To what extent does employee loyalty and commitment to a brand drive overall customer loyalty? This research paper (.pdf) tackles that question and concludes that employee attitudes toward their company have a high degree of impact on customer loyalty. What the authors essentially argue is that fostering a corporate environment that espouses a unique and positive corporate culture grounded in clearly defined values goes a long way to inspire employees to be more engaged with their company and brand. Once this baseline is met, the authors propose that brands create internal employee engagement indexes to monitor employee sentiments toward the brand (similar in concept to consumer engagement metrics) to ensure they remain committed to the brand and ultimately the customer. Thus, the company can ensure that it’s employees are working towards increasing customer loyalty. A perfect example of this is Zappos.
Hitwise and Google show that foreclosure searches are creeping up on “traditional” searches regarding properties for sale. UPDATE: RealtyTrac reports a 6% rise in foreclosures in February 2009 over January 2009, with a 30% increase over February 2008. On March 12, 2009, Hitwise reported that foreclosure searches are on the rise.
For fun I ran the top five Hitwise searches in Google Trends to see the differences between the search reporting engines. Google had slightly different data.
Next I compared the search term “foreclosures” against search terms “homes for sale” and “real estate for sale” over a 12 month period. Here’s what I found:
foreclosures, homes for sale, real estate for sale, US, Last 12 months
Then I focused on Nevada for the same search phrases: forclosures, homes for sale, real estate for sale, NV, Last 12 months
Finally, I narrowed the searches down to Las Vegas: foreclosures, homes for sale, real estate for sale, LAS VEGAS, NV, Last 12 months
As an increasing number of real estate firms seek to embrace and integrate Web 2.0 principles in to their websites, many of these firms may encounter a sense of frustration in having to “upgrade” once again to meet, or exceed, customer expectations regarding Internet-based services. Is real estate an Internet based service? Absolutely. With over 70% of real estate searches beginning on the Internet, real estate is decidedly an Internet-based services industry. But what kind of Internet-based services industry?
Rather than an “execute on what I already know” process, real estate is more weighted to a “search and gather” process. Few customers, in one search session, find a home, contact an agent, book a showing, and buy a house the next day. The majority of consumers spend several months, on average, searching for homes, viewing listings, compiling research, and saving preferred property listings before even registering with a firm or contacting an agent (i.e., searching and gathering). And real estate firms have tried to facilitate this search and gather process with their registration systems, drip marketing services, and online appointment making processes. But these tools align more with the “execute on what I already know” (i.e., utilitarian) aspect of the home search process; that is, these elements do not really help a customer determine what attributes to search for in home or community.
So, what should firms do to engage customers earlier and mid-way through the process to facilitate a higher degree of interaction with, and reliance on, the firm’s website to help a consumer define attributes? One way to begin is to set key performance indicators and develop an engagement index.
Creating an engagement index is a great way to assess overall site responsiveness to consumers’ search needs. Eric T. Peterson defines engagement as
Engagement is an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site against a clearly defined set of goals.
He has written a great series of posts on this topic. Part V of his series steps readers through the application of his process. Jeremiah Owyang adds some additional considerations here and here. And this blog actually walks through how to calculate “influence”.
Although these concepts in analytics may seem arcane, by focusing on such, real estate firms can begin the process of smoothly, logically, and economically moving their sites into the realm of Web 2.0. In future posts, I will explore how real estate firms may begin to create and apply an engagement index, and what elements they should focus on measuring regarding such.