ERA Belgium helps more people find their dream home with Salesforce
ERA Belgium has technology innovation in its DNA, ERA is the abbreviation of Electronic Realty Association. Its parent company, ERA Franchise Systems, first pioneered the use of fax machines to sell homes to American customers as far back as 1972, long before the fax became popular in the eighties. When ERA Belgium launched in 1995, it didn’t take long to capitalise on the rapidly emerging internet and launch one of the first online listings portals in the country.
Today ERA uses Salesforce Customer 360 to underpin its real estate portal for thousands of customers and over 70 independent franchisees within its broker network – connecting renters and buyers with around 10,000 commercial and residential listings from its franchisees.
“We collect and share a huge amount of property information – to help brokers connect more buyers with properties they love,” explained Iain Cook, Managing Director of ERA Belgium. “Salesforce helps our whole network leverage huge volumes of data to create the best possible outcomes for everyone.”
Unleashing the power of data and fostering greater transparency.
The company was an early adopter of CRM, but quickly found most off-the-shelf solutions too limited to support its franchisee model. In 2015, ERA Belgium decided to overhaul its CRM strategy and implement a new platform with the flexibility and control needed to manage huge data volumes across its broker network.
“We work with a lot of different brokers – from three-person operations to the biggest realtors in Belgium. We need tight, highly-configurable data controls to manage it all – not only so every broker can access the right information, but to ensure every broker is capturing legally mandated information,” comments Cook.
ERA also needed a tool that would empower users to leverage those vast data volumes within its online portal. “Salesforce means we can easily integrate our combined data store with our portal. As a result its brokers can customise listings with highly granular data around factors like property type and occupancy for new developments. It’s a much richer experience,” adds Cook.
As well as custom fields, the team built workflows in Sales Cloud to automate time-consuming manual processes and standardise operations. Unlike many solutions on the market, users can choose between viewing records in French or Dutch at the click of a button thanks to the platform’s strong multi-language capabilities.
Streamlining residential viewings for brokers and buyers.
Before Salesforce, organising a viewing meant trying to coordinate multiple diaries by phone or email to find a time that suited all parties. Today, brokers have central visibility of a shared calendar so they can arrange bookings when it suits the seller, and consolidate viewings to both minimise disruption to the property owner and reduce downtime for the broker between appointments.
Keeping multiple stakeholders updated throughout the processes has also never been easier. Sellers can keep track of how many people have viewed their property via monthly reports that are displayed in attractive PDFs produced through an integration with PDF Butler. Buyer feedback is also captured and shared in Sales Cloud.
“It’s really important for sellers to know why someone has decided not to put in an offer on their property – if people consistently think the price is too high, they can lower it. If the property is in poor condition, they can take measures to fix it,” said Cook. “Salesforce makes the whole process more transparent.”
Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence.
ERA has been tracking sales data for 12 years and this historical data is now centralised in Salesforce to help facilitate more intelligent sales. For example, the team recently implemented Einstein to score listings in Sales Cloud. Each of the 5,000 properties is given a rating out of 100 based on how likely it is to sell at the asking price in the current market.
“Einstein will be able to flag slow-selling properties so we can make adjustments to the listing to get it in front of a wider audience of buyers,” Cook explained. “For example, if Einstein has given a house a low rating we can adjust the asking price to see if that generates more interest.”
When new properties are put on the market, Salesforce can also automatically match listings with a pool of 43,000 candidate buyers to create audiences based on their preferences. Feedback on how well the properties match the audience is then captured in Salesforce to help the solution fine-tune the matching process.
The platform also helps brokers to undertake comparative market analysis to see how much similar properties have sold for to help them price properties more accurately and create more market consistency.
Helping brokers identify best practices.
For real estate brokers, a percentage of their earnings comes from commission. Sales Cloud dashboards collect rich data on how long properties are on the market, how much they sell for, and each broker’s individual rate of commission.
This enables managers to identify staff who are doing well and drill down into the steps, habits and patterns driving successful deals. Best practices can then be shared with the rest of the team to help boost commission for everyone.
“We can even help different brokers collaborate on sales,” said Cook. “When buyers find listings outside of their local area, Salesforce connects regional franchises to provide a seamless customer experience and make referrals and commissions much simpler.”
Targeting buyers with more tailored messaging
With a wealth of data captured in Salesforce, ERA is in the process of setting up Audience Studio to make anonymised data accessible to partners such as insurance companies, financial institutions, and utilities companies.
“Salesforce helps us get more predictive about the real estate market, and we can monetise those insights to help other industries optimise their sales processes as well,” comments Cook.
Richer insights on customers also means the team can send more targeted campaigns with Marketing Cloud. For example, buyer’s browsing data can be captured from the website and logged against an opportunity in Salesforce. Leads can then be segmented in Marketing Cloud by their search criteria and sent more relevant property listings.
“We’re increasingly reaching out to B2C buyers with email campaigns built in Email Studio to generate more interest for our brokers with tailored messaging such as relevant listings and newsletters,” said Cook. “We can also automate creating brochures in Salesforce by pulling data and images into a template to show off a property, for example.”
Standing out from the crowd.
With Salesforce, ERA is helping its brokers stand apart from the competition. Standardised processes and greater automation free them up to spend more time on valuable activities, and smaller companies can harness the platform to unlock efficiency gains usually reserved for larger enterprises.
The company’s repository of data is so comprehensive it’s being used by the Universities of Leuven and Antwerp for wide ranging studies of the Belgium housing market aiding the government and the National Bank on housing policies. “With a few customisations we’ve optimised Salesforce for the real estate industry, and it’s so rewarding to be recognised as the only source in Belgium with enough consistent data to help with academic research,” revealed Cook.
Since day one, ERA Belgium has been a forward-thinking company ready to embrace the challenges of the future. Today, it has robust and flexible technology in place to help accelerate change. “Salesforce gives us a future-proof platform to evolve and innovate faster, no other CRM could have added so much value to our business,” commented Cook. “Ultimately, we’re more intelligent as an organisation, which means we can help our network of brokers to match more buyers with their dream home at the right price.”