Intro (00:07):You’re listening to the “For The Love Of Emails” podcast, powered by Netcore, a weekly show dedicated to helping email marketers, marketing enthusiasts, and professionals of all walks engage, grow, and retain customers through reliable, smart, and effective email communication and engagement. Discover actionable ways to increase ROI and deliver value through email innovations, personalization, optimization, email deliverability, and email campaigns.No fluff tune in to hear best practices and tactical solutions from the best thought leaders and practitioners master your email communication now.
Tanishq Juneja (00:41):
Hello and welcome everyone to another exciting episode of For the love of emails podcast. I’m your host Tanishq Juneja, global product marketing head, Netcore cloud. I also have my co-host Shreya Agarwal who is strategic account manager, Indonesia, from Netcore cloud. We have a very, very special guest today. He’s an experienced marketing professional with over 13 years of experience in media companies, advertising agencies, tech startups. He’s well-versed with offline online ATL BTL and is always updating and upgrading the marketing techniques and new strategies. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker, creative and passionate in branding, and brand building, and consumer acquisition and journey. Guys, please welcome Bharat Buxani from the 99 groups, Bharat thank you for joining us.
Bharat Buxani (01:32):
Thank you so much for having me
Tanishq Juneja (01:35):
Amazing. So, Bharat, we’ll quickly get started, and we’ll get into the conversation. Shreya, you and I have been communicating a lot about how the transformation has happened during covid. So we’ll absolutely get into that discussion. Please tell us what unique thing you are doing in the market.
Bharat Buxani (01:56):
Okay. At 99 group, we have a simple mission from the beginning: to build and create the simplest and most trusted property marketplace in Southeast Asia. So everything that we do comes down to these two key factors, simple and most trusted; these are the two things. Okay. Simple, it’s because then you know what, there are so many things we need to do to obtain a property. How do we simplify this process? If previously there were seven or eight steps, how do we make it into three or four perfect steps so that the journey to acquire your first home is not that difficult? You know, I think a lot of people, when they hear that, you know what I need to purchase a house, I need to obtain a loan to purchase a house before starting, you’re already taken back by all the administration process that you need, you know, all the red tape that you need to go through in your first property, especially that’s what the market is.
Bharat Buxani (02:53):
That’s how the property market has been working on this. While the group is very clear, we need to be very simple and trusted. Trust also plays a very key role here is because it’s that when you’re getting a property, you need to make sure that the documentation that you need, even before the documentation, you need to make sure the picture that you see online is with the same property, that one you’re visiting the condition and everything you do not waste time going around town, looking for properties that the picture and the real property doesn’t suit doesn’t match. After that, you need to make sure that you’re working with the right person, not the middle man, the right agent, the agent who actually has the owner’s power and authority to sell that property. So that’s what we are trying to do. It has to be simple, but it has to be trusted as well.
Tanishq Juneja (03:48):
I mean, I love that. It is simple and trusted. I think many people, as you said, are going to be first-time property owners, and they could be very vulnerable. So if you are making it more simple and reliable, for them to choose the first house, I think it’s a very noble purpose, which 99 groups are making. So, what are the benefits you offer the customer digitally, being an offline industry for the longest time? Real estate has been quite an offline industry. So how do you operate, and what are the benefits you all offer customers digitally?
Bharat Buxani (04:26):
Okay. you’ve said it correctly that a property is always a traditional market. It has always been all these years. It has always been a traditional market. As businesses are now migrating to digital platforms, pushed by the fact that we went through a pandemic that you had no choice but to convert to digital faster, we want to make sure that we can capture and give the same experience to our customers when finding their home offline, it can’t be a hundred percent, same. Still, we need to get it at least to 90, 95%. So we have provided various features such as 360 degrees with shelter, verified listings, reviewing new homes, and even an online property exhibition.
Tanishq Juneja (05:13):
Interesting, online property exhibition sounds very exciting. Can you share more about that?
