. Something as subtle as a scent may be used to create the atmosphere. They may not be physical elements to touch, but the subtle but key environment built-in will be remembered.
For upcoming property developers or those who may not necessarily have a long track record of existing developments, the first impression of the marketing suite is the chance to demonstrate the confidence of the completed project - the marketing suite plays an even more important aspect to the entire process.
The back-of-house portion of a marketing suite is hidden in plain sight but plays a key role in the smooth running of each potential buyer's journey through the marketing suite. For an experience-led marketing suite, the practical aspects from storage of marketing materials to placement of the coffee machine has to be well integrated. Staff only private areas should be made as discreet as possible, eg. using concealed doors that hidden along a joinery wall.
5. Marketing materials
Materials that reveal a development's scheme can range from brochures, physical models, videos, computer-generated images, as well as finishes samples. Through these materials that are typically a result of the collaborative input from the architecture team, interiors team, marketing and PR team, potential buyers will hopefully feel a strong sense of a project and its proposed lifestyle. Some marketing suites will even have a screening room, most likely in a finish similar to the development's amenities, it all depends on the size and budget that are available. The one that excites me most is the finishes samples of the standard materials and fixtures because you can touch and feel it; these will be the actual look and feel of the space you are buying into, and the real representation of their quality is something an off-plan sale needs to work hard to deliver. Besides that, as someone who cares about our planet's resources, I find many brochures containing generic content, with only a few pages of key information about the development; why are clunky and non-specific brochures still handed out to potential buyers today?
At the end of the day though, my personal and professional experience says that a great marketing suite is somewhere potential buyers feel at ease and could feel at home. Unnecessary distractions, uncertainties and pressure need to be removed for potential purchasers to have the time to enjoy the space, to be able to understand the entire scheme from its overall context to the feel of the door handle. Potential buyers need to have confidence that the property and the building are where they want to spend their time living, relaxing, entertaining, and perhaps even working full-time today. There is an art to delivering effortless spaces; with the residential element, as well as branding and sales element, this is not an easy task but if designed and planned well, could return in multiples to property developers through its successful off-plan sales.
On another note, speaking about purchasing a property without viewing the completed build, virtual viewing technology has made it easier for potential buyers to virtually walk through a property whilst being in a remote location. This has contributed to a boom in virtual viewing technology in the UK, with London-based estate agencies including Strutt & Parker, Foxtons, Savills and Winkworth reported to adopt them. In addition to a property scanning service to assist estate agencies, the current technology is also at the stage where it is capable to extract measurements of rooms; this could be a game-changing use of the technology from my perspective as an architect. Other methods include pre-recorded videos or even live video calls where an estate agent calls a potential buyer to show a property, allowing potential buyers to request a more detailed look into some areas and seeing a property in real-time.
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