Property Flash


November 30 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI), online trust and the way portals can better engage audiences were three key themes to emerge at the 2023 Property Portal Watch Conference, held in Madrid in October.

The conference brought together key players in the real estate sector to explore and shed light on ‘Next Generation PropTech and Marketplaces’. Proptech group Flow led certain conversations around how portals could evolve their revenue-generating models.

Flow was co-founded by Sperling and Daniel Levy. The two men previously founded advertising technology and performance marketing company, Popimedia, which was the largest buyer of Facebook media inventory in Africa for some of the world’s biggest brands. Popimedia was acquired by global communications group Publicis in 2015.

AI is here – and it’s revolutionising real estate experiences

The era of AI in the proptech sector has arrived, marking a shift in how one engages with real estate. According to Gil Sperling, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Flow, AI is not a future prospect but is current. AI is being used to shape user experiences on property portals. Through intuitive curation of property images for example, AI tailors an experience, offering potential buyers a personalised service. AI can dynamically reimagine spaces, transforming a study into a child’s bedroom for a growing family or updating a lounge with contemporary furniture, making it appealing to design-conscious buyers.

AI generates listing descriptions, powered by large language models like ChatGPT. This reduces agent upload time and enhances listing quality. AI-driven home matching algorithms change the search experience for buyers and sellers by refining searches which ensures more precise matches.

“AI’s impact on real estate is undeniable but it is not here to replace human agents. AI-augmented working means real estate professionals can harness the power of technology to boost efficiency, improve customer experiences, and ultimately revolutionise the industry,” said Sperling.

Data is a powerful asset when handled with care

When it comes to purchases that are as large and complex as property, trust plays a major role and online users are still wary about how their data is being used in this space. With the implementation of GDPR in Europe and POPI in South Africa, businesses now have a legal framework to operate in that ensures secure data management.

“By getting their permission to process it and following strict protocols in handling it, the data can be incredibly useful to both sides in delivering a better online experience,” Sperling said.  

Off-Site Advertising is Key

Sperling said that Flow’s takeout from conversations around business strategy with portals from around the world is that they’re looking at alternative, performance-based business strategies where agents are partners and share revenue, rather than simply serving as a landing page for listings.

“In becoming part of the transaction, the portals are looking to alternative advertising strategies and off-site ads are in the lead,” he said.

Users spend three hours a day on social media and 70% of them visit it daily. There are 26-million active Facebook and Instagram users in South Africa and 2.91-billion globally. By placing ads on these platforms, portals have a much larger reach in a trusted space that draws far more, far better-targeted eyeballs back to their marketplaces and undoubtedly delivers greater conversion.

“The rise of off-site advertising has also been driven by portals’ exhaustion of their own inventory, after sponsored listings, premium spots, featured listings and such, there’s little space for anything else. By making the move to off-site ads, they open up a massive, untapped inventory,” said Sperling.

“Like AI, this isn’t comin, it’s here. It’s a must-have for property portals for any portal or marketplace and it’s a way to reach people where they are, rather than going looking for them”.

Sperling said that presenting at PPW gave him Levy the opportunity to show SA’s leadership in the proptech space.

“We had the opportunity to talk about essential tech, share insights and collaborate with global real estate portal leaders, which sparked transformative conversations that we’re proud to be at the forefront of,” he said.

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