Bharat Buxani (05:19):
Okay. See, growing up, I’m sure everyone went through the same thing as well, property exhibitions are always offline in a big hall. You walk in; you take a tour of the whole area. You get flyers and leaflets on every booth you go to, and you’re attracted by big major signs that say discount, cashback, and easy loan mortgage-free. All those things are the ones that show how the normal property exhibition works. And it’s usually done over a period of one week or two weeks, with the peak being on the weekend. For sure, because you come with your family and enjoy what we are trying to do, due to this pandemic, we had no option last year but to convert and create an online property exhibition. So we were the first ones in Indonesia. 99 group was the first one in Asia to have an online property exhibition. How do we build the concept of an offline exhibition where each developer has their own pavilion and their own booth. How do we convert that into an online thing?
Tanishq Juneja (06:19):
Using Virtual Booths
New Speaker (06:19):
Exactly. Virtual booth, virtual page, like each developer has their own landing page.
Bharat Buxani (06:27):
And by doing that also, we need to make the seamless developers transformation from offline to online. They usually have teams, right? To help them manage an offline expo. How do we help them to have a seamless transition to online? How do we help them make the materials that they can use as an online example, how do they actually update their promotion on a day-to-day basis? Because that’s what they do offline, right? Like on the last day you have the last day sale, how simple should our CMS be so that the developer can update that themselves. So that’s what we did last year. That’s what we did. It was called Mandiri festival property, Indonesia. Okay. It was held last year, from 9th of September until the 9th of October.
Tanishq Juneja (07:16):
Interesting. And if I may ask like, how was the experience from a consumer perspective? Because everything was chill, everything was online. Did you see any difference, any change in the way they were acknowledging the event?
Bharat Buxani (07:31):
Absolutely. From consumer experience, I’m sure they had a good time. I can’t say the same thing about the team who managed it like one month prior to that cause it was really, really hectic. And for the first expo, we had a hundred developers come on board with us. So our team has to manage a hundred developers, building their space online, virtually. For the consumer side. However, it doesn’t change the behavior that they use to attend offline events. It took time to get it off and to run. Definitely, you know, like explaining to them tutorials, like how do you do this? What do you do? How do you make an inquiry? How do you purchase an E-Key? E-Key is an example that that’s how we filter our consumers. Like you need to purchase an E-Key, then you can purchase a property. And the value of the E-Key will be on the property price because that’s even then, that’s what developers want. Right? Like when you came to a boot offline, they will ask for your name and contact details. What are you interested in? So we are helping developers filter their consumers as well.
Tanishq Juneja (08:37):
Awesome. I like the concept of E-Key.
Bharat Buxani (08:41):
So, we did a lot. We even did a lot of events supporting the main event. What I mean by events supporting the main event is that we had webinars, we had zoom sessions. We had speakers coming online to help educate consumers in purchasing the property. Like, what are the greens? What are the green flags? What are the red flags? You have to notice when buying a property what you are supposed to get from the developer? How easy is it to apply for a home loan? What documentation do you need to apply for home loans? Those all help us improve our consumer journey.
Tanishq Juneja (09:18):
Got it. I think there’s a huge shift. Shreya and I were talking about a huge shift in the way people are now looking at things where they were a little bit offline. Now they’re doing it online. So there’s a huge transformation that has happened in the entire ecosystem. It’s not just real estate, but overall in the entire ecosystem as well.
Shreya Agarwal (09:40):
Yes, Tanishq, so coming to that, I’ll pick up from what you were talking about just now. So during COVID, you know, we have all had to adjust. We all have to adjust our lives with business, anything, right? So with this global pandemic, has your company experienced a shift in user behavior in terms of property buying or selling?
Bharat Buxani (10:03):
Thanks, Shreya. The company has seen a lot of shifts. I’m seeing a shift in not only how they obtain the property, but also in their habits, you know, when it hit Indonesia last year, but COVID also hit and started from March 2020, the first one, two months, there is much uncertainty. You were not sure. When was this going to end? When was life going to get back to normal, everything? And that even affects your purchasing. What are you purchasing at that time? What is your primary objective? At that time? Everyone was still shocked by the fact that they had to stay home for such a long time. So with that, we had seen a decline in the first few months of COVID, even though we had prepared our platform digitally a few years before COVID, we saw that people were not responding to it. The first one to three months of the pandemic, after that, once we had passed June or something, we gradually saw an increase in the search volume. We gradually saw an increase that people actually looking to buy their first home. This could be due to a lot of factors due to the fact that you’re spending so much time at home that you realize you need a bigger space. You need a workspace at home.
