THE FUTURE OF ONLINE HOME SALES
With some really exciting projects in the works, we thought it was about time to sit down with our Senior UX/UI Designer, Dekin Dorcas. The focus of this chat was on the future of online home sales and his product design around our new Home Configurator product.
Without further ado…
Check out this Q&A to see just how much this product will help make online home sales a great experience.
Let’s talk a little bit about the new product on the roadmap, the Home Configurator, and how it came to be. We recall some initial conversations about putting deposits down on a home site and connecting to e-commerce. Was that how all of this started?
No, this was a big factor but not the catalyst. What really started it was the lengthy product development work involving our new on-site SCP (Sales Center Presentation) and continuing to see a possible need to create something like that for buyers themselves. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the possibilities by making a few adjustments to what we were already doing there with SCPs. Giving the buyers a way to explore and create their own complete online home configurations seemed to be the future.
Is that because the SCP is really led by a sales person and this is buyer-driven?
Yes, this would turn it into a self-driven experience. Online configurators target buyers and act as a tool to educate and personalize without the pressure to buy. They create a connection with buyers that act like mental product and marketing investments that have great potential to increase brand/product loyalty, eventually leading to a sale.
Do you envision something where they can actually transact a site deposit or home sale within the tool?
Right – so you have that experience I just spoke of plus being able to take care of that initial transaction, which is reserving a lot and up to when you actually buy a house online. That’s where this started materializing, with moving from a sales presentation where the sales person closes the deal to a fully self-serve tool for buyers.
What was the path to designing a home configurator as a product for home builders? Why now?
In addition to what I previously mentioned – timing and purpose. The pandemic did what we already know, kept people at home. Builders started looking for better ways to reach those buyers at home. This resulted in more online sales of “pre-configured” homes and the increased need for virtual and digital experiences. I also know the world was on a path (although a slow one in comparison) to become more digital and require less in-person shopping.
What are these at-home buyers looking for now?
Buyers are demanding better products along with increased education and understanding of the products they are in the market for. What better way to give them this than offering them an actual online configurator that fills in all those gaps within the homebuying experience long before a potential buyer ever speaks to builders.
What do you think sets this product apart from other things you've seen?
The smart/digital marketing and real data that can organically come from users being able to build and save full home configurations online is another tremendous benefit. Of course, we can’t forget the push to buy a “home” online. This is the final and ultimate goal, but I believe there are so many other intrinsic benefits for both the potential buyers and builders alike long before we actually reach that final destination. Also, this stands out because it has been developed with builder feedback and was designed to be seamless between being fully desktop and mobile-friendly.
Can you give us some examples of configurator designs you found inspiring on your design journey?
Porsche was awesome from an experience standpoint. It’s mainly a large screen experience and I just really like the usability factor. What I mean by that is from easily switching from desktop to mobile and being able to work on many screens. I go back to it all the time. Another one I really took a lot of inspiration from is Can-Am and looked closely at everything they did. They have multiple categories and it’s really well put together. The images are about as good as they can get while still providing you probably 90% of your options. They use a 3D model so they have very few options you don’t see and you can spin it while working on it. Also, when moving from mobile to desktop, nothing really changed. It got a bit more compact, but you never lost functionality.
Where do you think the homebuying process is headed?
I think we can all say that we’ve seen the trend of buyers doing their homework and relying less on salespeople. So, online sales. To me it’s a no-brainer. Look how we’ve become more and more accustomed to buying on our own. I know that homes are a tactile thing like a car, but over time, the more we educate ourselves we get as close as possible in our brains to what we were buying before. And that’s what a configurator is going to do for buyers. I mean, number one – educate them on the homebuying process and the availability of options and lots that they might have never noticed.
This also lets the builder promote options in the tool that they would have to hope happens with salespeople during the in-person process. So, it creates a more consistent sales process. Online configuration and sales feels like a pretty big disruption for homebuilders, right?
I agree. And there’s more we can offer. I think in many ways it could be even much more immersive because we offer more VR and AR types of experiences walking through a house. You know, getting that real feeling of what you’re buying. They’ve been doing this in cars for a while – why not homes?