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ULI OC and IE Leaders and Managers Program

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 / Urban Land Institute

Janet Benavidez, John Martin, Janet Kemmerers at ULI Presentation.jpg
 

Marketing leaders from two prominent home builders lead a lively discussion and robust presentation about consumer thinking and the customer experience at the ULI OC/IE Leaders & Managers Program session on September 28.  Following John Martin of Martin & Associates, Janet Kemmerer, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at William Lyon Homes and Janet Benavidez, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Shea Homes thanked the class for participating in what promised to be a great evening.

Janet Kemmerer told of a 24-plus year career in marketing within the home building industry, moving from Centex to Brookfield to William Lyon Homes.  The company’s seven divisions operate under her marketing aegis, and she manages the William Lyon Signature Home Brand.

Janet Benavidez is Corporate Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Shea Homes, leading all of the company’s marketing initiatives and implementing new technologies to promote the customer experience. Ms. Benavidez has been with Shea Homes since 1998 where she began as an Escrow Administrator and steadily climbed the corporate ladder.

Ms. Kemmerer launched her presentation with her focus on consumer influencers, consumer mindset and consumer online, keys to customer connection. She points to social media as the major consumer influencer, citing the big shift to mainstream, the trend to mobile and their impact on a company’s bottom line. She cited statistics on Facebook’s domination of the social landscape and pinning the fastest growing segments at people 45 to 64, and reported 30% of users are between 25 and 34. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest were also reviewed, all contributing to the overall power of online marketing in today’s consumer world.

While attendees enjoyed the impromptu dinner, the presenters gave a bit of personal history.

In terms of consumer behaviors, Ms. Kemmerer reported that 67% of smartphone users texted first thing every morning. More impressively, she stated that 56% of all mothers use their Smartphones to decide where to buy a product. In 2016, online smartphone shopping is expected to top out at $96 billion. For the new home development industry, that means that including smartphones and social media in a customer engagement plan is essential to expanding the “follower” base. In January 2016, 9% of William Lyon Homes website traffic came directly from social media, up from 1% in 2015. Also, in September 2016, 42% of website traffic came directly from smartphone use, up 17% since 2015.

Moving on to the topic of consumer mindsets, Ms. Kemmerer spoke about choice versus decision, or the opportunity, right and power to select versus, an analysis and steps approach to eliminating options. The home buying mindset was the subject of William Lyon Homes research, which found that 90% of home shoppers go online first, and that they visit your model community to rule you out in the process of decision making. She cited four principles for the organization of online information that helps the customer through the decision making process. These principles were; Cut, or less is more, Concretize, or provide concrete information to help decision makers, Categorization to help the user categorize and limit choices in each category, and Condition for Complexity, or starting the process easy and keeping consumers engaged. Based on their research, the company is also innovating with social media tools such as #hashtag strategies. #LiveLoveLead, a term referencing the company’s Home, Customers, Leaders program, is currently used throughout their marketing efforts and is positioned front and center on the website to engage the web visitor. This technique ostensibly creates an online concierge, connecting team members and assuring contact with prospective customers within 60 minutes from the time they ask for information.

Ms. Kemmerer also spoke about using new technology, such as geo fencing, to serve up ads to people who have already visited the community, using their smartphones, when they are in the proximity of that community.  Summing up, Ms. Kemmerer spoke of some basic rules: Keep the online experience consumer centric, make it highly visual in content, make it easy or follow the 3 click rule, make it informative and rich in content. She stressed that for home builders, social media is a must.

When Janet Benavidez took the stage, the focus shifted to the personal experience of the home buying process. She then went on to present a case study in consumer engagement and how Shea Homes took innovative new steps to create a personal experience for the Ventana community at Rancho Mission Viejo’s Esencia. What led up to the creation of this program was an internal process of listening to what buyers want in new home design, and responding to any of their frustrations by offering more freedom in determining how their home will live.

The fruit of this research was recognition of the home buyer’s desire for more choices in floor plans. That led to the creation of the Shea 3D program implemented at Ventana. In this community, buyers could become part of the architectural design team to configure their home to fit their style. Educating buyers about this evolutionary opportunity was accomplished thorough going strategy that began with how the website presented of plans. Of critical importance, Ms. Benavidez said, was what she termed The Transition, the process of seamlessly moving the buyer from their online experience to continued exploration at the community and into the next phase of experience. Buyers’ expectations must be rewarded when they reach the community.

She urged attendees to think of the welcome, and treating customers with the utmost respect, and share excitement about what they’re about to experience. Informative displays and a welcoming environment remind them of why they were attracted. We take the customer from being a shopper to being a scout, from interested to invested. Technology that they’re already familiar with, like touch screen displays, previewed their model home tour. In the case of Ventana, the displays also introduced the use of more advanced technology, prompting them on use of their smartphones, and a special url, to experience this unique Shea 3D advantage as they toured.

With use of the smartphone app, the tours of the models become an interactive experience with the Shea 3D concept, showing them how a particular section of the home – the one they are in – can be reconfigured to suit their personal style, whether it is kitchen-centric, entertainment-centric or outdoor-centric. Each configuration becomes visible on screen, allowing them to view and review their choices, and to move at their own speed through the model home tour.

The use of the tools that were deployed at Ventana is not limited to the Shea 3D application. It can also be effectively used to demonstrate room options, and possibly, design center choices such as flooring and cabinetry. Ms. Benavidez pointed out that the use of these tools is very effective in engaging the customer in the discovery process, encouraging them to participate and enjoy their overall experience more.

The final segment of Ms. Benavidez talk related to maintaining brand consistency throughout the marketing process, so that components such as the brochure, ads, press releases and online communications continually reinforce the customer experience. She concluded by underscoring the need for human interaction with home buyers, including hospitality and home buyer events as a must-do, over and above the use of great technology. She then opened the discussion for questions, and wrapped the evening with a big thank you to attendees.

Continuing with a roster of leading top marketing executives and leaders in community development and homebuilding, ULI INDUSTRY LEADERS & MANAGERS PROGRAM runs through November 2, 2016 with a break during the week of the ULI Fall Meeting, October 26. It is being organized and led by John Martin of Martin & Associates. The program runs through November 2, 2016 with a break during the week of the ULI Fall Meeting, October 26.

Participants at every level of experience and various industry disciplines attend these valuable two-and-one-half hour seminars that meet Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at First Service Residential in Irvine. There are several ways to participate including special pricing for ULI OC/IE Members and non-members as well as students and the public. For details on these special programs or to register, email Kendra.Chandler@uli.org.

The Urban Land Institute (http://www.uli.org ) is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the ULI has more than 40,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

 

 

 



Published by : Fran Bangert
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