Bharat Buxani (11:14):
That’s all actually contributed to the increase in the search volume and the demand. Once that need was there, then I needed to get my own space, or I needed to get a bigger space. I need a space with greenery. I need a space with a garden . Once they came on board to our platform, it was our duty to provide them whatever tools they require to make it easier. That’s the part with digital transformation. So like if before having a 360 tool wasn’t optional on our website, like not all properties would have, it became a necessity that you need to have a 360 tool. It’s not optional anymore.
Tanishq Juneja (11:53):
What I’m happy about is that you were digitally ready much before the COVID hit, right? So the pandemic happened. You all didn’t see as many results, and the pandemic obviously made or pushed people to go more online. The payments are like people, I was talking to someone in FinTech, and they said during COVID, or we didn’t want to make the payments through cash or touch the currency. And then, the FinTech industry boomed during that time. So, there are a lot of industries that have boomed during the pandemic, or the behavior has shifted more and more towards online. I think it is amazing to notice the same over here. So how significant a role did email play in your transition to moving to the digital right? So digital, you all did much before the pandemic, but during that movement from offline to online, what significant role did email play as a channel to you or to your marketing?
Bharat Buxani (12:46):
Yeah. Email played a major role in our transformation. I’m telling you, why is that? Is that purchasing a home? It’s a longer decision period. Your funnel is longer. Okay. So we are a marketplace. Yes, but we are not a high-volume marketplace that you do a check out on the platform itself. And when we think as an average, people buying their property in their life is probably on average two to three times. And the decision-making process is not a one-week, two weeks decision. Our decision-making process is three to six months when you do our research, and it’s not an individual decision. The decision, especially that you discussed with your family, you discussed with your parents, you discussed with a lot of people. You talk to your friends; you talk to your community. Is this the area that I want to live in?
Bharat Buxani (13:36):
Is this area easily accessible to my workplace? Is this area easily accessible to my surroundings by other families and everything? So the decision-making process in the property acquisition is longer. That’s how important email came for us. So email is that we use email in different stages of the funnel. We can use it at a top funnel, definitely to encourage people and to build awareness towards them that there is this new property coming up. Yes, that’s for sure. But how do we remind people of the property that they have viewed before? Remind them and give them different options on similar properties that will suit them because we are building this knowledge. We are sharing knowledge. Okay. You want to live in this particular area. You have looked at this property, but maybe this property wasn’t for you for various reasons, but okay, I can provide you with different property options. If your concern is an area, here you go. This is the listing. If your concern is budget, here you go. These are the listings. So that all play an important role in our retargeting for our consumers. And for that, email was one of the best options that we used.
Tanishq Juneja (14:47):
Amazing. Bharat, when we look at the whole customer journey, we call each touchpoint with the customer as a moment. Each moment, you can send a conversation, or you could send communication that could make an impact, push people to move from one step to another. I think emails play a very important role for most brands. They use emails in these moments, and I think that’s what you described beautifully, that how it’s not just top of the funnel, but you sending them reminders or they might have these challenges, or I call them mental costs. Right? When I say mental cost, it is about the challenges: maybe my home loan would be higher. Maybe the place where I’m going to stay will not be as amazing as I wish it to be. So you’re trying to send them reminders and send them knowledge on those mental costs, which is amazing.
Shreya Agarwal (15:45):
That was, that was mainly on how emails have, you know, helped you transition digitally. So let’s come to how in terms of conversions or in the real estate talk, right? The number of homes sold is an important metric to track for your company. So how did emails help you contribute to those conversion successes? Or how did it help you achieve your KPIs or north star metric, as we say, right? How did it help you achieve that?
Bharat Buxani (16:11):
We actually use a couple of different metrics because I’m giving you another example: everyone wants to live in Jakarta in the city center. That’s the first option, obviously, but that comes with a lot of challenges, right? Like the space, you want a bigger space, the budget, and everything. The government itself is pushing development around Jakarta city. There are areas, smaller areas around Jakarta, the government is pushing for people to purchase houses there. And the initiative from the government is that they are providing this transit-oriented development. So the development is already connected to all the major transportation hubs that you need. So building that was one of the key objectives that we used for email marketing. So that’s how we got our metrics, that. Do we see a search volume increase for this area? Do we see a lot more conversion in this area?
