Are Online Consumers Real?

Posted by: Peter McCullough on September 14th, 2009

In many cases, the perception of an online consumer is that they are not real. The result is that they are not treated as a true prospect and, clearly, deals will not close due to this situation.

cat-surfing-internetThis perception is understandable since an online consumer is represented on a computer screen as a series of characters in an email address or in their name. The person is not standing in front of you. They have no pulse and you cannot look them in the eye.

Their preferred method of communication is email which, by its nature, maintains a certain level of anonymity. Due to this desire to remain anonymous, the online consumer controls the frequency, or even possibility, of contact.

This same desire prompts an online consumer to register false contact information on a real estate agent’s web site whether or not entering contact information is even necessary for the consumer to gather the information they want.

Clearly, this is a huge source of frustration and, in some cases, expense for an agent.

But, on the other hand… if 80%+ of consumers go online to find a real estate agent, home listings or home valuations, how can those numbers be ignored?

So, let’s look at the situation clearly.

Say that a consumer visits a real estate agent’s website and registers their name as Mickey Mouse and their telephone number as (888) 555 – 1212. Their email address would be equally useless, of course. However, it was a live, warm, human body striking the keys and entering that information. That same person could easily have viewed more information about the agent, their listings, reviews, etc.

Perhaps, the next bit of contact information registered by an online consumer contains a ridiculous name, but a valid email address. Does that mean the agent should not follow up with that consumer?

Of course they should.

Agents need to treat online consumers as real people, their prospects and future closed transactions. Either that or forget having web presence. Go back to sending postcards and flyers to physical addresses and see what the response rate is.

My question is this. If 10 potential clients walk into your office and say they are ready to transact, do you close all of them? They are standing there. They are real. You can see them.

Does that make them less flaky than an online consumer who is hiding in the world wide web?

If we are being honest, the answer is no. It is unlikely that all 10 of those prospects will be closed. They think they are qualified, but they are not. They think they can buy a house in an upscale neighborhood for little or no money. They know their home is worth a million dollars, but all the comps and nearbys indicate that $250,000 would be the maximum they could sell for.

So, what to do with the online consumers who appear in greater and greater numbers on the internet?

Treat them as if they are real because they are.

They are no more or less flaky than someone who is standing in front of you.

At some point, that online consumer may well be standing in front of you. Then what? Is the deal more real? Is the commission not green enough? Do you change your approach to accommodate them now that you can see them? Probably not.

When you start with just an email address, keep in mind that this individual is real. They represent potential business though they may take a while to transact. A real estate agent can either choose to embrace the internet for all its marketing power or not. But, with the sheer numbers of online consumers these days, it seems unwise to ignore this much of the consuming public.

One last question. Aren’t you an online consumer too?

Measure your own behavior the next time you surf the net and see if you are not guilty of some of these same behavior characteristics. See you there!



4 Comments on “Are Online Consumers Real?”

M Realty

Many people put in fake information because they do not want some joker having their name and number. If you give them the help and information that they want without forcing some info out of them, chances are they will freely give their contact information up once they know that they are going to be helped by someone, and their information is safe with you.


Gainesville Real Estate

We came up with ways to force verification of both e-mail and phone number before results of a complete home search can be viewed. The internet is the place for innovators – older techniques and strategies for selling real estate are not going to work.

Rob McCance

These are excellent points and ones I have followed in my own lead management. As long as the email doesn’t bounce, I put it in the database and treat it seriously.

Rob for Atlanta Real Estate

For Sale By Owner

I am very much agree. That’s actually the hardest thing about starting a business for many new business owners – Finding the real customers.

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