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7 minute read

As marketers, we have all been able to benefit greatly from platforms such as Google and Facebook over recent years by targeting advertising to people based on the intimate data these platforms collect about their users. We can target advertising to people based on their purchasing behaviour, browsing behaviour, engagement behaviour (what they’re interacting with on social media for example) and so much more.

But this golden era of online ad targeting looks well and truly to be coming to a close.

The way users are served ads is changing, and Facebook has been forced to make these decisions in light of numerous challenges to the way it traditionally gathered data to serve its Ads.

A new online advertising paradigm

Apple’s iOS update now forces developers to get express consent from users before tracking them across other apps.

Roughly 15% of people seeing this prompt (which only appears on iPhones and iPad) are clicking ‘Allow’, based on research by Flurry. This means 85% of the people who see this prompt are asking apps like Facebook ‘not to track’ them, preventing advertisers to re-target to their website visitors or app users.

Meanwhile, Google looks set to go down a similar route.

Google announced in May that Google Play is introducing a new “safety” section, rolling out next year, which will require app developers to share what sort of data their apps collect, how it’s stored and how it’s used. Not to mention they are also phasing out third-party cookies by 2023.

With Apple pushing hard on privacy as a unique selling point for Apple devices, it is hard to imagine Google not begrudgingly falling ever more in line creating headaches on all fronts for Google’s data-hungry ad business.

Legislature in America and Europe may bring further legal pressure in the future.

Facebook has to adapt and quickly, as do real estate agents and marketing teams.

What does this mean for real estate agents and marketing teams?

All signs are pointing to digital advertising becoming much harder into the future if you are planning to rely on Google and Facebook’s data. I would also put the major property portals in this category as they are not immune – many of their social media advertising products rely on re-targeting people who have visited their app or website.

If the social media advertising products from the major property portals are less effective because of changes by Apple, Google and/or Facebook to limit access to consumers, the major property portals will certainly look to fill that revenue (and traffic) shortage by monetising their data another way – and guess who will have to pay for it…

The ability to follow people around the web through re-targeting using data from Facebook or Google looks to be coming to an end and if you are relying on advertising through Google, Facebook or the social media products offered by the major portals, the time to act is now.

Collecting and leveraging first-party data is where every real estate agent and marketing team should be focusing their attention right now – if they haven’t already.

What is first-party data?

First-party data is defined as data that your company has collected directly from your audience — made up of clients, website visitors, and social media followers. “First-party” refers to the party that collected the data firsthand to use for general communications but also for the purposes of prospecting and re-targeting.

When it comes to retargeting, first-party data is the best of the best to use, because it’s collected from the people you have the most to learn from — your own audience. That makes the data as reliable as possible for making predictions and forecasting future behavioural trends.

It can be comprised of data like:

  • Data from behaviours or actions taken on your website i.e. someone filling in a form
  • Data in your CRM
  • Data you’ve collected from digital advertising i.e. Facebook & Google Ads
  • Data from your subscription-based emails i.e. listing alerts
  • Data from surveys
  • Data from customer feedback

First-party data is top quality when compared to other forms of customer data for several reasons. For starters, first-party data is data that you have collected, so it is the most reliable data available to you. First-party data is also the least expensive option because you can collect data at no cost. Lastly, privacy concerns surrounding first-party data collection are very minimal because you know where it came from, you’ll know if you have the necessary consent to use it, and you’ll essentially own it outright.

How can we leverage first-party data?

Many real estate agents businesses are already positioned to benefit greatly from the prioritisation of first-party data due to their efforts over recent years in improving their database/CRM systems. Most agents have a CRM in place but many simply use it for contact storage – there is no system in place to categorise the contact data or a plan on how to leverage it once they do.

AI (artificial intelligence) software is making it easier to find the ‘gold’ in CRM systems to generate leads from first-party data. Take RiTA by Aire for example – an AI platform that plugs into your CRM and generates consistent qualified leads for your business across multiple channels. But to benefit from the use of AI, your data must be clean to start with.

The opportunities that clean data brings are endless. Take Clark Estate Agents for example who have a feature on their website that allows potential vendors to see exactly how many buyers are in their CRM who are actively looking for homes just like theirs – instantly. By connecting their CRM to their website via an API, Clark are able to answer one of the most important questions every home seller wants to know…

Rather than just relying on people visiting their website organically, Clark Estate Agents have adopted an omnichannel marketing strategy to drive traffic to their site and increase the rate of first-party data collection.

Just a few examples include…

Hyper-local article (email to database):

Hyper-local article (promoted to locals on social):

Social media ad for every listing:

Social media lead-generation campaigns, targeting database contacts, custom audience data and website visitors: 

This omnichannel approach to harvesting first-party goes against the grain of how most real estate agents do digital marketing. Instead of showing ads or content to people on third-party platforms and letting users ‘live’ on those platforms, Clark Estate Agents are growing their first-party data capabilities by prioritising traffic flow to their website.

Email is more important now than ever before

Hopefully it’s clear now that your first-party data is your most valuable asset in your digital marketing toolkit.

And let’s be clear, there is no better first-party piece of data than the email address and there’s no more effective way to use that email address than utilising the email channel. 

Email is a one-to-one connection with your customers. When a customer opts-in to receive your emails, not only are they expressing interest in hearing from you in the future but tools like Activepipe allow you to collect more valuable information from your email subscribers.

More than just an email marketing platform, Activepipe integrates with your real estate CRM to automatically match your listings and content to the most relevant people.

Over time, Activepipe helps you learn more about your contacts and also helps you profile your database contacts into segments that can identify buying and selling intent.


Research reveals that nearly three quarters (73%) of consumers state email is their preferred marketing channel. So if you’re wondering if email is still a worthwhile investment, this is your wake up call. 

Continue to use email list building tactics to build this first-party list but then make sure to create an effective email marketing program that allows you to deepen the relationship with this audience through personalisation.

In closing…

We’re moving towards a privacy-first world online and third-party cookies will eventually be phased out by all web browsers and we can expect greater privacy regulations down the line that will emphasise data transparency.

First-party data is becoming the most valuable asset real estate agents have in their toolkit and is more critical now than ever before. Those who act now to define their perfect audiences on a channel level and then use these criteria to build out their first-party customer lists will be better placed to activate this data across all marketing channels. Instead of solely relying on ‘rented’ access to someone else’s audience, the goal should be to reach that audience directly.

Continue to build strong relationships with consumers but instead of using data from external sources, start using your own data to strengthen these relationships. Stop relying on websites and platforms that you don’t own to generate new business and instead use those channels to drive people back to the only digital platform you do own – your website.

There is a plethora of tools, technologies and online platforms being subscribed to by real estate businesses that relate to data collection, storage and management. It’s time to evaluate whether the tools you are using are truly helping your business or only bolstering the value of someone else’s.

Are you ready for this new digital ecosystem?

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