Bharat Buxani (17:01):
Do we see more inquiry in this area? So those metrics are also important to us. Obviously, yes, we have primary developers that we are selling all around Socrata, but how do we build up one particular area that the government is focused on that was never seen before as an option to live in because it was not a transitory development, but how do we focus on that area? Build it and remind people of this area and the pricing and the facilities through email. And that we saw a lot of increase there. We saw around an 11% increase in search volume for that area. And so, as we are in the marketplace, our funnel is actually also included. We need to increase awareness and search volume in that area. Then it goes to individual developers, what promotions are having by them, but we saw an 11% increase in search volume, any deals required about those projects there. And the other metric that was very important to us is that we recorded a 40.5% increase in property bias in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020. So we saw 40.5%. Then we broke it down even deeper, like segmentation of the market is the one showing the most growth. We found that millennials are showing the most growth, millennials and first homeowners, first married couples. They are the ones who are in the most growth, and year on year, we did show a 40.5% increase.
Tanishq Juneja (18:31):
That’s amazing. I mean, Bharat, it’s unbelievable that there’s so much of a shift happening and millennials or young people trying to own the house at the absolutely early phases of life, it’s a huge transformation in the way real estate functions or in the way the whole industry functions. I want to understand, have you noticed any specific behavioral change that you think will outlast or live longer than the crisis? Right now the crisis is forcing a lot of change, for example, the fintech payments which are increasing. So maybe once the COVID is over, people will get back to cash transactions maybe. So what are, what are the changes you are witnessing, which you think will be permanently there whether COVID is there or not?
Bharat Buxani (19:21):
I think the one change that I believe will continue being this way. It’s a permanent change in that it’s never too early to start leasing your own home because you’re working in a big city. Many people working here come from out of town to Jakarta, and they rent something called the guest house, guest home, you know, where they pay monthly. So, but understanding that paying monthly is also equal to the amount you can pay monthly for your apartments, for your tiny homes that we have seen at the behavioral shift there, people understand that they need to start taking the lease at an earlier age. And they’re also more open to a variety of choices. And also not only from the behaviors of the consumer, even the banking side, because the banking industry must have realized that drop in demand for home loans as well during the pandemic. So they have even taken steps to improve how to get the home loan for first-time
homeowners. Okay. All the data shows that Indonesia’s middle-class is the biggest growing one, growth expected mainly in the middle class with all the tech industry booming, a lot of things booming here. Economic-wise, we see that a lot of youngsters cannot actually afford to live in the house. They can lease the house for 10 years, 15 years, but they can start earlier to buy their first home.
Tanishq Juneja (20:50):
Amazing. And, while we are in the middle of all this change, what have you realized as the major perks of using email tools or email marketing as a channel when it comes to real estate? Like what are the major benefits you saw?
Bharat Buxani (21:05):
Okay. First thing, I don’t only think email marketing would be, as I mentioned earlier, it’s the top funnel, middle funnel as well. What I’ve seen metrics is that for me, it’s very simple. My email marketing should increase the open rate, should increase the click rate, and should clearly bring something that is suitable for each segmentation of the audience.
Bharat Buxani (21:26):
To be very fair, when we started our email marketing in the early stages of COVID during the pandemic, our approach was one for all. So one email marketing for all segmentations of the market. I think after I’ve been discussing it with the Netcore team for a while. So that is not the way to move forward. You can’t do that. There is no one for all anymore. I agree that we, especially the 99 group in Asia, were late to join this party. We’ve not arranged our consumer segmentation suited to each email that we’re sending out, but that is something that we realized last year, and we strive to improve that. And just keeping it very simple that when you’re landing into a marketplace, first, I need to identify if you’re a buyer or a seller. When you are trying to sell, I have to provide you with a different email marketing compared to what you’re buying.
Bharat Buxani (22:17):
That’s the main thing. Okay. Maybe you’re coming into a property marketplace just to find out tips and tricks to build your cozy coronary of a house, how to build a sufficient workspace in your own home. Those all started from our email marketing segmentation. So the data that we got from the portal, the data that we got from our marketplace, we now distribute into different boxes that each box gets a different email marketing. And once we do that, we have seen that our open rate has increased, clicks to the website increase, and we even see the lesser number of unsubscribes that people are happy with the content that has gone to them. We always say content is king. Content is definitely king, but the content is king. If you target content to the right person for me.
