Shining the agency spotlight on the UK we quickly found Foxtons this morning, a brick and mortar traditional company have fast forwarded themselves into digital gurus. Not many would ever expect a UK real estate company being more modern than 99 percent of their American counterparts. But read on, Foxtons could be a lot better.
Let's kick off this agency review with a bit of history. Foxtons was founded back in 1981 as a two person estate agency. Not a year later the firm sprang forward with a "zero commission" offer that pretty well shook up the market, as you might imagine. Expansions and openings go on until 1995 when Foxtons establishes their "lettings" magazine that helps Londoners connect on rentals. Then in 2001 the company opens their state-of-the-art headquarters followed by the fist so called "café-style offices" and their "Urban Grafitti Mini" subsequently. Today Foxtons simply has to be considered one of the most forward thinking and innovative property companies in the world.
Fast forwarding to today's news and the opening this month of yet another Foxtons office, Shepherds Bush, makes for number 37 and 5 new ones this year alone. Talk about confidence in the market. For that news, let's turn to Foxtons Chris Constantinou, Area Director for Foxtons West London:
"We have been looking after customers in Shepherds Bush for a long time now from our neighbouring offices in Notting Hill and Chiswick, which opened 31 and 20 years ago respectively. This has helped us to build a strong knowledge of the area, however, now seems an ideal time to focus on the local market in even more depth and serve the local community through an office on their doorstep."
As the thinking suggests, Foxtons is obviously both proactive and reactive to market conditions surrounding their business. But let's look at just how digital the company is. Their "neighborhood" approach to lettings, the cafe offices, and their award winning website are all signs of a company understanding what it takes to not only brand, but to serve 21st century customers. But there is a "but" here.
Real estate brokers in the United States, for the most part that is, are absolutely clueless about how to take advantage of the Internet. As we have seen time and time again, cities across the US are underrepresented by property companies at the local level. Apparently, the UK's poster child for "local" buying, selling, and renting, has been too busy to care too. Aside the near perfect website above, and I do mean perfect, Foxtons does not even seem to have noticed the web. Before I go on, it's only fair the reader knows just how superb Foxtons has been at making tools, visitors to their site can even search properties by "drawing" the desired area on the map search. Or, they can search by tube, school, and so on, someone spent a lot on this aspect.
Now the bad news. Foxtons evidently sees investing in Internet and social media branding or marketing as futile. They joined Facebook back in 2011, but have since done zero engagement. As for Twitter, I can find people who hate Foxtons, but not the agency that spends money driving around London in Mini Coopers. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what to think on this one. Even the most ditsy American out of the trunk of his or her car operator is on Twitter?
Having landlord and tenant portals, online payments, even a convenient magazine app for iPad, Foxton not taking advantage of the power their agency possesses is almost criminal. Our readers can download Area at iTunes here, but for a company that has led in many ways the London letting and even sale market, being so far behind technically seems ludicrous.
You can apply for a job at Foxtons online (and they have many openings), you can find out the value of your home, you can even see advanced statistics about your particular area (image below), but if you want to interact with Foxtons, they are not listening unless you happen to visit them at their website (or at the office).
I won't even go into the mobile aspect of real estate marketing here. While I so hate to offer up negatives for a company that clearly understands branding and innovation, Foxtons actually disappointed me. Google London rentals, and there Foxtons is in the SERPs. So how come Foxtons Security is the only profile I find on G+? Didn't the company's SEO guru explain how Google ranks G+ in the new algorithm changes?
Anyhow, for those agents out there wondering about my scathing reviews of American real estate companies, Foxtons is an international example of wasted potential. Two years ago such companies may have been justified in skepticism of social media and even mobile engagement efficacy, but not today. Companies can now prove out ROI for such marketing channels, and it's only a matter of time before social makes or breaks competitors. Looking at Foxtons as a case, their ignoring the social channels is tantamount to ignoring billboards, or radio, or TV. The company may as well buy more Mini Coopers and pray. If you don't believe me, ask Google.
In concluding, Foxtons has done a fantastic job creating a true value proposition both on the ground and with their cutting edge website. I have never actually run across a better site. However, the lost opportunity costs this company is currently seeing could probably fund many more office or even international expansion. The thing about "not knowing" is that lost revenues could be anything. Foxtons is this year's Large Lettings Agency in the UK according to just about everyone. Imagine how much more they could do...