By Joseph Ghossoub, Chairman, G&Co.
Today we live in an environment that is overloaded with information, which has given rise to the empowered customer. The impact of a negative comment on social media can quite literally put a brand into tailspin, at the very least, it can significantly affect corporate strategy – and customers know this!
The customer relationship dynamics have now changed forever and non-more so than the UAE’s luxury real estate sector.
Although the overall real estate market in the UAE maybe softening, demand for luxury properties is still very strong. However, with so many competing high-end developments particularly in Dubai, developers now need to find innovative ways of differentiating themselves from their competitors.
Depending on who you listen to, it can cost 4-5 times as much to win a new customer rather than keep an existing customer. But the issue in many cases is that developers don’t know exactly who they are building for – other than a particular customer profile or demographic group.
However, whatever strategy developers come up with, creating buy-in, a bond, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, will be essential to their success. According to recent reports, high-net worth individuals in the Middle East, will own a minimum of four luxury properties and it is fair to say that they are influencers and socialise within very influential groups.
So are we now potentially talking about repeat customers – YES! Therefore, should we in that case bring loyalty to the table – YES! Instead of just looking at demographics or profiling, should we actually get to know these customers – YES! 60% of G&Co sales are from repeat investors.
So, a boutique approach is required and a focused sales and marketing campaign. But apart from extremely personal touches how can we anticipate what our investors want. That’s difficult I know, but initially we need to come up with a value proposition based on trends and here’s my top three for 2018/2019 – sustainability, technology and entertainment.
Environmental awareness is top of the UAE government’s agenda, with Dubai just recently announcing new tipping fees to encourage building owners to divert as much trash away from landfill as possible. So, it would be fair to expect sustainability to be prominent throughout the design – LED lighting, water tap diffusers, solar panels for heating, indigenous plants that require little water, recycling mechanisms using grey water for irrigation purposes, A/C modules – the list is almost endless.
From an interior design perspective, these practical green features can be complemented by bringing the outdoors, inside. This can be achieved by using all-natural building materials such as hardwood and natural colour schemes, indeed the incorporation of a strong natural statement such as plant covered wall or replicating a natural landscape.
The popularity of the smart home and smart home gadgets are I believe going to take the UAE real estate market by storm over the coming year. Home owners now realise how efficient, practical and convenient smart home technologies are. From IoT appliances that can close the windows and curtains, fridges that can notify you about expired products, remote-controlled ovens, automated A/C and lighting controls, doorbell security features and so on.
These are the gadgets that high net-worth individuals want, it’s a little bit like James Bond receiving a new Aston Martin, it’s a beautiful car no doubt but it’s the gadgets that everybody loves.
Running in parallel and in many ways an integral part of the smart home would be the entertainment room. No longer is this a games room, the domain of the billiard table and or a cocktail bar, complete with dance floor and a vintage Dukebox.
Today’s luxury buyers want home entertainment, and or some type of gaming room set up. Whether its for Internet millionaires, online celebrities, IT entrepreneurs, today’s high-net worth investors want this feature – it is quite simply non-negotiable.
The only question is, how technically sophisticated should it be. Cinema quality AV is an absolute given, in a large soundproof room with enough space to accommodate a small group of reclining armchairs, with multi-screens for gaming enthusiasts. It is also not uncommon to find a small but fully fitted kitchen, to prepare and serve big screen drinks and snacks.
So, there’s my top three trends for the next 12 months, but to reiterate, it is the approach that is key. Boutique in style, get to know your customers and find out what they want, be flexible and accommodating, make suggestions and always offer solutions!