Tanishq Juneja (23:04):
Absolutely. Bang on!
Bharat Buxani (23:06):
So that’s what happens if you do it a one for all strategy, that doesn’t work, end of the day for me, the metrics and the conversion that doesn’t work anymore.
Tanishq Juneja (23:15):
Absolutely. I think one shift which we have seen is that marketers were focused on the conversion from the marketing, right? And in the last one year, or especially during the pandemic, those 15, 20 months have been a huge transformation from being a conversion mindset to a conversation mindset, right? So they started educating their own customers, their own prospects that we are here to help you come out of this pandemic together. Because at the end of the day, if people don’t buy, they don’t do a transaction right now. Someday, they will do a transaction, but they will go with a brand, which is warmer, which is more relevant during the pandemic. And I think that made people realize that I want to know my user a lot more. I want to know my customers a lot more. And I absolutely agree, people started segmenting a lot more, and I am a subscriber to 99 groups. I’ve seen your emails, and they are much more segmented. They’re much warmer, and I feel connected. I feel that someone is really talking. It’s not just companies sending me messages. I feel that there’s an interesting conversation, which is flowing from 99 groups and since you all are the team behind it, you all have done an amazing job. And I congratulate all of you.
Bharat Buxani (24:33):
Tanishq Juneja (24:36):
so that almost brings me to the, almost ending the conversation, but I want to understand what are some campaigns that have worked exceptionally well for you and in case there are learnings that you would like to share with all of us.
Bharat Buxani (24:48):
Okay, there are a few examples that I can take from, but I’m choosing one example is that we launched something called verified listing
Tanishq Juneja (24:57):
Verified listing, okay!
Bharat Buxani (24:57):
Verified listings are for secondary homes on our marketplace that have already been checked or been verified by the 99 groups themselves. So we are not posting any listing on our platform that has not been verified by us. Verify from all angles. The picture that they sent to us should be the same as the one in the real property. Documentation should be clear. Taxation should be clear where you should be making sure that you’re not putting just a ballpark figure just to respond to the average market price or something. So that all is verified by our people because this is something new. There is no property platform doing that right now, so educating people on this verified listing actually took some time. That was a continuous process that educated people that when you’re looking for something, you know how you say that when you’re looking for a social media account, look, the one that is verified by the social media, same thing.
Bharat Buxani (25:52):
We’re saying that when you’re looking for a secondary property, your first option should look at some things that are verified because we have done 30% of them already. So that took time to build awareness, to look at the logo. For example, we want you to come to our platform and search based on that filter verified listing. So that actually took time to get off the ground. But the more we used it, we communicated more, as we should. Right now, everything is two-way communication. You can’t just be sending one-way communication and not hearing feedback anymore from the consumers. We heard what those problems are. Even our email marketing, we signed up, and we said, please fill us. What are the problems you’re facing when you’re visiting the secondary homes? Once we got those things, then we shared the information. We do have life programs, where we even communicated the top 10 things you need to search when you’re looking for a property through emails as well. So we want that as a buyer, you have all the rights to get a property that has already been verified.
Tanishq Juneja (26:53):
So, Bharat, you’re trying to say that this email campaign changed the search behavior of the users?
Bharat Buxani (27:03):
Absolutely search behavior and not only of the search behavior, but they should also be aware that this is available to them. These are the rights that you can get verified. And also, what does verified mean? What it entitles you, that all we educated it a lot through email marketing, we had the support of us, definitely our YouTube programs and all, but we reached out to a wider audience because our audience size is quite huge because we have been in the business for so long, especially part of 99 groups is the oldest property marketplace in Asia. So our consumers, age goes from the millennials up to 50, 60 years old, people are looking to be upgraders or investors. So how we educated them on this verification was mainly done through email marketing.
Tanishq Juneja (27:53):
Well, this is amazing. I mean, the way you have used email to educate, not just educate the customers, obviously you’re telling them it’s a right to be able to select the right property or verified listing that’s number one second. I also find it very interesting that you saw that people are searching on the website right now, more people are coming to the website and they’re searching for verified listings versus earlier people would go and do any sort of browsing. So that’s a good change, and I can associate this good change with the success of your email marketing campaign.
Bharat Buxani (28:28):
Tanishq Juneja (28:29):
Awesome. So, Bharat, I’ll not keep you waiting here for long, just one last question. As a successful real estate entrepreneur and a marketing leader, what will you advise the founders who are using email marketing to drive growth for their companies? I mean, especially real estate founders, what would your advice be to them when they’re using emails,
Bharat Buxani (28:53):
Okay. All good marketing starts with setting goals. That’s fine. As you said previously, our goal was always conversion, conversion, conversion, including email marketing. But right now, we are widening our spectrum. Your goal is first to get people to communicate with your brand. That is the first call right now. If they don’t communicate, and especially for something like property, when they don’t have that emotional tie with your brand, in the long run, it wouldn’t be good for us—the same thing for email marketing. We need an email marketing strategy from day one. I said earlier also that I understood that we started it very late. We actually had no specific person handling email marketing up until a year back. But now we do have people handling email marketing because it itself can build a lot of things. People only think that email marketing is only once as a retargeting know you’re educating, you’re changing behavior. You’re educating them on the possibilities they can receive. You’re educating them on new projects, upcoming projects. How do you get the best deal for the consumer? So that all we started educating through email marketing,
Bharat Buxani (29:59):
Goals are there, goals are that we need to see search volume grow up. We need to come to the portal that all, as usual, it’s always there, but the steps we reach there have now been widened. It’s not only conversion, conversion, communication first, then conversion.
Tanishq Juneja (30:13):
Amazing Bharat, thank you so much for that insight. I keep reiterating a lot that the shift from conversion to a conversation is huge because when you communicate, you build an emotional bond. People remember right like right at the start of the podcast, and you said the amazing purpose of 99 groups is simple and is the most trustworthy. These two things are very important that when you’re buying a house, a person or the company from which you are buying the house, they are very transparent, they’re reliable because it’s a very, very long-term investment. So people want that reliability. And that’s where if you start building conversations from day one, and email is a channel, which brings stories out, right?. So, and you have used it very efficiently. And, thank you for reiterating the fact that moving from conversion to the conversation and emotional bond will happen, and the convergence will come as an outcome.
Bharat Buxani (31:10):
Absolutely. And then actually it goes in line with our tagline, It’s in Indonesian, “ada untukmu” that’s 99 groups tagline. It means we are there for you so that we are there for you. When you upgrade, we are there for you in case you need to sell your house and buy a smaller one. We are there for you. If you renovate your home, you will get connected to the right agents. You know, we are there for you. That’s what “ada untukmu” means, and that’s a campaign that we are starting this year, and it’s going to go on next year as well that we need to listen to what you want. It’s not the other way around that. I don’t need to tell you this at a hundred properties you need to buy. I need to know which 10 properties are you interested in. And that’s what we’re pushing through.
Tanishq Juneja (31:51):
Amazing Bharat. I love that. I love that tagline. We are there for you. Amazing, and I wish you all the best for the campaigns this year and the next year, and we are there at every step. Of course, we love emails. And so do you, and we’ll keep joining hands and keep doing a lot of good work together. Thank you so much, Bharat, for joining us on the love of emails podcast.
Bharat Buxani (32:17):
Thank you so much for having me.
Tanishq Juneja (32:19):
This was an insightful conversation for real estate companies to understand better how they can strategize emails and the vision for growth. To the people listening, if you have an ear to the ground on email marketing news, you must have read about Apple’s upcoming mail, privacy protection changes. We have at least a webinar on what Apple’s new privacy means for your email program and how marketers should prepare for this next phase of email evolution. By the way, we had someone from Yahoo coming and joining this webinar. This will be a very interesting webinar for you all to listen to and look forward to what happens or what changes are happening in the email industry. You can check out the seminar link in the description below. Thank you for tuning in to the level of email podcasts. Please hit subscribe to the podcast so you can learn more about the email community and how you can grow your company. Thank you so much. Thank you, Bharat, once again for joining us. Thank you. Shreya.
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